Quarantine Activity: Philly Artwalk
Murals, sculpture, street installations-- the whole city is one big art museum!
All our fantastic museums are closed for the foreseeable future, but Philadelphia is basically one gigantic art museum! Since taking a walk is one of the few things we can still go out and do, and you would be hard-pressed to go anywhere in this city without coming upon a piece of public art, let’s embrace it. Thanks to the brilliant artists and organizations in our city, curating your own artwalk is easier than ever, no matter which corner of Philly you call home.
Please remember to maintain social distancing on your walk, and stay within walking distance (while a driving tour or Love Letter train ride would be nice, leave the vehicular travel to necessity-only for now).
Turn your walks into art education with aPa’s collection of self-guided tours. The tours are themed, grouped by location, and highlight whether they are walking friendly (or bike friendly, if that’s more your speed). Each piece has its own detailed landing page. There is also an interactive map on their website so you can find art wherever you are in the city.
If you really want to learn more and make your artwalk feel more like a curated, guided tour, download or stream Museum Without Walls audio for free! It includes more than 75 audio programs featuring over 160 unique voices, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians going into way more detail than a little plaque next to the statue could hope to offer. Throughout Fairmount Park and Center City, you may even notice signs next to select sculptures with instructions to call into MWW for that particular piece’s story.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis keeping kids home, aPa recently posted printable Outdoor Sculpture Activity Pages for kids with mazes, connect the dots, drawing prompts, and more.
Thanks to Mural Arts Philadelphia’s work in supporting and promoting public art, our city is a living canvas we can explore at our own pace. You don’t have to walk very far to encounter some larger-than-life art in the “Mural Capital of the World,” but if you’re on the go and want to see more, access the Mural Finder, an interactive map on Mural Arts Philadelphia’s website. You can learn about each piece, its artist, and the inspiration for each project. Sort by neighborhood to stay (hyper) local!
During the coronavirus crisis, they have worked with local artists on the Space Pad Project—a beautiful and creative way to embrace and encourage social distancing. These temporary vinyl floor tiles were designed by local artists and are set at six-foot intervals in public spaces like grocery stores and along Broad Street. Encouraging messages like “We’ve Got This” can be found steps away from cheeky Philly food-themed images like the Tastykake-inspired “Stay Tasty and Six Feet Apart.” Finding these have been a fun little activity for us, but they also serve an immensely helpful public function.
On May 6, Center City District (CCD) and Mural Arts Philadelphia (MAP) launched another streetscape enhancement project, which had been coming together for weeks. 24 works of art by 11 artists were selected to be installed over the boarded windows of nine high-visibility locations ranging in size from small retailers to large restaurants throughout Center City.
The locations for this Storefront Artwork Initiative are Brü Craft & Wurst (1316 Chestnut Street), Eye Encounters (1325 Market Street), Sephora (1714 Chestnut Street), Subway (1319 Market Street), Swarowski (1421 Walnut Street), Tinsel (116 S. 12th Street), Tradesman’s (1322 Chestnut Street), West Elm (1330 Chestnut Street) and Woody’s (202 S. 13th Street).
Continue the exploration at home with Homeschool with Mural Arts every Monday and Wednesday at 1 pm. These free arts-focused tutorials from local experts offer kids and parents alike the opportunity to flex their creative brains and create some beauty from the comfort of their homes. You can also download a free Murals of Philadelphia coloring book created in partnership with Visit Philadelphia.
Aside from the more “formal” public art detailed above, Philly has a vibrant street art scene that is constantly growing and evolving. And for nearly a decade, Conrad Benner has given this art the attention and reverence it deserves with his blog Streets Dept. From murals to sticker series to grand multi-artist installations (some of which came together thanks in part to Benner’s leadership), you can turn the happy accident of coming upon one of Amberella’s Hearts or Nero’s wheatpastes into a deep dive into art appreciation. As art pops up around town, Benner tells the stories and highlights the artists.
If you’d like to know more about individual street artists, follow @streetsdept on Instagram for daily live chats. Each talk is only available for 24 hours in Streets Dept’s Instastories, so be sure you’re following to keep up with them!
Community Art Projects
It started with rainbows. As Philly was quarantined inside, people found ways to spread hope and connection to passersby by putting art in their windows. Little surprises to tell their neighbors that they are not alone. And while this phenomenon seems to exist around the world now, there are other projects to follow as you get some (socially distanced) exercise and fresh air.
One Philly posts a different theme on Facebook each week for group members to interpret and share with each other. Many of those who choose to participate post photos of their work along with their intersection or neighborhood, so you can follow along and see if you can track down the pieces in real life!
Recently, Nest Center City has gotten in on the action with their own project. They’ll post a new theme on social media each week for your kids, and then you can drop them off (contact-free) at Nest on Tuesday mornings from 10—11 am. They’ll display them in their window so you can go visit a new little gallery each week.
Finally, Visit Philly has turned some of those dystopian boarded-up businesses into a canvas of gratitude. Look around town, and you’ll find new #ThankYouPhilly posters thanking essential workers. We found some in Center City on 13th Street, but we’ve also heard of sightings in Old City and Spring Garden…and who knows where else!
We can’t wait to see what you find on your artwalks. Tag us (@phillyfamilymag) and use hashtag #PhillyFamily on Instagram to share your discoveries with us!
Photographs by Laura Swartz.