public art

Every little bit helps

Aside from the excellent Trestle Inn, the intersection of 11th & Callowhill is all kinds of rough. Up above you'll find the old Reading viaduct. While it may someday be a wonderful elevated park, it will never be great to pass underneath. Just to the north is the Callowhill substation, a fenced-in area that contains a bunch of electrical equipment that we have to think makes electricity happen in a big chunk of the city. While nobody would debate the importance of the substation, the same number of people would celebrate the experience of walking past it.

But a collaboration between the Asian Arts Initiative and Volta Studio is making the walk up 11th Street a little more pleasant. Emoji Energy is a collection of screenprinted panels affixed to the fence around the substation depicting images of local youth mashed up with designs based on electricity and emojis. These have apparently been hanging up on the fence since last year, but we somehow never noticed.

Will improve currently bland bridge

While it’s the still in the preliminary stages, the Girard Avenue bridge that stretches over the Schuylkill River and connects West Philly to Lemon Hill at Fairmount Park may soon be transformed into one of Philadelphia's most visible murals, a Mural Arts spokesperson confirmed.

View of the bridge at dusk

Created via a pair of murals, the design envisioned by Jonathan Laidacker, who has painted various murals in Mt. Airy and Germantown, would pay homage to Philadelphia's rich rowing tradition and point to nearby Eakins Park, Plan Philly reported.

Like New York in the 1980s but really not at all

For the next few months, one of the El's train cars will double as a moving neuron.

Student art wrapped around a train has transformed it into a moving mural as part of a Mural Arts program to showcase students’ work. Students worked with artist Ben Volta on the We Are All Neurons project, learning about the history of transit art while exploring connections between the brain, art, and creativity. The result is a train car wrapped with a colorful map of a brain, and connections between the neurons like the El connects the different neighborhoods of the city.

The project is part of the Mural Arts Leap (Local Emerging Artists Program) to create opportunities for local emerging artists in unconventional ways. We've already seen Design in Motion, the campaign that painted murals on trash and recycling trucks. Then we saw trash being tossed into trucks colored with garden scenes. It was unconventional and a very nice change for a formerly plain recycling truck.

Obviously, we're generally only interested in development taking place in and around Philadelphia. But we also have a certain fascination with funky architecture stories from other cities. So when a reader sent along this story from The Atlantic Cities, we couldn't resist sharing.


At first glance, you may think that the facade is falling off the house pictured above. It is, in a sense, but it's actually a little more complicated than unexpectedly failing architecture in a seaside English town. The home you see above is actually a public art installation from designer Alex Chinneck. The home was previously blighted and vacant, and was acquired by the town's government to turn into public housing. But the renovation isn't expected to begin for about a year.

A reader was surprised the other day when they spotted a mural on a newish house on the northeast corner of Smedley & Fitzwater. Murals, from what we understand, are a complex undertaking that typically takes considerable planning and a decent amount of time to complete. That's to say that they typically don't pop up overnight. But that's just what has seemingly happened here. Or have we just not visited this block in the last few weeks?


It's true that the mural covers an otherwise uninspiring blank wall, and Mr. Mandela is certainly the type of international figure deserving depiction in public art. But if you look a little more closely at the new piece, you'll notice that it has one unfortunate feature that we hope is corrected soon.

Most scientists agree that we humans are rapidly making our way through the Earth's fossil fuels. With cars being one of the more significant culprits in this phenomenon, alternative fuels have emerged in recent years to attempt to reduce the use of gasoline in getting us from one place to another. One such fuel, E85, combines 15% gasoline with 85% ethanol, a corn-based fuel.

Only one gas station in Philadelphia sells E85, the Shell at 12th & Vine, in the shadow of the Goldtex Apartments. And do they ever want the world to know about that special product they sell.

Just about anyone who's walked around Philadelphia for a day would agree that we live in a city of murals. Whether they're sprucing up blank walls downtown or serving as placeholders until vacant land can be developed, these works of public art make our city more vibrant, more interesting, and more cultured. In addition, the Mural Arts Program has impacted the lives of thousands of kids over the years, working both as an educational institution and as a community service program for juvenile delinquents.

Winter: Crystal Snowscape in Bella Vista

We mostly find ourselves reporting on murals being covered up by new development, like "Autumn," once located two blocks away from the mural pictured above, or the Noam Chomsky mural now covered on Fairmount Avenue. So it brings us special pleasure to take the opposite approach today and tell you about a new mural that went up last week on the 1900 block of Alter Street. And this mural seems unlikely to disappear anytime soon. You may recall, five new homes were built on this street last year.

In Francisville, the development seems to keep on coming. From four quadplexes at 16th and Poplar, to the major 55-unit Project H.O.M.E. development at Fairmount & Ridge, to a 35-unit development around 19th and Poplar, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. And as we were checking out the progress of some of these larger developments, we spotted a row of fluorescent orange ZBA apps posted at a vacant lot at 19th & Brown.

We were rolling through the neighborhood the other day and noticed this on the front of 2459-63 Frankford Ave.

Street art

Looking at the building you'd think it was one property- but it isn't.

Recently, a buyer purchased the 12 foot-wide section of the building seen on the right, but two additional segments of the building are owned by another party. Hopefully, the new buyer will do some restoration work and inspire the owners of the rest of the building to improve their part of the structure's facade.

But in the meantime, love the tentacle!

Love the tentacle!

We'd imagine many of you recall the controversy that was set off last winter when a developer purchased the vacant lot on the corner of 9th & Bainbridge, and proposed a new home that would cover "Autumn," a beloved mural. In the end, the developer built the home, and the mural is now lost.

So you can imagine what came into our minds the other day when we were in the neighborhood and spotted zoning notices at 10th & Bainbridge, on the site of another David Guinn mural.

The mural
Closer look

Upon closer inspection, the zoning notices are alerting to community to plans to legalize the parking lot on the site, rather than build a new home to cover up the mural. Bella Vistans rejoice, "Winter: Crystal Snowscape" is here to stay!