Philadelphia attracts UK art lovers with public art programmes

Published on : Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Unknown to many UK travellers, Philadelphia is home to the US’ largest public art program, offering visitors to the city the opportunity to see these outdoor murals on guided and self-guided tours, by foot, trolley, train and even Segway.

Mural Arts Philadelphia started as an anti-graffiti program in 1984 and today has grown to be an international leader with over 4,000 works of community-based public art. The program has activated some of Philadelphia’s most unassuming locations and is part of a larger campaign by the city to repurpose public spaces and create positive dialogue in communities.

With 50-100 new pieces commissioned each year, future visitors to Philadelphia can plan ahead for their trip and marvel at Amy Sherald’s oversized portrait of Najee S. in the City Centre, as well as experience the abstract nature of ‘The Stage’ honouring Philadelphia’s history of performing arts. And travellers keen to experience the city’s murals by night can discover the neon lights of ‘Electric Street’.

Amy Sherald Brings Her Work To A New Scale

Artist Amy Sherald made headlines around the world in 2018 with her official portrait of Michelle Obama. Since then, Sherald has brought her work to a new scale in Philadelphia, creating the oversized portrait of young artist Najee S. in City Centre Philadelphia to challenge ideas of identity and the public gaze. The project flourished under Sherald who invited young Philadelphians to her studio where they spent a day learning about her unique artistic practice, exploring costumes, and taking photographs together that would later form the inspiration for the untitled mural on 1108 Sansome Street.

‘The Stage’ Is Set In This Philadelphia Neighbourhood

Located within walking distance from Rittenhouse Square on the historic Drake building, which is home to original performances written by locals, visitors wandering around Philadelphia’s City Centre on foot can discover ‘The Stage’. Transforming the building’s wall into an abstract set for a play, the mural by Felix St. Fort is complete with 42 lines of text from plays written by playwrights with connections to the Drake. This project honours the city’s theatrical past while looking toward the bright future of the New Play movement, enlivening South Hicks Street with warm tones and colour shifts that make all of Philadelphia a stage to be gazed upon.

Spark Your Interest In South Philadelphia When Experiencing ‘Electric Street’

Tucked away in an alley on Percy Street in the South Philadelphia neighbourhood, David Guinn’s and Drew Billiau’s neon light mural near the Italian Market features more than 200 feet of lights. A must-see for travellers keen to explore Philadelphia by night, the mural currently covers two properties, with the hope the finished piece will span the entire block.


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