Mural Arts Philadelphia recently dipped its toe – or rather, its brushes – into the Vax Up Philly vaccination campaign and, along with the city’s health department, invited the public to paint a 33,000-square-foot floor mural called “Welcome Back, Philly “- in the Eakins Oval on Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“How can Mural Arts welcome people better than giving people a brush and some paint and saying: ‘Please be part of this masterpiece that will be visible and tangible for everyone right in front of the art museum.’ Said Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts.
Long-time Philadelphia artist Felix St. Fort designed the mural, which conveys the concept of a “new day” with fireworks, a riverside, cityscape and people finally returning to normal life after the lockdown of the pandemic.
This isn’t St. Fort’s first piece on the oval, but he has to finish it soon. It didn’t help that the occasional heavy rain shortened the meal time on Saturday.
“I just hope that we can get it done and done in that short time,” said St. Fort.
The new mural is part of a larger art-oriented campaign to get the city vaccinated. More than 25 artists are designing posters and banners to be placed across the city, especially in high-volume areas such as train stations and neighborhoods, which have been shown to be the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
A floor picture is created somewhat differently than a wall picture. Everything is divided by color and number. You will be provided with a brush and a color that matches the color and number – all you have to do is fill in the appropriate color section.
“It’s almost like a very big paint by number,” said Golden. “We love this technique because we believe that public art is really about building a partnership between the public and the artist and community. And it is a way to really highlight and shed light on the authorship of the citizens in our city and to really make it part of the public artistic process in a profound way. “
Many of the city’s murals weren’t just one-off projects – the mural dedicated to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in 2015 was painted by around 7,000 people.
With no painting skills required and no cost to be paid, a few dozen parishioners and volunteers from Mural Arts took part in the Eakins Oval project on Saturday afternoon.
Dylan Steinberg and Amey Hutchins of South Philadelphia heard about the event on the city’s website.
“I thought that was a great idea. I like the idea that a lot of people have a small part in a big project that is celebrating its reopening, ”said Hutchins.
She hoped a rainbow would appear after all the rain, but it didn’t.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the mural when it’s finally finished, I think at the end of the week. I’m glad we got at least a small chance to work on it, ”said Steinberg.
Ailisha Goodwin-Dancy has been with Mural Arts since she was 10 – she is now 21. She got an email about the project and thought it would be a good idea to bring her family.
“For me, painting is my passion, just like my major is art and design. So art is as if it is where it is. And I think it was very comforting for everyone else, ”said Goodwin-Dancy, one of several young people who painted for Mural Arts.
Golden hopes the huge work of art is not just a source of beauty, but an important statement.
“I think the pandemic and riots have given us a new perspective and done our work with greater intent, rigor, honesty and clarity. And I just hope this mural is a beacon of hope, ”said Golden.
City leaders like Mayor Jim Kenney and Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole rolled up their sleeves to get involved.
“Of course the last 15, 16 months have been a struggle. And this kind of artwork and this kind of community involvement in the artwork is really bringing people into the new era – into the sunlight, ”Kenney said.
The finished mural will be officially inaugurated on Friday, just in time for the 4th weekend in July.
But Mural Arts efforts to get the city vaccinated won’t stop there. The organization also has a partnership with the Department of Parks & Recreation, which is aiming for 50 small murals in leisure centers across the city that will spread the message of protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.