This mural was the product of an innovative Citywide mural project. I teamed with Muralists Michelle Ortiz, and Kien Nguyen for 7 months in 2009 to hold workshops, travel across the city collecting stories, and images from people to create our design.
Our mural design evokes an awareness of our city’s history through archival photographs, poetry and personal stories from everyday people that live in the city.
Our goal was to portray their nostalgia and memories along with the evolving nature of the people and neighborhoods.
The design shows visions of history, industry, identity, diversity, community, social activism, struggle, survival and progress that are relevant to the the Philadelphia experience.
Overall, we reflected the triumphs and hardships that make Philadelphians unique and resilient.
Our design won the chance to be painted after a month of voting in libraries and on the internet. Once the mural was completed, it was hung for 3 weeks in 30th Street Station where it found an audience of tens of thousands of people.
Symposiums were held in North, South, West, Southwest, Northeast, and Center City Philadelphia centered around the theme “This We Believe,” this initiative provided an opportunity for people to share their beliefs about Philadelphia.
We took copious notes, and reconnected with certain people for follow up after the meetings ended. Many participants agreed to pose for the mural.
as well as donate their poetry and/or personal family photographs to scan and incorporate into the design.
30th Street Station Detail
Poet and participant Julia Lopez, provided us with verses she had written that complimented our ideas.
There were many volunteers that would come by Michelle's studio to lend a hand, but this was our main crew responsible for tying together all the work done at the paint days, and making a cohesive 30' x 105' mural.
After the 30th Street Station Exhibition, the mural was moved to the gallery at Market East. The panels were initially supposed to be hung in 7 separate sections, but a last minute wall change occurred.
The Mural was to be hung for 3 weeks originally. However, since the panels were moved, not only was the mural hung as one piece, but it was kept up for over 5 months.
Detail of the "Industry" and "History" panels. Verses written about growing up among the Kensington factories are hidden among the gears below the shipyard workers. The history panel shows a "woodcut" of Independence Hall. The woman holds a historical print of a Philadelphia street scene
Detail of the "Immigration" panel. The figures are walking along a path decorated with simplified drawings of participants old photos of 1st generation relatives in the city.
Detail of the "Neighborhood" and "Activism" Panel. A street map is layered among the clouds in the sky, the wall that the purple figure rests on is filled with photographs. Images of protests such as the march on Girard College in the late 1960's.
In May our mural came full circle when it was hung for an evening at Wall Ball 2010. The first day of painting happened on some tables in the same Loews Hotel for Wall Ball 2009.
Arguably the nicest of the 3 installations, this marked the first time anyone has had an unobstructed view of the entire mural. The lighting was top notch as well.
From this point on the mural will be divided into 7 sections and placed throughout the city permanently at different host sites. An accompanying plaque will show the rest of the mural and explain the work in detail.
Our massive design. Our photoshop file exceeded 1GB at times while we were designing the mural. Saving the file was a long process, but it was worth it, as you can make a very large print without compromising the image quality.
Writing and imagery within the gears. One of the men in my Prison class wrote verses about the factories that he grew up knowing in Kensington. In a strange twist of fate, one of the factories he writes about became the Amber St Studios, where I work.
A closeup of our stained glass window, which features a young man expressing himself creatively, in spite of the neighborhoods hardships which surround him
Harris Sokolow and Chris Satullo lead the West Philadelphia meeting. It was at this meeting that we discovered the woman who would become our most prominent figure in the central panel.
An altogether different vibe in Southwest Philadelphia, where the meetings took on more of an anti-violence tone.
I found it interesting at this meeting that most often, people would refer to their families within the neighborhood and the strong ties that they have to the area.
This Sunoco Welcome America Paint day at Franklin Square was easily our largest with over 200 participants.
Northeast Philly paint day
Even the Mayor showed up for awhile to lend a hand
There were a wide variety of panels ranging from simple larger areas for the younger kids...
to extremely detailed panels for those looking for a challenge.
Painting within the gears at the Northeast Philly paint day
The North Philly paint day
Progress on the History Panel
The South Philly paint day
No this is not a mistake, I didn't include one of my Myers Rec paint day shots in this album. We went back to the site, for our Southwest Philly paint day
Intern Mike Gamble taking a breather from the intensity that is faux woodcut painting
Michelle cleaning up one of the paint day sections. The mural was broken down into 42 5'x15' cloth panels. Kien, Michelle, and I worked tirelessly day and night to finish the mural on time for the 30th Street installation. In the end, over 300 people had their hands in the creation of this mural.
In late 2011, we officially began the installation process for the citywide "Living in the Presence of History" mural at Anna B Pratt Elementary School in North Philadelphia.
My former teammates, Michelle Ortiz, Kien Nguyen, and myself reunited to install the intergenerational section of the mural.
Our design was structured in 7 distinct sections specifically for the permanent citywide installations. Anna B Pratt is one of 6 locations that have claimed sections of the Mural.
We added the left arm of the main figure, which carries over into the next section for aesthetic purposes. We felt it would be to jarring for her to be cut off at the elbow.
The section's installation lasted just 2 days.