A Tour of Philly Street Art: Mural Edition

Philly’s always had a thing for street art, particularly murals. The mural has evolved in recent years from a way to keep graffiti off of the walls of buildings to a unique art form of its own. Check out some of Philly’s most exciting and original murals.

Whether officially sanctioned, such as the murals produced by the Mural Arts Project, or not, such as the mysterious Toynbee tiles scattered throughout the city, Philly street art is alive and well. It’s actually evolving to be so much more than simply a large scale image painted on the side of a building or a sculpture sitting in a public area. Take a look at some other innovative and exciting murals that have popped up in the city in recent years.

Electric Street

In the middle of the summer of 2016, a new type of mural was created on a tiny side street in South Philadelphia. Known as Electric Street, this mural features neon lights. Like other murals, which are painted to keep graffiti off of buildings, the goal of Electric Street is to deter crime by brightening up the street, and to look good while doing it. The mural was created by two local artists, Drew Brillau, a lighting designer, and David Guinn. It was funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation.

The Atlas of Tomorrow

Philly street art is no longer something you can simply look at. As The Atlas of Tomorrow, a mural on South Street, shows, street art can be interactive. Created by artist Candy Chang, the mural is inspired by the I-Ching and encourages viewers/participants to take stock of their lives. People are invited to spin a large wheel mounted to the mural while thinking about a question they have in their lives. The dial will land on a character, which corresponds to a character and description printed on the mural.

The Oval

Murals do not need to be on a wall. Each summer, a new mural is painted on the ground at The Oval, a pop-up park on the Ben Franklin Parkway, right in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2015, the mural was called “Summer Kaleidoscope,” while in 2016 the mural was “Rhythm and Hues.”

Water Under the Bridge

The Manayunk Canal Towpath is a great spot for going for a walk, run, or bike ride. It’s also the location of several works of street art, including Water Under the Bridge, which was completed in 2015 and is the work of artists Paul Santoleri and Beth Clevenstine.

The art pays homage to the natural setting around the towpath, with large images of fish, turtles, and vegetation. The steps leading up to Fountain Street are dressed up with a blue tile mosaic that brings to mind the nearby Schuylkill River. An installation called Concrete Magnolia blends the natural with the industrial and features a realistic looking, 3-D magnolia tree that is made from concrete.

How Philly Moves

Projected on the side of a parking garage at the Philadelphia Airport since 2010, How Philly Moves is the second largest mural in the world. It features photography by JJ Tiziou of dancers in motion and serves as a way to welcome visitors to the city and to give them an introduction to the arts and culture Philly is known for. It’s also visible to cars speeding by on I-95.

One of the great things about living in Philadelphia is seeing all the great street art projects that are constantly in progress. From traditional murals to more innovative works of art, the Philly street art landscape is constantly evolving.


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