In-Progress

Tacony LAB

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 will leave the Tacony Library and Arts Building (LAB) to return to its renovated building. Under the leadership of Mural Arts, the LAB will embark 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 will welcome community partners into the space, offering services ranging from ESL to chess club.

Tacony Lab. Photo by Steve Weinik.

The Artists 

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, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, with additional support from the Tacony CDC.