Mural Arts continues to change the community through art

Spread Your Wings Mural Design by David McShane.
Provided

Murals make up so much of the culture in Philly, and the beautiful aspect of this artistic side to the City of Brotherly Love is that there are messages that can be portrayed and voices that can be heard. 

For the Crown project with Mural Arts Philadelphia from artist Russell Craig, the organization has partnered with the City of Philadelphia on a new installation for the windows of the Municipal Services Building, across from City Hall. Some Philadelphians may remember at the end of last summer the installations that followed the outcry of social justice surrounding the Black Lives Matter Movement in Philly that were set in place above the central windows, and the new installation is an extension of that. 

According to the release: The two new murals build on Craig’s inspiration, drawing from classical painting to comment on modern contexts, highlighting Black women activists and BIPOC health and well-being. 

‘Crown’ City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Russell Craig. Steve Weinik

The new murals come from a specific program with Mural Arts, under the Restorative Justice department. Since 2003, Mural Arts has been working with inmates including Russell Craig, who is self-taught and survived nearly a decade of incarceration after growing up in the foster care system. Under this program, current inmates, probationers, and parolees are given the opportunity to learn new skills that lead to a more uplifting impact on the community around them and even to repair harm to communities impacted by crime through different neighborhood projects. Through the program, participants receive art instruction, work on new murals, and perform other community service work. The organization says that the proof is in the pudding as well: as the release states, Mural Arts has a low recidivism rate and a high rate of helping young people find their path, which includes jobs, internships, community college, and art school with the Restorative Justice program.

Philadelphians can now check out ‘Crown’ at the Thomas Paine Plaza/Municipal Services Building (1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.) This specific work of art is said to take on classical paintings and re-contextualizes them for the modern day. 

‘Crown’ on the East side pays tribute to Black women activists who have “been instrumental in fighting systemic racism, registering voters in 2020, promoting public health through the COVID-19 pandemic, and working to create a safer and more just Philadelphia.” This specific mural features Ramona Africa, Pam Africa, YahNé Ndgo, Kezia Ridgeway, Krystal Strong, Ajeenah Amir, Sajda “Purple” Blackwell, and Dr. Ala Stanford. The image is inspired by ‘The Nation Makers’ by Howard Pyle.

Crown: Medusa’, on the West side on the other hand, pays tribute to SpiritsUp! founder Sudan Green and the “collective movement to heal the BIPOC community through yoga and meditation, with a focus on health and well-being.” ‘Crown: Medusa’ also highlights Max Ho, Debora Charmelus, Christina Jackson, Sudan Green, Aaliyah Michelle, and Gregory Coachman. The image features ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ by Theodore Gericault.

Mural Arts has been keeping busy, on top of ‘Crown,’ the organization also recently premiered an exhibition through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Ballet. ‘Spread Your Wings’ was unveiled last week at Cherry Street Pier on the Delaware River Waterfront, and the opening of the exhibition was coupled with a live performance last Friday by the Pennsylvania Ballet II from choreographer Maria Konrad. 

This particular exhibition uses a variety of mediums to help tell its story including visual arts, photography, choreography, and creative writing opportunities. What is the story? It’s more a mission-based one with the hopes of helping Philadelphians to engage with art-making and movement and to become agents of their own creative experience. On display will be large scale photography of dancers by Vikki Sloviter, Arian Molina, and Shawn Theodore as well as a video directed by Michael Candelori.

That specific exhibition will run until June 6. 

To learn more about Mural Arts Philadelphia, visit muralarts.org

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