By Sue Lavene
One of the reasons we love Philadelphia (we live in South Jersey, just "over the bridge") is because of the ever-expanding cultural diversity. Last weekend, my husband and I joined a Mural Arts tour headed for an area of North Philadelphia known to have a large Hispanic population. Since many of the murals were devoted to Puerto Rican culture, history and homeland, in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Puerto Rico, we signed up for this trolley tour.
Driving around from one beautiful mural to another, some decorated with painted ceramic tiles donated by the Philadelphia Art Museum, others with broken colored glass pieces, these Puerto Rican-themed murals were tropical in nature with brightly colored plants, waterfalls, trees (including palms) and of course, the national icon, the tiny coqui frog. They were often times painted on the sides of row homes, and what we found out is that an average mural takes about 2 months to complete at the cost of $10,000 – $15,000 (wow!).
After the tour, we ate at an authentic Mexican restaurant that was included in the tour price. Toward the end of the lunch, we were joined by dynamic mural artist, Jane Golden, who gave us some background behind the Mural Arts program. What started out by the City of Philadelphia as an anti-graffiti initiative in 1984 became a city-supported public art program in an attempt to redirect graffiti writers' energies to mural painting.
You may find more information about this project at the Mural Arts Program's website.