In the summer of 2010, I teamed up with muralist Kien Nguyen a third time for a unique opportunity. We designed a 3200sq ft mural for the courtyard in City Hall Philadelphia.
The mural was funded mostly by Kelly/Maiello Architects, the firm that has been restoring City Hall for 13 years. For the next year or so, they will be restoring the south facade of the courtyard.
Partition walls have been built to house their equipment. The walls reach 8 feet high and all together measure 400 feet wide.
Kien and I took tours of the City Hall building to brainstorm for ideas. I HIGHLY recommend seeing the mural and then taking a tour of the building. The 1 1/2 hour tour is given daily at 12:30pm sharp, the office is found to the right of our green “East Wall”. The tour office’s number is 215-686-2840.
The tour highlights the symbolism and meaning behind the building’s layout as well as the 160 reliefs and sculptures found throughout. We felt that our design should focus on these same things.
Our design puts a contemporary spin on the many relief and free standing sculptures scattered throughout the architecture of City Hall. We reinterpret their poses though Philadelphia’s diverse residents.
We consider the complex symbolism and meanings of the sculptures and the significance of the four directions they face.
The compass on the floor of City Hall’s courtyard plots out Center City’s major squares. Our design brings these squares to life as realistic panoramas in colors reminiscent of the four seasons.
The patterns specific to each season are taken from motifs found throughout City Hall’s decorative interior.
Pillars and archways occupy the corners of each major wall using Calder’s sculptures of the different people spanning the four corners of the globe (North: Caucasian, South: African, East: Asian, West: Native American. These Sculptures can be found in the walkway underneath the tower, holding it up.
Imagery from Philadelphia’s major public parks can be found within the archways. For example the west wall depicts Clark Park, and the East Wall has images of Penn Treaty Park, which the statue of William Penn is pointing to.
This design brings into focus the sculpture, imagery, and patterns found throughout Philadelphia’s City Hall building which can otherwise go overlooked.
Detail of the East wall background depicting Washington Square in colors reminiscent of the springtime
Science and Art are displayed in the second floor of the East Center pavilion. A man on the left leans on a globe with a book while a woman works on a bust.
Design and the sculpture from which its based.
A painting of the "industry" sculpture. If you have been following my work you will recognize the model, who has appeared in several of my murals and paintings
Industry is depicted in the eastern statue to the south. A youth sits with a sledgehammer at his side and reads a scroll attempting to better himself while on break from his manual duties.
The female statue on the right side of the east pavilion is cast in a submissive posture and clutching alms in her left hand in a symbol of Peace. For more info on these sculptures click here to visit the Ajax electric website, a wealth of information.
South wall depicting Rittenhouse Square in colors and patterns evoking the feel of summertime.
Closeup of an old man. The south wall was painted by the men in my Graterford Prison class who are known for their attention to detail. The class is completely self taught, the man responsible for this portrait picked up a paintbrush for the first time 3 years ago.
Liberty is the title of this statue located on the southern facade.
A seated female figure with a staff, this sculpture is Calder's representation of an inalienable right appropriate for the building's Judicial wing.
This wall had to wrap around an entrance to the Orange Line
In the background you'll see the massive scaffold setup for the restoration. This mural installation will stay up as long at this phase of the project lasts.
Beyond that its our hope that pieces of the mural are auctioned off to raise funds for continuing restoration of statues.
The archway in the South Wall shows a scene from FDR Park in South Philadelphia
The North Wall depicting Logan Square in colors and patterns reminiscent of the winter.
Figure and Sculpture detail
Image of all four walls of the design. Another massive undertaking, each file took up 500-700mb, so the images could be printed large at a decent resolution.
A credits panel was created along with 600 linear feet of printed mesh imagery depicting the restoration details. These mesh panels appear opposite the mural. It illustrates the figures and the placement of corresponding statues.
Once the design was agreed upon, we had to move quickly in order to get everything started. Volunteer Ben Glick poses next to his statue
Interns Matt and Latasha. You may recognize Matt as one of the figures in my Anthropologie Mural, he was a former Mural Corps student of Kien
The entire month of June was spent drawing the East and West Walls of the project. Those walls broke down into 40 8′x5′ panels that would be projected and drawn in great detail.
Julia was our other intern, who has spent most of her life making art all over the world most recently Mexico and Burkina Faso. Julia painted 4 of the 6 mini landscapes within the archways and several of the mural’s figures.
In the summer we saw many assistants and volunteers come and go. During the month of July we worked with the Mayor's daughter Olivia Nutter (pictured at the left) and her friend Jenny.
While we began the West Wall in the studio during July, the East wall drawings were sent to a summer Mural class held at Audenreid High School.
The class of 50 youth, led by 4 instructors, spent their summer blocking the backgrounds of the east wall and under painting of all its figures.
Underpainting progress. A video under this site's Video link documents the work done to this figure after the underpainting was completed.
This project was not without its paint days. Wawa took over Welcome America from Sunoco (we referred to this event as WaWaWA) , and another massive workshop was staged in Franklin Square.
We saw over 150 participants, mostly youth groups in just under 3 hours.
A tour group from Lancaster PA helps during a second paint day.
They began blocking in the buildings of the North Wall
Group shot. I asked the group to act like zombies, which explains some of the poses
We found money in the Audenreid Budget to continue working with some of their students. We hired 5 of their best, to spend the remainder of the summer working in my studio assisting on the north wall.
The 5 would also help us install the East and West Wall panels. In doing so they were able to see the end result of their summer sessions. Angela Crafton gets everyone set up for the installation
I like to refer them as the 3rd wave of assistants, after the interns of July, and the June volunteers.
My former Corps student, Briana, was there from beginning to end on this project working day and night alongside Kien and I.
Installing around the subway entrance. In the end we completed the 3200sq ft mural in under 4 months, and over 250 people had worked on it.