Murals brighten city, depict Philadelphia history

Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:02pm EDT
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By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - With 3,553 murals Philadelphia boasts the largest public art program in the United States and is a model for other cities around the world seeking to transform urban landscapes.

While its historic charms, such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, are confined to the Old City, the massive art works that depict local heroes, national legends and community pleasures are dotted throughout the center of a region of more than 5 million people.

The art works have also earned it international praise as the "City of Murals."

"It's like the autobiography of a city," says Jane Golden, the executive director of the Mural Arts Program as she oversees the painting of "How Philly Moves" which will be one of the largest murals in America.

When it is completed in a few months it will feature 27 dancers, in various poses and costumes, symbolizing the movement theme. It will stretch for half a mile long, reach about 75 feet high and cover the side of contiguous parking garages at the Philadelphia International Airport.

"We have the largest program in the world," Golden said, adding it is an example for cities such as Rome, Paris, London, Dublin, Hanoi, Bosnia, Fiji and Auckland.

"I think we have raised Philadelphia's international standing," she added.

The murals, which first started appearing in 1984 when the city was trying to combat graffiti, began with an organization called the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. But it soon morphed into the city mural program.   Continued...

<p>Volunteer painter Pete Sosalski brushes paint onto a canvas for the Philadelphia International Airport gateway mural during a public painting session in Philadelphia, March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer</p>