Philadelphia has more than 3,000 murals, so you’re guaranteed to run into some of these paintings even if you’re not necessarily looking. They were mostly created in conjunction with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the city’s brilliant response to an overly active population of graffiti artists. Rather than battle the creators of graffiti, the city invited artists to show off their talents through a collection that’s become known as the world’s largest outdoor art gallery. With so much to explore and new additions every year, you’ll uncover new pieces on every visit. Check out some of the highlights below.
The Love Letter series: A 50-piece collection
More than just a single mural, Love Letter is a collection of 50 individual pieces by Stephen Powers and his crew. The series paints a moving story about the search to find true love. Each mural in the series is numbered so they encourage you to explore the city and mark each one off your list. The murals are painted primarily on rooftops in the Market Street corridor from 45th to 63rd Streets, and the Market/Frankford El offers one of the best views.
Common threads: Local faces in historic interpretations
Inspired by her grandmother’s figurines, artist Meg Saligman painted Common Threads to highlight common themes throughout humanity. The mural spans 7,500 square feet and eight stories. Included in the mural are figures modeled after 15 high school students specially selected for this project. The mural is particularly notable for the way it incorporates the building’s architecture into the painting. You’ll find Common Threads at North Broad Street and Spring Garden Street, just minutes away from the Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia – Penns Landing.
The heart of Baltimore Avenue: A community tribute
The Heart of Baltimore Avenue, located at 4722 Baltimore Avenue, is a thought-provoking work painted by artist David Guinn, originally conceived to honor a restaurant owner in the community. While working on it, he met other residents of the neighborhood and began to commemorate them by adding their likenesses to the wall. The mural even has its own soundtrack—within a one-block radius you can tune your car or portable radio to low-frequency community radio station 91.3FM, and hear interviews with the very people painted on the wall.
Legacy: A collaborative statement
Legacy was the collaborative effort between students of five public schools, inmates-turned-artists at SCI Graterford state correctional facility, Philly native Eric Okdeh (who has 65 mural commissions throughout the city), and dozens of individuals. The mural measures almost 10,000 square feet, and is located at 707 Chestnut Street. The left side was painted on cloth by the prisoners, and depicts Africa as seen through the planks of a slave ship. On the right, the mural is composed of more than a million hand-laid glass tiles, and examines through vivid color and creative interpretation the efforts to end slavery by Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Summer rendezvous: A piece from the public
The exterior wall above Shake Shack at 2000 Sansom Street features a charming image of a boy climbing a ladder to give an ice cream cone to a little girl through her window. Another mural designed by David Guinn, this creative work was painted through a series of public community “paint days”. Rooftop plantings complement the whimsical watercolor-style scene. Stay at a Philadelphia IHG hotel like the Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia-Midtown and you’ll be just a 15-minute walk from this piece.
Whether you tour Philadelphia’s public art on your own or with an experienced guide, you’ll find that these breathtaking pieces make it impossible not to fall in love with this vibrant city.