Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Philadelphia Street Art

Philadelphia Is America's Best Street Museum!

As most of my readers know, Roadboy is a total fanboy of good public art. I think my most "googled" post is one from back in 2008 showcasing my favorite public art from coast to coast. Click here to check it out.

A couple of weeks ago during a visit to Philadelphia I came to realize that this is a city rich in great public art. Walking in Philadeplphia is akin to a visit to an outdoor museum. There are iconic sculptures, fine traditionalist war memorials, parks filled with intricate bronzes (especially Rittenhouse Square) and, of course, there is the iconic "Love" sculpture. Philadelphia, I was delighted to discover, has arguably America's largest and most important collection of street murals.

Lincoln Legacy 
(A Small Section of Joshua Sarantitis' Luminous 2006 Mural)
707 Chestnut Street

A Peoples Progress Towards Equality 
Jared Bader 2006
(Note the Scale - Car in Bottom Left)
South 8th St. at Ranstead

Another of Philadelphia's Amazing 3,600 Murals

The evolution of Philadelphia's murals is a wonderful story. In 1984 Mayor Goode asked muralist Jane Golden (an artist who had developed a street murals project in Southern California) to establish a program designed to redirect the energy of the Philadelphia's graffiti "artists". Ms. Golden did just that. Over the following 30 years the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has grown, empowering a generation of young artists to "mend the aesthetic thread" of Philadelphia by beautifying, rather than vandalizing, neighborhoods. The mural program also employs art in restorative justice by offering opportunities for those recently released from prison. 

OK This Cracked Me Up

So after walking, appreciating murals, and window-shopping on Chestnut street, I arrived at Rittenhouse Square where I enjoyed viewing its various sculptures.

Duck Girl
Paul Manship 1911

Lion Crushing A Serpent
Antoine Louis Barye 1832

After Walking around and through the square, it was time to start heading back to the hotel. First up on my return was Philadelphia's most recognizable piece of public art: its "Love" sculpture. The sculpture is so emblematic that many residents refer to JFK Plaza as "Love Park". Nearby there are lots of other examples of not-so-successful pop art from the same era. Dominoes, chess pieces etc. All pretty much the worse for wear.  

Robert Indiana 1976

As I continued on my way I the huge "Crashed Grumman" and the giant paint brush outside the America's first school of fine arts, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). PAFA is an amazing institution whose students have included Mary Cassatt, Maxfield Parrish, architect Louis I. Kahn and filmmaker David Lynch.

The Grumman Greenhouse at PAFA
Jordan Griska 2011 
(The Former Tracker II Airplane Now Grows
Nutritive and Medicinal Plants)

I finished my day in the section of the Pennslvania Convention Center that was once the Reading train terminal. It also has some great murals inside this huge awesome space.

Murals Romanticizing Rail Travel
The Right Mural Depicts Philadelphia's Stainless Steel Streamliner 
(Which Commenced Service Here in 1937)

All in all a wonderful walk, though a wonderful city. My sincere advice to anyone visiting Philadelphia? Take some good shoes, arm yourself with one of those little hotel street maps and go out exploring an amazing city!

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

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