Tacony LAB Community Arts Center

A hub for learning, creativity, and community engagement.

Our Tacony: Yesterday and Tomorrow by Mariel Capanna. Photo by Steve Weinik.

The Frank Shuman Solar Art Parklet by Nick Cassway. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Download the fresco brochure (PDF)

About the Project 

In March 2016, the Tacony Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia closed for an 18-month renovation, spurring the need for a temporary home. A former hardware store 2 blocks north was converted to fill this need. In partnership with Councilman Bobby Henon and the Free Library, this hub for learning, creativity, and community engagement combines a temporary home for Tacony’s neighborhood library with studio space for artists-in-residence, where visitors can attend arts-focused events and workshops, borrow books, use computers, and access free Wi-Fi.

In August 2017, the library left the Tacony Library and Arts Building (LAB) to return to its renovated building. Under the leadership of Mural Arts (and the new moniker Tacony LAB Community Arts Center), the LAB has embarked on an expanded program of free arts-focused event, classes, and workshops, and an ongoing series of public art projects exploring this proud and historic neighborhood. In addition, following the model Mural Arts explored with Neighborhood Time Exchange and Southeast by Southeast, the LAB welcomes community partners into the space, offering services ranging from ESL to chess club.

Tacony Lab. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Fall 2018 Resident Artist 

Alice Thompson is a Philadelphia-based maker and designer. Her work takes many forms, including kites and layered paper installations which incorporate natural and electric light. During her time at the LAB, she will convert the studio space into a workshop outfitted with materials and tools necessary for making and flying kites. Through classes and public events, she will ask community members to share their own personal stories and feelings of home, and then collaborate with them to create kites that reflect upon these narratives.

Spring/Summer 2018 Resident Artists 

Kathryn Pannepacker is a textile artist and painter creating visual art pieces and projects with the mission of “art-for-all.” Whether she is working directly with individuals or groups, or creating projects for the larger community, her work stems from the common desire to celebrate diversity and to resource self-expression and empowerment. She has worked with a large variety of communities, including leading a weekly textile workshop at the Porch Light Kensington Storefront hub space.

Jackie Neale is a fine-art photographic artist, author, instructor, and former Imaging Producer of Online Features at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ignited and inspired by the complexities of relationships and visual anthropology, she is passionate about creating artwork that inspires others to invest in people and humanity. She believes in ghosts, dreams, curiosity, acceptance, and the reliability of human behavior.


2017 Fall Resident Artists 

Rebekah Flake is a Canadian-American artist using lens-based media and curation to explore migration narratives and the psycho-social effects of borders. Raised in Mississippi, she references the inescapable persistence of history in the forms of public memorials and personal reflections. She holds an MFA in Photography and a Graduate Certificate in Documentary Arts and Ethnographic Practices from Tyler School of Art at Temple University; a BA from the University of Pennsylvania; and an MA from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art. She teaches photography and digital media in Philadelphia, and has been in residence in Tacony working on a photography series titled Legendary Tacony.

Michael Kiley is a Philadelphia-based composer, sound designer, performer, and educator working in dance, theater, and public installation. He creates his own work under the moniker The Mural and The Mint. In 2014, The American Composers Forum selected him to write With Happiness For You, World, a piece for two voices, percussion, and synthesizer, inspired by the poetry of a teenage immigrant from Karen State. The piece was performed as part of the If You Could Hear These Walls seriesa program of ACF and Mural Arts Philadelphia. He teaches workshops in a voice/movement practice of his own design at The Headlong Performance Institute, Swarthmore College, and various studios. In the fall of 2017, Michael led voice workshops at the LAB, exploring themes including neighborhood change, borders, home, vocal representation, and memory. He collected recordings and stories from residents of Tacony as inspiration for a new composition, which will premiere in February 2018 as a “sound walk.”


Grindstone Devotional is the third in a series of GPS controlled soundwalks for the city of Philadelphia by The Mural and The Mint. To experience the piece, please go to the Apple Store or Google Play to download the app. Then, with headphones, proceed to the Tacony neighborhood of Philadelphia and walk the loop of Torresdale Avenue, Longshore Avenue, Disston Park, Disston Street and the side streets in between. What you hear will change depending on where you walk.

Grindstone Devotional can also be listened to without the app on Soundcloud.

2017 Spring–Summer Resident Artist 

Mat Tomezsko‘s paintings have been exhibited at art spaces regionally and nationally. He has created several public art projects with Mural Arts, including 14 Movements: A Symphony in Color and Words, a mile-long temporary mural installed in downtown Philadelphia during the 2016 Democratic National Convention; There Is No, a series addressing urban violence; and Look Long and Look Good (2011), a survey of the history and people of Manayunk in 30 painting currently installed along Main Street in Manayunk, Philadelphia. Mat graduated from Tyler School of Art.

During his residency at the LAB, Mat is collaborating with community members of all ages to create distinctive new “light pole” banners for Torresdale Avenue. These banners will abstract images drawn from Tacony’s history and combine them with a vibrant color palette. The goal, according to Mat, is to “take the familiar and make it unfamiliar.” In workshops held throughout the residency, community members are experimenting with paint and stencils; Mat will incorporate portions of these works into 40 distinct banners.

2016 Resident Artists

Mariel Capanna is a painter who received a BFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in 2013. Since that time, her work has been supported by an Independence Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship, which allowed her to study fresco painting in Florence, Italy, and a grant from the Kittredge Fund, which supported a year of independent travel around the United States. She is a recipient of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Award and the Woodmere Purchase Prize. She grew up in South Philadelphia.

Capanna drew on her training in the ancient art of fresco painting to create Our Tacony, a mural that illustrates the past and present histories of Tacony. This is a truly unique mural: no outdoor frescos of this scale exist in Philadelphia. Capanna developed her work through community workshops in storytelling and fresco painting.

Nick Cassway draws on printmaking, graphic design and painting to create his work. A veteran of the Philadelphia art world, Nick graduated from Temple University Tyler School of Art with a BFA in 1990. He served as executive director of Nexus Foundation for Today’s Art from 2004-2009, is an associate professor at Drexel University, and is a 2015 fellow with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. He grew up in Wyncote.

During his residency, Cassway created a parklet on Torresdale Avenue. Parklets are little parks built into parking spaces. The parklet in front of the LAB provides seasonal outdoor space for LAB visitors, as well as for shoppers and passersby. This outdoor “reading room” is also used for art workshops and small events. The Frank Shuman Solar Art Parklet is equipped with solar panels and charging stations to pay homage to Frank Shuman, who pioneered solar power in Tacony in the early 20th century. In a July 2017 article in Planning Magazine, the authors used Cassway’s parklet as a model of a strong parklet program that capitalizes on robust NGO relationships, allowing it to be successful in a nontraditional location “like dense neighborhoods with little access to park space, or along commercial corridors not traditionally associated with placemaking and tactical urbanism.”

Project Sponsors 

The Tacony LAB is a partnership between the Office of Councilman Bobby Henon and Mural Arts Philadelphia, with additional support from the Tacony CDC.