A Mural Tour of Philadelphia
Philadelphia is known for its dynamic street art scene and myriad murals. Thanks largely to the city’s Mural Arts Program, this anti-graffiti measure has turned Philadelphia into one of the most beautifully decorated urban hubs in the country. From powerful political pieces to a tribute to the Roots, the city has over 3,600 works of larger-than-life art spread throughout its neighborhoods.
Take an Uber and go on your own tour of the most edgy and iconic images:
Start in the northern neighborhoods. Fishtown’s newly-gentrified Frankford Avenue is where Shepard Fairey (the artist who created the iconic Barack Obama HOPE poster and the Andre the Giant OBEY image) painted the geometric red and black Lotus Diamond mural in 2014. It’s high up on the side of a building at 1228 Frankford and doesn’t front the street, so keep your eyes peeled. It’s part of a series of art projects on which Fairey and Mural Arts are collaborating.
New Fire/Fuego Nuevo
One of the city’s most striking murals is about a half-mile west of Lotus Diamond at 223 W. Girard Ave. New Fire/Fuego Nuevo covers the entire side of a building with a mélange of images that commemorate Mexican heritage and blend in some of Philadelphia’s best-known symbols, like the statue of William Penn that tops City Hall. The bright colors and details, like the way the pink tips of a girl’s headdress extend beyond the wall and draw the eye up to the sky, make this a must-see.
Continuing southwest towards Center City, stop at the busy corner of Broad and Spring Garden Streets, where Common Threads dominates the view. Eight stories high, the mural by artist Meg Saligman is a beautiful homage to the antique figurines her grandmother owned, but with students from local high schools serving as models instead. It’s a fabulous combination of the old-fashioned and the contemporary that deserves a long look.
More than a mile south in the trendy central neighborhood recently re-branded as Midtown Village, is Personal Melody, which features a palate of black, white, and grey livened up by hot pinks and reds. Located at the corner of 13th and Drury Streets, this piece is by street art superstars HOW and NOSM, German-born twins who have built a reputation for complex images. It’s trendy, modern, and fits right in with the hip aura of 13th Street.
Garden of Delight
Further on, at 203. S. Sartain St., is the polar opposite of the sharp angles and punk colors of Personal Melody. Muralist David Guinn’s gentle Garden of Delight resembles a gorgeous post-Impressionist watercolor. It depicts a garden growing around two trees and merges with the actual garden that occupies the yard below, a neat piece of visual fun.
The Roots Mural Project
A heartfelt tribute to hometown heroes the Roots, the mural (simply titled the Roots Mural Project) at 512 S. Broad St. is the place to pay homage to one of the city’s most famous musical groups. It’s not far from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where founding members ?uestlove and Black Thought first met.
We the Youth
Make your final stop at We the Youth, designed by Keith Haring, that master of the visually arresting. The familiar outlines of people in motion on this building at 2147 Ellsworth St. are filled in with bright primary colors and patterns. The mural dates back to 1987 but was restored in 2013 to its original high-energy brilliance.
Photo credit: Jason Murphy