In today’s issue of The Guardian, author, art director & designer Tristan Manco shared his picks for The 10 Best Street Art Works – In Pictures. Artists include such influential names as Jenny Holzer, JR, Keith Haring, Swoon and Blu, among others. I was also happily surprised to see that one of my Steve Powers pictures from his Love Letters mural project in West Philly had been included in the article. Yes, you can file this post under shameless self promotion.
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.
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.