Philadelphia’s Strong Artistic Presence in Fairmount

Philadelphia is the city with the most murals and public art in the entire country.1 The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program plays a big role in the continued creation of art throughout the city. Mural Arts started in 1984 and is now the nation’s largest public art program. Each year they create around 50-100 murals.2 The murals shown in this photo series are all in and around the Fairmount area.

The Puerto Rican Statue of Liberty, made by design collective 22 Studio, is located at 17th and Mt. Vernon. The collective involves Nasheli Juliana Ortiz, Marién Vélez, and Lorna Mulero. 22 Studio is a women-led design practice that was founded in 2019 by Ortiz and Vélez. This mural was originally painted in 1984 by Dietrich Adonis, Carlos Vasquez, Glenn Hill, and Jane Golden. 22 Studio revised it in November 2019. It was done for a project called Power Map: Historical Mural Activations, which intended to “activate murals created in Mural Arts Philadelphia’s first 20 years that depict power and empowerment”. The concept for this mural is based on a moment in 1977 when 30 Puerto Rican activists hung their flag on the statue of liberty to demand freedom for Puerto Rico.3

At 667 North Broad there is a mural made for Philadelphia indie rock band Hop Along’s album called Bark Your Head Off, Dog. It was done by Philadelphia artist ​​Noségo. Hop Along was created in 2004 and is now made up of Frances Quinlan, Mark Quinlan, Tyler Long, and Joe Reinhart. They have released 4 studio albums and Bark Your Head Off, Dog was most recently released on April 6, 2018. The mural was used as a promotion for the band’s album. If fans tagged the band on social media with a picture of the mural, they had a chance to win a signed album and merch.4

Uncertain Spring and Fall Crept Up On the City are both at the corner of 17th and Fairmount Avenue. Fall Crept Up On the City was made by Renata Rojo for the 2020 Fall Art on the Avenue displays. 8 pieces of art were paired with a Fairmount store, this one is sponsored by Stone’s Beer and Beverage Market.5 Uncertain Spring was made by Sam Spetner, early in lockdown. He did it during a time of uncertainty and desperation.6

Another mural, on the side of the Project Home building at 15th and Fairmount, is The Watchers, painted by Robert Bullock. The mural is done in a cubist style and was designed by Project Home resident Vanise Clay.7 There is vivid use of color contrasted with darks and large faces that Clay often uses in her work. Clay said to The ​​Coalition Ingenu Self-Taught Artists’ Collective, “there is no such thing as a color combination that doesn’t work.”8

The last piece of art is on 14th and Fairmount avenue by California artist Troy Lamarr Chew. This piece is actually separated into 2 window panels and the image is one of them. This piece was created for a Facebook voter project where Chew and 4 other artists had their work in 10 cities nationwide. These were made during National Voter Education Week and thematically were led by the idea of “Voting is Voice”. Chew combines African-American culture with original African imagery which is shown in the use of contemporary jewelry and African prints in the background.9

Fairmount has been referred to as the “Art Museum Area”, with its close proximity to a variety of fine art. This area of the city has murals on almost every corner and includes the Mural Arts Headquarters.11 Mural Arts has many events planned for 2022, including speakers, workshops, and more.12