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Journeys South

Start Here barbershop installation by Miro Dance Theater. Photo by Steve Weinik.

About Journeys South 

Community-based public artists often ask themselves how they can best represent the history and spirit of the communities with whom they work. How can they create with integrity and yet understand that they may not be the true owners of the finished art? The rightful owners of these works of art are not anonymous: they are the children who walk by the site on the way to school, they are the members of local churches, they run the corner stores, and they are elders who have lived in the same house for forty years. They are the activists, block captains, and ordinary citizens who feel connected to and synonymous with the fabric of the community. They provide the spark that makes our work possible and the content that gives it shape.

Giordanos employees pose near Different Paths, One Market by Michelle Angela Ortiz. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Journeys South is not about the history of political figures, medaled heroes, artists or entertainers—many of which have been depicted on murals south of South Street. Rather, it is a series of projects that excavate and elevate the experience and memories of living South Philadelphians to tell the history of a community that has welcomed many, resisted the settlement of some, but which has evolved ways to accommodate newcomers who would leave their distinctive marks on the streets, homes, shops and public institutions of Philadelphia’s original working class community, and shape its particular and changing character.

Journeys South does not add to the inventory of large scale paintings on walls. Its title is less a destination than a direction. It seeks a different experience of public art—one which requires greater engagement on the part of the viewer who is asked to “journey” through time and space to connect ideas and images. In the course of planning discussions, project advisor Helen Shannon of the Museum Studies Department at the University of the Arts talked about the importance of the interstitial: of the things in between the projects that help us make connections. While she intended to point out the need to connect the individual works of art, it became clear that these works of art are themselves connectors to each other and the larger body of murals and other expressions of South Philadelphia’s cultural heritage.

 

Artist Amanda Miller demonstrates Start Here. Photo by Steve Weinik.

With such a richly layered immigrant history, and the attendant changing areas of contested territories and values, the inquiry into developing Journeys South would have to honor the live geology of these communities and delve deeply into the lives and institutions that supported their settlement and contributions to life in South Philadelphia. Using the networks that had been created over years in previous projects, and support that came from a planning grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Heritage Philadelphia Program, Mural Arts staff convened a group of advisors—artists, business people, community organizers and residents. Over the course of several months, this group would explore the territory and help develop an approach both to history in South Philadelphia and to what it meant to make sense the community’s long and often invisible changes.

The seven artists creating each part of Journeys South, five of whom were born and raised and/or currently reside in South Philadelphia, worked with community members, historians, and folklorists to gain a deeper understanding of the culture and history of South Philadelphia’s legendary neighborhoods.  

These four temporary works of public art were on exhibition from April – June 2011 at various locations along South 9th Street and East Passyunk Avenue, bordered by Christian Street to the north and West Moore Street to the south.

Project Photos 

  • Different Paths, One Market by Michelle Angela Ortiz. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Different Paths, One Market by Michelle Angela Ortiz. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Footprint Journeys by Miro Dance Theater. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Start Here by Miro Dance Theater. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Neighbor Ballads by Frank Sherlock and Erik Ruin. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Neighbor Ballads by Frank Sherlock and Erik Ruin. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Neighbor Ballads by Frank Sherlock and Erik Ruin. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • 7th Street Memory Box by RA Friedman. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • 7th Street Memory Box by RA Friedman. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • 7th Street Memory Box by RA Friedman. Photo by Steve Weinik.

The Artists 

Michelle Angela Ortiz

Michelle Angela Ortiz is a visual artist/ skilled muralist/ community arts educator who uses her art as a vehicle to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or co-opted.

Tony Rocco

Tony Rocco is an award-winning Latino photographer best known for his compelling portraits of people from his mother’s native Colombia. He has exhibited extensively throughout the United States as well as in Colombia.

Amanda Miller

Amanda Miller values dance not for its surface pictures but for its fundamental insights into gravity, anatomy, and space, and uses those principles beyond a state of restating the familiar. Her choreographic works have been performed nationally and internationally.

Tobin Rothlein

Tobin Rothlein’s work draws upon elements of sculpture, performance, dance and video. A Pew Fellow in Performance Art (2006), his work has been presented internationally.

Frank Sherlock

Frank Sherlock views poetry as a call to action and a tool for encouraging interactions and conversations within public spaces. Primarily self-taught, Sherlock has studied at Temple University, and he counts years-long correspondences with poets Cid Corman and John Taggart as important parts of his literary education.

Erik Ruin

Erik Ruin is a Michigan-raised, Philadelphia-based printmaker, shadow puppeteer, paper-cut artist, etc. His work oscillates between the poles of apocalyptic anxieties and utopian yearnings, with an emphasis on empathy, transcendence and obsessive detail.

RA Friedman

RA Friedman is a photographer who works in NYC and maintains a studio in Philadelphia. His work utilizes digital technology and traditional photographic tools and techniques that connect with the history of the craft.

Sponsor 

Journeys South has been funded by The PewCenter for Arts and Heritage, through the Heritage PhiladelphiaProgram.