public art

Business on Washington Avenue cutting holes in back of their building

When developers built a row of five new homes on the 1900 block of Alter Street a few years ago, they were none too pleased with the aesthetic across the street, where the back of a Washington Avenue warehouse presented views of a mostly blank brick wall. So they decided to paint a mural on the wall, creating the image of five row homes, in an effort to make the half industrial block feel a little more welcoming. We should probably mention that OCF Realty, our parent company and the listing agents for the project, were involved as well.

1900 block of Alter Street

But change is inexorable, and it was a sure thing that this mural, which we loved when it first appeared, would eventually see some alterations. If you visit this block today, you'll not only see that a couple additional (real) homes have appeared, like the new home at 1922 Alter St. in the photo above, but that the mural has undergone a few changes. YD Hardwood, located on the side of the wall, has poked some holes in the mural and has filled in some others. Take a look:

Some lipstick for a pig

Ah, Snyder Plaza. You love that it's there when you need to make a Target run or you want to take your weepy four year to Chuck E. Cheese's, but deep down you hate it because of the awful traffic flow and the fact that it doesn't even remotely relate to the surrounding urban environment. But one thing we've always appreciated about the shopping center is the mural on Swanson Street, on the side of the building that was home to Shop Rite for many years. We believe a Fresh Grocer is taking over that space, by the way, but we haven't seen that formally announced anywhere.

Mural on the former Shop Rite

Future Fresh Grocer?

Perhaps inspired by the aforementioned mural and perhaps just because the shopping center hasn't exactly been a wonder to behold, the Mural Arts Program has teamed with the Goldenberg Group to pretty up Snyder Plaza. According to Mural Arts, the shopping center is turning into Swanson Walk, a transformation that will mean new buildings, new stores, and some new public art. The first murals were completed at the end of September, with four local artists putting their mark on Swanson Walk. The new murals certainly make for a more attractive shopping center, and we'll be excited to what happens next.

Some units available for rent

A little over a year ago, we told you about a new building under construction at 17 S. 44th St., on the southeast corner of 44th & Ludlow. The building was notable in part because its construction was covering up the views of a mural on the northern wall of 21 S. 44th St. which pays tribute to the local Ethiopian community.

In the past

But perhaps even more noticeable, we expressed that the building would ultimately rise up to five stories, and would tower over all the other buildings in the vicinity. As we told you before, the height of the building was permitted by right because the property is zoned CMX-4, a zoning designation that doesn't seem to fit with the surrounding neighborhood and would likely get remapped if such a thing happened in this part of town. With a relatively small 15'x78' footprint, we'd have never expected a developer to build such a tall building, but here we are:

Covers an entire building in Center City

If you've been walking, biking, or driving up 16th Street in Center City in the last week or so, it's quite likely that 218 S. 16th St. has caught your eye.

Looking up 16th Street

Closer look

This four-story building was home to Mi Lah Vegetarian for years until they moved to Ambler last summer, and the retail space has sat vacant ever since. The space continues to sit vacant, but the building looks very different, all of a sudden.

Interactive element coming soon

The murals of Philadelphia cover so many themes, it's impossible to list them all off the top of your head. Some murals honor historical figures, others pay tribute to neighborhood icons, and some make obscure or direct references to community history. Some murals are serious, others are more whimsical. Some have a point or a mission, and others offer art for art's sake. In thinking about the many murals around our fair city, we confess that we cannot think of any that include an interactive feature, but a new mural that's nearing completion will soon fit that bill.

After several years of delays

A few people have reached out of late, wondering about the new building that's recently arrived on the southwest corner of 17th & Fitzwater, next door to the Marian Anderson Rec Center. Just looking at it, you can easily see it's not a new home. For many years, this space was occupied by a playground along with batting cages associated with the adjacent baseball field. What's coming soon will be a big improvement.

View in the past

Recent view of the new building

It was back in 2010 that the Philadelphia Phillies announced plans for an Urban Youth Academy, with an outdoor location in FDR Park and an indoor facility at 17th & Fitzwater. When people heard about this, they were really excited. And when it didn't happen for several years, they were mostly confused and disappointed. And many (like us) forgot it was even a thing.

And at the same address!

Ever since the building housing Ultimo went up on the northeast corner of 22nd & Catharine, we've been waiting for something to happen to the long-vacant building at the southeast corner. A couple years ago, we were cautiously optimistic that the property would get redeveloped into a mixed-use building, but it's been status quo ever since. If you pass by the building today though, you'll notice there's some change brewing.

Bernie Sanders is coming for ya!

Yesterday, artists began work on a mural on the side of this building which will be titled #PhillytheBern. A collaboration between Old Broads and Disto, the goal of this mural is to increase public awareness of everyone's favorite curmudgeonly presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. There's a Kickstarter for the project that has a goal of raising $5,000 to compensate the artists and to cover the costs of the mural and at the time of this writing, they've raised nearly $1,700. When they're done, the building will look something like this:

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.