Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, which started as the anti-graffiti network in 1984, is the largest mural program in the world. Some critics prefer “real” street art, or they belittle the quality of the paintings, or they claim that the city is reaching its mural saturation point. But you know what? Many neighborhoods apply for a mural. People cry tears of real happiness at the dedications. And who wouldn’t want a splash of color, even if some artsy-fartsy types would call it garish?
Last Saturday’s tour–departing from Kensington’s Yards Brewery–was part of October’s Mural Arts Month celebration. A good time was had by all, though the surprised and amused looks we got from the neighborhood residents made as much of an impression as the paintings. There’s something about the juxtaposition of art and art tourists and the ghetto and the people who live there that makes me thoughtful and slightly guilty for not always appreciating my great Fairmount digs.
The Mural Arts website has an online gallery of murals, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Cartographic Modelling Laboratory maintains a mural database that is searchable by location, artist, and year. In addition to the Mural Arts Month activities, there are weekly mural tours from April through October.
UPDATE: My (shrunken) mural pictures are here.