Philadelphia: A City of Murals
With more than 2,800 murals spread throughout the city, Philadelphia boasts more impressive works of public art than any other city in the entire world. The colorful, larger-than-life designs brighten schools, community centers, businesses, and homes from the Avenue of the Arts to many outlying neighborhoods that most tourists and even many residents rarely visit.
In many areas, especially in parts of North and West Philadelphia where urban blight is at its worst, the murals bring beauty to neighborhoods that need it most. Not only do the murals give the community something to be proud of, but the tours provide visitors with an excellent, and safe, way to visit.
The Mural Arts Program is an offshoot of the Anti-Graffiti Network. Mural artist and community activist Jane Golden was hired to lead the initiative of redirecting the energy of local graffiti writers into mural-making. The city was covered with graffiti throughout the 1980s, and the program has done much to alleviate the problem. Its enormous success has helped to empower young artists and contribute to youth development and neighborhood revitalization in many parts of the city.
Professional artists are hired to work closely with residents to design and create the murals, so they represent the people, cultures, and issues of the diverse neighborhoods they inhabit. Each has a different theme and is created with a variety of materials, including paint, tile, and glass.
The two-hour guided Mural Arts Tour in a covered open-air trolley is one of the best ways to get off the beaten path and get a taste of the real Philadelphia. On a tour, you’ll learn about the city’s murals, and in the process, the diverse neighborhoods they inhabit. A different section of the city is featured each week: the first Saturday and Wednesday of each month, Center City; the second, North Philadelphia; the third, South Philadelphia; and the fourth, West Philadelphia. The fifth Saturday or Wednesday, if there is one, the tour is of Broad Street and the Avenue of the Arts.
Trolley Tours depart from Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market Streets on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays, at 10 a.m. Tours cost $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, $15 for children 3–10, and are free for children under two. The Mural Mile Walking Tour departs daily from the Independence Visitor Center at 11:30 am and costs $17 per person. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for the walking tour, and bring an umbrella— tours depart rain or shine.
Reservations are highly recommended (215/685-0754, www.muralarts.org). Trolley tours close when the trolley is full and walking tours are limited to 15 people per group. You should arrive at least 30 minutes early in case there are lines at the Visitor Center.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition