Dec 4, 2014

A Historic Mural Hides in Center City

by: RJ Rushmore

After 30 years and 3,000+ murals, many people think that Mural Arts Philadelphia is responsible for every mural in Philadelphia, but that’s not the case. Some of the city’s most iconic murals, like Keith Haring’s We The Youth and Richard Haas’ Chestnut Place predate Mural Arts. And there’s another mural, a lesser-known gem from the 1970s by two accomplished Philadelphia artists, which has remained hidden for nearly 40 years in Washington Square West.

When Donald Selkow and his wife Lynne Clibanoff moved to 11th and Lombard Streets in 1970, houses could be bought for just a few thousand dollars, and many were just empty shells. Donald and Lynne bought a home at 1039 Lombard Street. Soon after their move, Donald decided to commission Lynne and their friend Ira Upin to paint a mural in their back garden, on a neighbor’s wall. The duo spent the better part of a summer up on scaffolding. The mural, The Road to Infinity, was visible not just to Donald and Lynne from their garden, but also to the public from 11th Street.

Recently, Donald took Steve Weinik and I to see The Road to Infinity, and we can attest that is still there. So, if this mural has been around for over 40 years, why isn’t it better known today? Around 1976, new construction on 11th Street blocked the work from public view. As they say, out of sight, out of mind. Donald and Lynne have long since moved away from Lombard Street and without public attention, this historic Philadelphia artwork has been left to the elements.

Today the mural is in serious need of repairs. The colors have lost much of their vibrancy and the paint has disappeared completely in some places, but the mural is still there, ready to be saved.

After having a series of conversations with the team here at Mural Arts, Donald estimates that it would cost about $9,000 to repair The Road to Infinity. He hopes that funding can come together to make the piece publicly accessible again. After all, it’s a historic mural in the mural capital of the world, and it’s been hidden away since 1976.


The Road to Infinity by Lynne Clibanoff and Donald Selkow. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Last updated: Mar 21, 2016

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