With nearly 4,000 murals and installations across the city, Mural Arts Philadelphia — one of the largest public arts programs in the country — has a lot to celebrate.
From September 26 to November 3, Mural Arts Month returns with 30 events that preview or unveil new works — including Philly’s first-ever augmented reality mural — and highlight the organization’s accomplishments.
MURAL ARTS MONTH FAST FACTS
- Mural Arts Month runs from September 26 to November 3.
- More than 30 events take place around the city.
- Highlights include dedications, discussions and the massive Barnes on the Block: Remix block party.
- Most events are free or pay what you wish and open to the public.
Mural Arts Philadelphia enlivens the city, turning bland and empty spaces into colorful canvases for public art.
The organization engages communities in as many as 100 projects each year, helping Philly earn the nickname of “City of Murals.”
Every October, the organization hosts its month-long Mural Arts Month festival that ties together Mural Arts’ core program areas to engage communities, transform those divided by the criminal justice system and empower youth through art education.
Barnes On The Block: Remix Opening Party
The popular — and free! — Barnes on the Block street festival officially kicks off Mural Arts Month on Sunday, October 7 with activities both inside the Barnes Foundation and outside the attraction at 20th and Callowhill streets.
At the block party, attendees can enjoy live music from DJs King Britt and Rich Medina, brews from a Dock Street Brewing beer garden and bites from sought-after food trucks, including Baby Blues BBQ and The Cow and the Curd. Also on tap: live art and temporary sculptures.
Inside the Barnes Foundation, visitors can pop into a reverse glass painter’s studio, tour the museum’s exquisite collection and attend a think-tank-style panel about art and legacy featuring DJ King Britt, muralist Joshua Mays, fashion designer Walé Oyéjidé (who did some of the apparel work for Black Panther!) and poet Jill is Black.
Philly’s First Augmented Reality Mural
DJ King Britt and muralist Joshua Mays worked with students from Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Art Education program to review historical archives, record audio and interpret Afro-diasporic images of transcendence to create a “monumental time portal” honoring ancestral legacies and imagining utopian futures.
Following a one-night-only performance last year, the artists continued to collaborate and eventually came up with the AR concept, resulting in the sight-and-sound installation accessed by a to-be-released free smartphone app from Blue Design. Visitors to the mural can hear the voices of people in the community share stories, poems and more, and see parts of the mural pop out with more information that the students collected during their historical research.
Barnes on the Block: Remix attendees can preview the mural with a 3D component before the official dedication ceremony. With the help of a virtual reality headset, block-party attendees can see a 3D version of the mural and hear some of the community voices. A flat-screen TV will display what’s on the headset for all to see.
More Mural Arts Month Highlights
Beyond the opening party and the augmented reality mural, Mural Arts Month brings a ton of other exciting events to check out throughout Philadelphia.
Temporary installation To The Polls is a pre-midterm-election exhibition in a former warehouse at 10th and Buttonwood streets in Callowhill. The captivating murals done by 10 local artists examine the importance of resistance, equity and empathy. (Fittingly, the exhibition also includes onsite voter registration.) Four of the artists who helped create To The Polls participate in a panel discussion on October 1 about encouraging civic participation through voting.
Mural Arts’ ongoing Portrait of Justice series culminates in October with several exhibitions and performances. The series is a grant-funded project of the organization’s Restorative Justice program, and supports the Reimaging Reentry Fellowship for formerly incarcerated artists. Residents and visitors can check out the Portraits of Justice exhibition opening with Reginald Dwayne Betts (opens October 5), participate in Shontina Vernon’s When and Where We Re-enter storytelling workshop (October 11) and experience the challenging reentry process through simulation at Sue Ellen Allen’s Overcoming Barriers to Reentry (October 18).
On October 17, Mural Arts partners with Public Workshop and the City of Philadelphia’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet to help student activists upcycle predatory utility pole signs (e.g. “cash for homes” posters) transform into useful objects.
Among the many mural dedications taking place throughout the month is Legacy. Fashion designer Walé Oyéjidé unveils a colorful, fabric-inspired design in West Philadelphia to celebrate the culture of the African diaspora and explore questions about cultural identities.
Lastly, Mural Arts has organized specialty trolley tours of Philadelphia murals on Saturdays from October 6-27 from $28 to $32 per person.
Tickets and Staying Over
Many Mural Arts Month events are free and open to the public. Check individual event listings for information on cost and registration. Thanks to a partnership with Lyft, attendees can also get discounted rides to some of Philadelphia’s most popular arts destinations and events, Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to midnight. The ARTPHL code gives riders a 25 percent discount to places like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation and featured murals, including Water Gives Life, set to debut October 23 at 1300 Arch Street.
See more of Mural Arts Month by booking the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018. The package comes with $193 in free perks, including free hotel parking, free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.
For a full list of Mural Arts Month events click here — and start exploring Philly’s thousands of works of public art.