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The City of Murals

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By Wayne Lazarus on December 1st, 2009

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

“This love is real so dinner is on me.”  “Prepay is on so let’s talk till my minutes are gone.”  “For you I got daycare money and carfare honey for now on.”

Ah, love in the age of text message. Actually, the above is part of a love story, but it’s also a love story for the city of Philadelphia. New York-based artist Stephen Powers, who spent his youth in Philadelphia illicitly tagging buildings, has collaborated with the Mural Arts Program to design over 50 building-sized messages. Love Letter is a series of love notes (on a giant scale) from a boy to a girl who might ride the El train and see them. Designed to be seen from 45th to 63rd streets along the market Street corridor, the project was painted by over 40 artists and included a training program for neighborhood youth as sign-painters. The murals not only decorate the buildings but often serve as advertising by drawing attention to the businesses within. They also add beauty, pride and interest to long-disenfranchised West Philadelphia.shape up

The Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia has been in existence since 1984, and is a large part of why it is called the “City of Murals.” The over 3,000 murals and works of public art here have also served as public outreach and education for at-risk teens in the city. Powers himself was 15 when the program began and was one of the talented graffiti artist that Executive Director Jane Golden tried to pull into the program. (He was uninterested at the time.)

The Mural Arts Program offers a trolley tour in antique trolleys of many of the city’s murals, as well as a Meals and Murals tour and experiential tour which includes a talk with the artist. A self-guided map can be downloaded on the website. A guided tour on the El train of Love Letter is scheduled occasionally. (Call for dates.) To see the murals on your own, take SEPTA‘s Market-Frankford line. (Many are not easily seen from a car.) Sit near the front and watch both sides from 45th to 63rd Street.

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(Photos by Adam Wallacavage for the Mural Arts Program. Used with permission.)

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