The Spirit: PFCU, Mural Arts Unveil New Public Work as a Tribute East

Jun 2, 2016

The hard work and dedication of the artists, sponsors and community all culminated in the unveiling of the new mural, titled "Welcome to the Neighborhood," on Saturday, May 21, just before the 2016 Kinetic Sculpture Derby and Trenton Avenue Arts Festival.

"Over 2,000 people helped make this mural possible by voting for the design concept and artist or participating in a paint day," Karen Eavis, Communication Specialist at PFCU, said. "Now we're here to welcome this wonderful piece of art to the neighborhood."

Eavis then introduced the always-energetic Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

"We really value artists [at Mural Arts]," Golden said. "In fact we are very loyal to local artists. I would say 95 percent of the artists we work with every year are from Philly and that is fantastic. But sometimes we like to become hyperlocal, so when it came to this project we really had an eye on who's in the community."

Golden described her excitement for the project and the democratic selection process that proceeded it saying, "I like democracy in action."

"What I love about this project is that it's stories, it's people from the neighborhood and we also had three community paint days, which means that this process was really inclusive. So all of you, many of you, made your mark on this community in a big bold inspiring wonderful way," Golden said, adding, "I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping us live that saying we love: Art ignites change."

Sandy Salzman, Executive Director of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), has seen art ignite change in her community. Both East Kensington and Fishtown have experienced plenty of change in the past decade or so, much of it sparked by the creative class and artists.

"I do want to thank [PFCU] across the street, if you haven't been inside you really need to go in and see the amazing restoration made to that building [The old 26th District Police Station]. It really is wonderful. And of course the Mural Arts Program for coming up with this unique way of having the whole community involved," Salzman said. "They put out an RFP (request for proposal) for artists in the neighborhood to submit their artwork and then everybody in the community had a chance to vote on what they wanted on this wall. It makes it all the more special because of course the winning one was done by Jeff and [Brad] and it has people from the neighborhood."

Kilpatrick has been drawing local people for years. Well known for his "Sketches of Fishtown" series that was published in the Spirit News, he would draw various members of the community and offer a slice of their lives in his cartoons. With that being said, Kilpatrick had never worked on something this large before.

"It's crazy," Kilpatrick said. "To see my tiny lines get that big is humbling. I've never been asked to leave something like this behind in the neighborhood. It's an honor and the biggest thing i've ever done in the neighborhood."

While Jeff provided the characters and sketches for the mural, Carney, an accomplished artist with Mural Arts, acted as the sketches' megaphone and helped aid Kilpatrick in taking his 5×4 inch sketches and blowing them up to to 14×50 feet.

"I've known Jeff for almost 15 years and I've been watching him create stories one drawing at a time. When you look at this work of art, even if you don't know a person [pictured in the mural] you can connect with the sensibility his lines create with each person," Carney said. "When I was paired up with him, I found it a joy to put a big scene together out of all of the "Sketches of Fishtown" he's been drawing for more than 10 years. This is a chance to really show the work of this artist."

Locals depicted in the mural include Darla Jackson of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, Kilpatrick's cousin and sign painter Sean Gallagher and Paul Malvey, known locally as a "tree man" who used to run NKCDC's Land-Use management program. Malvey passed away four years ago. Another character painted on the mural is a young boy selling pretzels from a box. When asked if he included himself in the mural, Kilpatrick said, "I'm probably the pretzel boy. That was me and every other kid in the neighborhood.

You can see the mural for yourself one the wall of AC Auto Body at Frankford and Dauphin. PFCU is holding a photo contest on Facebook where they are all calling for residents to post pictures of themselves in front of mural, and the best will be selected for a $100 prize. Winners will be announced on June 18. Visit PFCU's Facebook for full details. The mural unveiling occurred just before the start of the 2016 Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby and Trenton Avenue Art Festival.

– Written by Max Pulcini for The Spirit

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