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.
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.
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.
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.