- location Thomas Paine Plaza
May 11, 2021
About the Project
Crown is a response to the summer 2020 protests against police brutality, supporting Black Lives Matter (BLM), and the ongoing fight to end systemic racism and inequality. The first phase of Crown re-envisions the Neoclassical masterpiece Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix. Russell Craig’s modernized version is set in Philadelphia and incorporates contemporary iconography from the Black Lives Matter movement and marches. Referencing the COVID-19 pandemic, the figures unite to form a crown, from the root word corona, which means crown in Latin. The names featured in the background of the mural are (only some of the) people killed by police brutality between 2015 and 2020. Red, black, and green are featured to represent Pan-Africanism, a worldwide movement aiming to strengthen solidarity between indigenous and diaspora ethnic groups of African descent.
This is a powerful statement on behalf of Craig, shedding light on the many ways that racism and injustice touch our lives. Craig is a former participant of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Graterford Prison Program and The Guild; his artwork reflects the City’s commitment to criminal justice reform. We are proud to live in a city that is working towards restorative justice for returning citizens.
This is one of many artworks in which Craig focuses on combating systemic racism. To see other examples of Craig’s work, visit Prophesied on the exterior of The African American Museum of Philadelphia at 7th and Arch St.
Phase II of Crown continues the work of honoring and bringing attention to the importance of collective action and calls for social change that local artist Russell Craig began last year. For Crown phase I, Craig used his unique perspective to re-imagine the Neoclassical masterpiece, Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, modernizing it for a new day and a new vision of what will bring liberation to the people. The two new murals build on Craig’s inspiration, drawing from classical painting to comment on modern contexts.
Crown: Freedom is inspired by The Nation Makers by Howard Pyle. The mural pays tribute to Black women activists who have been instrumental in fighting systemic racism, registering voters in 2020, promoting public health through the COVID-19 pandemic, and working to create a safer and more just Philadelphia. This focus came out of a powerful meeting between Mural Arts Philadelphia and the City’s Pathways to Reform, Reconciliation and Transformation committee in November 2020.
FEATURED (from right to left): Ramona Africa, Pam Africa, YahNé Ndgo, Kezia Ridgeway, Krystal Strong, Ajeenah Amir, Sajda “Purple” Blackwell, Dr. Ala Stanford
Crown: Medusa is inspired by The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault. In the center is Sudan Green, founder of SpiritsUp!, an organization that makes wellness accessible to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities by highlighting the collective movement to heal intergenerational trauma through yoga and meditation. Healing spaces are necessary as we move towards a reconciliation of the past, accountability in the present, and justice in the future.
These murals come at an auspicious time, almost a year after the murder of George Floyd, which led to a summer of protests for Black lives and the City’s first official recognition and annual day of remembrance of the MOVE bombing that took place on May 13, 1985 in West Philadelphia. This is the first step toward reconciliation after hundreds of years of oppression. Since the initial Crown installation, we have added more names to the background of Crown: Freedom, a stark reminder that in movements for justice, we must grieve, commemorate, and keep fighting the fight.
This is a powerful statement on behalf of Craig, shedding light on the many ways that racism and injustice touch our lives. Craig is a former participant of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Graterford Prison Program and The Guild; his artwork on the Municipal Services Building reflects the City’s commitment to criminal justice reform.
FEATURED (from left to right): Max Ho, Debora Charmelus, Christina Jackson, Sudan Green, Aaliyah Michelle, Gregory Coachman
Pathways to Reform, Reconciliation and Transformation, Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement; Photographs by Sudan Green & Unknown, thanks to Peoples Film Program; special thanks to Tayyib Smith of Little Giant Creative, and the Brandywine River Museum of Art
The Art for Justice Fund, a recently launched initiative founded by Agnes Gund in collaboration with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, City of Philadelphia