Mural Arts Philadelphia’s walking tours resume this weekend

Autumn (a.k.a. Your House in the Forest)© 2001 Mural Arts Philadelphia | David Guinn
Steve Weinik

The City of Philadelphia is known for its cultural staples.

Most come to the city either in search for or knowing exactly where to find their favorite cheesesteak—and will argue to no end about it. Some associate the popular Philadelphia Soft Pretzel Factory to almost the same equivalent of culinary iconic city staples, and on the more scenic side of things, the views of Boathouse Row, Lincoln Financial Field, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and City Hall itself are also said to be quintessential Philly. However, there is also one artistic factor that helps set the City of Brotherly Love apart not just from cities in the country, but around the world. 

Philadelphia has been known as the Mural Capital of The World,” and every year, over 15,000 residents and visitors tour the largest outdoor art gallery on the globe while here. Typically, there are a few different ways to experience the colorful and unique murals that grace some of the walls and sides of buildings in the city, including taking a tour. Once COVID-19 hit, however, the various tours that happen throughout the year had to be put on hold.

Luckily, this weekend that is all about to change. 

A People’s Progression Toward Equality © 2007
Mural Arts Philadelphia| Jared Bader
Jack Ramsdale

According to a release, Mural Arts Philadelphia’s tours feature professionally-trained guides who offer a behind-the-scenes look and share the in-depth stories about the people and communities that inspired and shaped each Mural Arts Philadelphia project. Visitors also learn about the neighborhood’s history and the mural-making processes behind some of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s thousands of works of public art. The walking tour departs from outside of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Hamilton Building at 128 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, and will visit twelve murals along the route. Guests who attend the tours are able to get to know the world-renowned collection on foot on the “Mural Mile.”

Those who join in on the walking tours are able to visit some different and diverse neighborhoods around the city. Each mural showcases one of Mural Arts’ core principles, how “art ignites change” and each showcase from the talented artists also follows a different theme. The guide who accompanies guests on the tour then shares the story of the people, places and themes of the mural, along with the 35-year history of Mural Arts Philadelphia and more on its dynamic program areas.

Before you book a walking tour, there are a few safety precautions that should be known prior to attending. Every guest must wear a mask during the tour, and there will be a maximum group amount for each go-around of 10 people. Each tour lasts about an hour and a half, and tickets also must be purchased in advance online at Mural Arts’ official website. 

Tree of Knowledge © 2003 Mural Arts Philadelphia | Michael WebbJack Ramsdale

At this time, Philadelphians can book a walking Mural Tour on Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday—all tours kick off at 10 a.m. The tours depart rain or shine from outside the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at 128 N. Broad Street and cost $24 per person.

Mural Arts has not yet announced when their train or segway tours will be launching again, but there is an option on their website to also take a self-guided tour. Those who visit the official website can find directions and access to the The Mural Mile Tour (with 50 mural stops) and also the Love Letter Market Frankford Line Train Tour (with 30 mural stops). However, with social distancing and the current pandemic situation, choosing to use public transportation is a personal decision. Most spots can also be accessed by car as well. 

The arts-based organization also normally offers different themed tours throughout the year, and perhaps some may pop up again as time goes on. But for now, the Mural Arts Walking Tours are offering a way for Philadelphians to experience the beautiful art around the city while also still maintaining safe distances. In fact, Mural Arts has been continually making an impact during COVID-19. The organization has implemented creative ways to help people stay healthy during this time with their Space Pads project to help local grocery stores keep customers shopping at safe social distances and their partnership with Broad Street Ministry to install portable hand-washing stations alongside murals throughout the city. Mural Arts also recently launched its ‘ExtraOrdinary Figures’ project and Philadelphia Fellowship for Black Artists as well. 

Philadelphia Muses © 1999, Restored 2013
Mural Arts Philadelphia| Meg Saligman
Steve Weinik

At this current time, the organization is working on its “We Will Emerge” campaign, which, according to the website, aims to foster inspiration and hope, acknowledging not just the impact of the intersections of COVID-19 and systemic racism in America, but the innate strength and resilience of people of color challenged by both pandemics.

To learn more information about Mural Arts Philadelphia and to book a tour, visit muralarts.org

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