Sep 3, 2020

Art Ignites Change: Fall 2020

by: Norah Langweiler

This year has been quite a ride. Difficult days have merged into tumultuous months, shifting the way all of us live, work, and play together. But in these moments of turmoil, cracks in “the way things are” begin to surface, giving artists an opportunity to shatter expectations and build a new world in our own image. Our Fall 2020 programming will celebrate new works that encapsulate our shared experiences of embracing and igniting change.

Each project in our Fall lineup draws from the importance of personal and collective responsibility for creating that new world.

  • Art ignites action by creating space for the most vulnerable, highlighting the value of protest, and studying the connection between art and activism.
  • Art ignites advocacy with projects that tackle the urgency of the upcoming election, strengthen community bonds, and call on governments to fund essential programs.
  • Art ignites justice by giving a platform to the long-needed critiques of the criminal justice system, pulled from the insights of those impacted most.

In each of these ways, Art Ignites Change, and Change Ignites Art.

Dates may change as many of these projects are still in progress. Please check back for the most up to date information!

Crown © 2020 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Russell Craig, Municipal Services Building, 1401 JFK Boulevard. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Crown, by Russell Craig 

Wednesday, August 26 

Installed over the entrance to the Municipal Services Building, overlooking the spot where Frank Rizzo’s statue once stood and facing City Hall, Russell Craig’s new piece represents a response to the ongoing protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight to end systemic racism and inequality. The artwork incorporates contemporary iconography from the BLM movement and marches, and showcases a black woman as the female allegory of Liberty, leading the charge in the City’s continued fight against systemic racism. The figures come together to form a crown in the age of coronavirus. To see the people from around the world unite against racism and oppression is truly a royal experience to witness this in our lifetime. The project will involve additional artworks created in workshops with our Guild cohort over the fall, that will eventually be installed on the windows surrounding MSB.

Learn more about Crown


Art of Activism Episode 3: Can Art Help Save the Planet? 

Thursday, September 17 / 5:30-6:30pm

In this time of serious environmental upheaval, the need for change is immense. Art can bridge the gap between understanding and action by making even this existential threat feel concrete and present. Artist Ginger Rudolph will moderate a conversation with Ron Whyte, Gamar Markarian, and artist Ginssiyo Apara on the role of art in environmental justice work.

Register Here!


Color Me Back Phase II, by Lauren Cat West @ Walnut-Locust Station 

September – November 2020
200 S. Broad Street

Color Me Back is an innovative program that combines participatory art-making and access to social services in a unique model offering individuals who are experiencing economic insecurity an opportunity to earn wages. Participants have the opportunity to connect, contribute, and engage with peer specialists who can link them with support services, including social and/or behavioral health services and potential opportunities for longer-term employment while working in the program. Color Me Back positions art as a catalyst for social change – art-making becomes a path to employment, essential services and empowerment for individuals in need. In partnership with SEPTA and DBHIDS, the Walnut-Locust station is in the process of being transformed by participants and artist Lauren Cat West, who are painting the columns throughout the station with bright, vibrant colors and shapes. If you’re passing through the station this Fall, you’ll see this marvelous work in progress!

learn more about Color Me Back

To the Polls, by Various Artists @ LOVE Park 

October 1 – November 3, 2020
Panel Discussion: Thursday, October 22 / 5:30-6:30pm

To the Polls 2020 is a pop-up mural project created with Mural Arts Philadelphia and curator Conrad Benner to rally the Philadelphia community around civic participation through the act of voting! The project will create five temporary 8′ x 12′ murals with five Philly-based artists in Love Park to be on display the month of October through election day, November 3, 2020.

Five artists begin working on large-scale non-partisan artworks that illustrate the importance of voting at LOVE Park during the first week of October. Philadelphians will be able to see the artworks constructed and interact with them throughout the month of October.

learn more about to the polls


Press Conferene announcing the DA Artist in Residency program with inaugural artist James "Yaya" Hough, November 21, 2019. Photo by Edwin E. Luks.

Points of Connection by James “Yaya” Hough 

Thursday, October 1 – Friday, October 30, 2020

As the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at the Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia, artist James “Yaya” Hough worked to humanize people living and working within systems of restorative justice by cultivating relationships and connections through his artmaking. For his residency, he built meaningful relationships with individuals from several overlapping circles – formerly incarcerated people, victims’ advocates, and members of the District Attorney’s office – to paint them in portraits and discuss together what justice means to them.  These portraits, titled “Points of Connection,” and the resulting conversations in one-on-ones and small group salons,  provided a window into the larger system, person by person, to approach criminal justice from perspectives of transformation, repair, and growth.

To mark the completion of his residency, Hough’s portraits will be publicly exhibited in several contexts appropriate to our times of COVID and much-needed reimagining of justice. They will be exhibited as large-scale vinyl and framed prints at key sites throughout the City, on display through October 30, 2020.

learn more about points of connection


Generations of Change 

Tuesday, October 6 / 5:30-6:30pm

With a pandemic keeping people away from polling stations and the postal service unable to keep up with demand, it’s no secret that this upcoming presidential election is fraught with challenges, and that our democracy is in jeopardy. This virtual conversation featuring representatives from the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters and the Voting Kits for the Disenfranchised project will focus on voting rights, how art can make voting more accessible, and the importance of civic engagement. Speakers will include Freedom Fighters, artist Aram Han Sifuentes, and others.

Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters mural is a collaboration between by Gabe Tiberino and Felix St. Fort.

Founded in the 1960s, the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters are a relentless group of men, women and young people who have committed their lives to the sole purpose of equality and freedom throughout the streets of Philadelphia. The Freedom Fighters remain active Philadelphia, educating the next generation to stand up against injustices. Mural Arts is providing take-home mural panel kits that include voter registration information so that individuals in the neighborhood can contribute to the mural from home. 

Voting Kits for the Disenfranchised by Aram Han Sifuentes
LOVE Park (October 1 – November 3)

The Voting Kits for the Disenfranchised will include Official Unofficial ballots, ballot boxes, and infographics showing the population of people who cannot legally vote in the United States, If We Could Vote, We Would wristbands by Undocumented Projects, Voting Stickers for All and other materials that will be distributed from LOVE Park through the To The Polls exhibition.

register now!


Rendering Justice Exhibition @ African American Museum of Philadelphia 

Friday, October 16, 2020 – Sunday, January 3, 2021
701 Arch Street

The Rendering Justice exhibition, curated by artist Jesse Krimes, is an expansive examination of mass incarceration and an unflinching depiction of contemporary America. The artworks are part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Reimagining Reentry program, which supports formerly incarcerated artists in the creation of public art projects. Works included feature varied responses to the displacement of bodies and revocation of autonomy entailed in incarceration. The works affirm how artists maintain a sense of identity, regain their agency, and grapple with coercive forces until—and after—they reenter society. Rendering Justice is created in partnership with the African American Museum in Philadelphia and is made possible with a grant from the Art for Justice Fund.

Mass incarceration in the United States reflects our nation’s fixation on confinement and punishment, which is unmatched internationally and unprecedented in recorded history. The persistence of mass incarceration, in turn, relies on ignoring and erasing the stories of human beings upon whom the criminal justice system inflicts unspeakable suffering. 

The Rendering Justice exhibition features a cohort of nine artists from across the country whose work highlights a broad range of issues bound in mass incarceration, with a particular focus on Philadelphia. While the number of people jailed and imprisoned by Philadelphia’s criminal justice system has declined dramatically in recent years, the city remains one of the most heavily incarcerated in the nation. 

This exhibition focuses on rendering visible the people and perspectives hidden by the criminal justice system. The featured works constitute a broad, multifaceted response to mass incarceration using multiple mediums including video, sculpture, painting, photography, installations, poetry readings, and performances. At its core, the exhibition is not only a condemnation of the prison system, it is also an affirmation of the resilience and dignity of people who remain behind bars, and those who have come home. Rendering Justice helps reaffirm a larger truth: vast and rich human potential, artistic or otherwise, is wasted when 2.3 million people are behind bars.

The works displayed will include original artwork from Reimagining Reentry fellows, created through workshops with men currently incarcerated at SCI Phoenix, women incarcerated at Riverside Correctional Facility, young men and women in Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Restorative Justice Guild and Art Education Programs, and formerly incarcerated members from the larger community. Artists include Russell Craig, Reginald Dwayne Betts and Titus Kaphar, Michelle C. Jones and Deborah Willis, Mary Elizabeth Enoch Baxter, James “Yaya” Hough, Jared Owens, and Michael “OG Law” TaBon.

Creativity gives us the ability to reimagine the world around us, and the criminal justice system is no exception—but the individuals directly impacted by our criminal justice system are best positioned to lead conversations and to find solutions to the problem of over-incarceration. The Reimagining Reentry Fellowship funds selected artists impacted by the justice system to examine the problems posed by mass incarceration on both a personal and a systemic level, illuminating the human cost and potential solutions.

learn more about reimagining reentry


Art of Activism Episode 4: Activism is a Choir, Not a Solo 

Thursday, October 15 / 5:30-6:30pm

Creating an equitable society is the work of generations of contributions. This year has been a particularly turbulent time, pressing social justice issues to the forefront as we grapple with the basic morality of our country. Series host Ginger Rudolph will dive into conversation with Symone Salib, Hank Willis Thomas (or Matika Wilbur), and Tiff Urquhart for a discussion on how they leverage their artistic voices in the chorus of progress.

register here


The Future Is Worth The Fight, Just Hold On & You Will See, by JessXSnow 


This film/multimedia project is about reimagining safety and sanctuary in this moment as our systems have failed us. A collaboration between artists Jess X. Snow, Frisly Soberanis, and an interdisciplinary group of visiting artists, poets, and filmmakers, Art Education students defined what community looks and how to stand together to imagine a more equitable future. This virtual event will highlight the students’ work and invite them to present on how the project impacted them, why it’s important, and what community and intersectional solidarity mean in this time. Visiting artists Mahogany L. Browne and Kyoko Takenaka will share work related to themes of community, empowerment, and liberation. As future changemakers, students will share their perspectives on the current moment in a conversation facilitated by teaching artists Jess X. Snow and Frisly Soberanis.


Point of Triangulation: Intersections of Identity, by Michelle Daniel (Jones) and Deb Willis 

Tuesday, November 10 / 5:30-6:30pm

Point of Triangulation sparks dialogue around public perception and bias. The mural depicts 9 community leaders from Philadelphia who have lived experiences of incarceration, shown from two different perspectives. On one side, each person is photographed in carceral clothing, while the image on the opposite side depicts each leader in their favorite everyday clothing.

The figures are juxtaposed to contrast the narrow identity of “criminal” or “felon” with the individual’s larger, greater truth of themselves. The installation challenges viewers to consider the stigma and perpetual re-criminalization that formerly incarcerated people confront while reflecting on their own biases or preconceptions. The installation highlights the humanity and beauty in each person. The subjects featured in the mural are invited to participate in a conversation with the artists to discuss their experiences and justice reform.

register here!


Photo by Steve Weinik.

The Viaduct, by Various Artists  

Monday, November 16 / Virtual Unveiling

The Viaduct is the result of numerous community meetings in the North Central Choice neighborhood of Philadelphia over 2019-2020. These three essential underpasses are being converted into complex and beautiful works of art that reflect themes determined in those community meetings: neighborhood pride and connectivity, nature, history, and family. The designs pay homage to the strength and resilience of surrounding communities through bright abundant colors, portraiture, and botanical themes.

Space Pads will be installed along a route that connects the three  underpasses and will include scannable QR codes, where visitors will be directed to the Mural Arts website to view videos that detail the mural making process  as well as interviews with community members and the artists. You can see the murals in person at the intersections of 10th and Norris Streets, 10th and Susquehanna Streets and 10th and Diamond Streets. 

Celebrate the murals with us online on November 16, as we unveil a series of videos of the mural making process, a new Arts Ignites Change podcast episode, a live storytelling event  and more!

Learn more about the Viaduct


The Trust Project, by Various Artists 


In recent years, the Kensington community has faced incredible challenges, and community members have been set at odds with one another. Even with the strength, tenacity, and hope that the people of Kensington have shown, it is difficult to pursue a better future when bonds of trust have been damaged. The Trust Project addresses the need to rebuild these bonds. During this year-long initiative, an art-centered community engagement process has encouraged members of the community to meet, talk, make art together, and see one another’s strengths. This process has culminated in works of public art that beautify the neighborhood and speak to the resilience and potential of the entire Kensington community. Members of the Kensington community will be invited to submit their dreams for their neighborhood to be addressed in a virtual Town Hall discussion with local leaders who can help make dreams for Kensington a reality. Using art to build a framework for connection and engagement, these facilitated conversations will help navigate pathways forward. 


Redaction, by Titus and Betts 

Thursday, December 3 / 5:30-6:30pm

Throughout their careers, visual artist and filmmaker Titus Kaphar and memoirist, poet, and attorney Reginald Dwayne Betts have used their varied mediums to confront the abuses of the criminal justice system. Their Redaction series, originally on display at MoMA, presented more than 30 new prints and a series of public programs that examine the issue of money bail, the condition of the state and federal court system by which those arrested, but unable to afford bail, remain incarcerated even though they have been neither tried nor convicted. Titus Kaphar and Dwayne Betts will discuss their most recent iteration of Redaction which includes portraits of Guild members and features redactions of the Declaration of Independence. 

register here!


Dignity NOW! Film Screening, by Mary Baxter 

Thursday, December 10 / 5:30-7:30pm

Mary Baxter, aka Isis tha Savior, completed a 12-week curriculum about reclaiming dignity through storytelling with a workshop with mothers and mothers-to-be incarcerated at the Riverside Correctional Facility. The workshops began in early December and continued through early March. Mary has produced a documentary, Dignity NOW!, about the storytelling process and its impact on these participants, which will be screened in partnership with AAMP.

register here!


Want to support more projects like these? Join Spark, Mural Arts' Monthly Giving Program! 

At Mural Arts, we believe that art ignites change and we need you to be the Spark! Join Spark, the new monthly giving program that brings together a community of supporters that sustain public art in Philadelphia. Your small gift each month adds up to huge opportunities for Mural Arts Philadelphia to change our city through the power of public art.

Join Spark Today!

Last updated: Oct 22, 2020

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