All Aboard the Love Train

Having grown up outside of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love will always hold a special place in my heart. Although I’ve lived in New York for many years now, I make a point of going back to Philly as often as possible. When I heard that the organizers of the Love Letter for You mural project were running a special “Love Train” on Valentine’s Day, I jumped at the chance to join in on the love fest.

Love Letter Love Train (photo by Luna Park)
Love Letter Love Train (photo by Luna Park)

Waiting for the “Love Train” to depart from Center City, the excitement on the platform was palpable and infectious. To the sounds of the O’Jay’s “Love Train” blasting from a boombox, the enthusiastic “Love Train” staffers got everyone on board a specially decorated Market-Frankford El bound for West Philadelphia. Once the train emerged above ground at 44th Street, Steve Powers took to the PA for a tongue-in-cheek guided tour of the mural project. As if the cheers and claps of appreciation weren’t enough, the smiles on passengers’ faces spoke volumes about how this project has been received in Philadelphia.

Love Letter Love Train (photo by Luna Park)
Love Letter Love Train (photo by Luna Park)

Having lived in West Philly in the mid 90s, I know all too well how much this neighborhood is in need of revitalization. Empty lots, burnt out row houses and boarded up businesses are a fact of life in West Philly. When I walked along Market Street under the El last November to see the love letters in person for the first time, everyone who saw me photographing them spoke warmly and proudly of the murals. After yesterday’s train ride, I know without a doubt that this project has already touched many people and understand why it has so wholeheartedly been embraced by the community.

Love Letter Love Train (photo by Luna Park)
Love Letter Love Train (photo by Luna Park)

I could go on and on about the importance and impact of public arts programs, but I’ll spare you that and simply encourage you all to hop the train to West Philly and show the neighborhood some love.

Why Can’t Us? (The Love Letter Continues)

With game six of the World Series coming up tonight, I have the City of Brotherly Love on the mind more than ever. I continue to be amazed and inspired by the Steve Powers Love Letter mural arts project in West Philadelphia. With each trip I take, I enjoy watching the skyline of the area change, enhancing the landscape that is already there. Run down, aging signs from businesses shuttered up years before are now brought back to life by the fresh & vibrant murals that still continue to appear along walls, roof tops, and billboards.

Also appearing shortly, is A Love Letter for You: Love in Transit, a book documenting the creation of the Love Letter series. Though the Gingko Press page for the book does not say as much, I can only assume that the book will feature the photography of the very talented Zoe Strauss, who has been documenting this project since its inception.

Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers' Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers’ Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)

A Love Supreme

This weekend took me back to West Philly to check up on the progress of the Steve Powers mural series “Love Letters“. While the rainy, gray day kept me from taking as many pictures as I would have liked, it was really thrilling to see how far this project has come since the first can of paint was cracked just a few short months ago.

ESPO Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
ESPO Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
ESPO Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
ESPO Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)

If you find yourself in the Philadelphia area any time soon and would like to see the murals for yourself, you can download a map of mural locations.

ESPO Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
ESPO Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
ESPO Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)
ESPO Love Letters (photo by Becki Fuller)

While visiting the project headquarters, I had the pleasure of meeting James, a Philly based artist & designer working on everything from the administrative to the community relations aspects of Love Letter. The amount of thought that has been put into the project is clear, but James was able to provide me with a much greater understanding of exactly how deep the community involvement in this project runs. Even beyond the community meetings & the recruitment of local artists, Steve Powers and his collaborators remain engaged in an ongoing dialogue with local business owners and residents to ensure that the art around them has meaning and purpose to the people who will see it every day. Apparently they have been quite successful in this mission, as I hear that there is already talk of keeping the murals in place well beyond their originally planned expiration date.

James (photo by Becki Fuller)
James (photo by Becki Fuller)

While the murals are receiving much of the public attention, there is also a free sign school that is being offered by the project. It’s purpose is to teach the basics of sign making to a new generation of West Philadelphia artists while creating new, free signage for businesses along the Market Street corridor.

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For a much funnier and more insightful look into the Love Letter public art project, check out the official blog, written by Steve Powers.

Oh, and if you have a new or well functioning Mac computer that you are no longer in need of & would like to donate, don’t be shy!

Notes From The Underground

It’s time to get back to work (already), but I hope that all of you enjoyed the long weekend just as much as I did. Here are a few shots of what I got up to:

Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller

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Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller
Photo by Becki Fuller

The Power(s) of Love

Steve Powers: Love Letters for Philadelphia (photo by Becki Fuller)
Steve Powers: Love Letters for Philadelphia (photo by Becki Fuller)

This past weekend I was visiting my brother in Philadelphia, where I was lucky enough to catch a preview of a new mural project underway in the city. Steve Powers (aka Espo), proves that home really is where the heart is, with this ambitious Mural Arts Program collaboration in his native city of Philadelphia. “Love Letters” is a love story both to and from a community, spanning 30-50 walls, rooftops, and billboards along the Market Street El. The narrative unfolds in the style of old Burma Shave ads as riders travel between 46th and 63rd Streets.

Through countless hours of community outreach, meetings, and even a Facebook page, Powers has brought together hundreds of West Philly residents to shape this project by sharing not only their artistic skills, but their insights on love and what the neighborhood means to them.

Stay tuned for updates and information on the opening in September, which I will definitley not be missing.