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The Mural Mile – A New Avenue through the “City of Murals”

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"Legacy" by Josh Sarantitis/Photo Credit: Jack Ramsdale for the Mural Arts Program

On the long list of Philadelphia’s redeeming qualities – and let me pause to inform you naysayers that it is indeed a list of some length – is the fine art scene unique to the City of Brotherly Love.  From the Art Museum to the Art Institute’s F.U.E.L. collection to Isaiah Zagar’s larger-than-life collages, our city boasts collections and installments that can not be seen anywhere else in the world. 

Perhaps the most notable are the nearly 3,000 murals which decorate the city, the quantity and quality of which serve to define Philadelphia as the “City of Murals.”  This distinction is all thanks to the Mural Arts Program, the nation’s largest organization of its kind, devoted to presenting these works in a personal and evocative manner.  At a press conference on June 16th, the Mural Arts Program, along with Mayor Michael Nutter, announced the new Mural Mile project, an interactive way to experience first-hand the inspiration and details behind the creation of Philadelphia’s distinctive mural series.

Time to Break Out the Walking Shoes and the Inner Art Critic

Laziness or the possibility of heat stroke are absolutely no reason to miss the inaugural summer of the Mural Mile, a walking tour through Center City and the surrounding neighborhoods for the purpose of viewing seventeen of the most renowned murals in the area.  Most importantly, the project includes free podcasts, cell phone tours (a plus for you iPhone users who can’t take your eyes off the Words with Friends app long enough to look up and notice these murals in the first place), and the option to choose a group or self-guided tour.   Maps have been provided online and in brochure form for you purists, though a complete list of Philadelphia murals and their locations can be found here.  The objective of the Mural Mile is to delve into the themes, styles, and artistic motives which render each of these murals a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork.

Now For What’s Important – What Do I Get Out of It?

A number of free events open to the public are also offered with the Mural Mile project over the next four weeks.  Of particular note is the “Meet the Muralist” series, an exclusive chance to discuss specific murals throughout the city with the artist who created the piece.  Photographs are permitted, questions are encouraged, and a true interest in the origin and timeline of these works makes it the perfect experience for the budding artist or scathing critic. 

Also presented this summer is the Celebrate the Stories event, featuring speakers, performances, and family-geared activities.  Everything from dance recitals to vocal concerts to pet caricatures are included, rendering this series an ideal way to get the family involved in a bit of culture.

Guided walking tours leave from Independence Hall every day from May through October, setting the mural connoisseur back the small fee of $17 per person.  Of course, for you thrifty enthusiasts, a self-guided walking tour is (obviously) free of charge – unlike departure from Jersey, it is still free to propel oneself around the streets of the city.  Come experience one of the distinct attributes which sets Philadelphia apart from, say, Manhattan or Kathmandu – the stories, optimism, and vision which decorate the city in mural form.