Jun 28

Color Me Back: Reflecting on Four Years

by: Jenny Donnelly Johnson

Art Exhibition: July 26-28 at Color Me Back Suburban Station Studio 

Four years ago, the Mural Arts Porch Light program launched its Color Me Back program. This highly impactful same-day-work and pay initiative combines participatory art-making and access to social services in a unique model offering individuals experiencing economic insecurity an opportunity to earn wages. This year, Color Me Back is celebrating its fourth year in operation and the completion of its 12th mural. We celebrate with a special exhibition featuring prints of each mural completed by CMB since 2019 from both our Suburban Station and Kensington sites, along with samples of work from the small projects we’ve done over the years.

Curated by artist Cory Kram, the exhibition is organized by the Color Me Back staff. It will be hosted by Color Me Back participants, who will be available to discuss their work in the program. The exhibition opens with a reception on July 26, 2023, from 12 pm – 2 pm at Color Me Back Suburban Station Studio, underground at 16th St. & JFK Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19102. The exhibition runs through July 28, 2023, and is open to the public from 12 pm – 2 pm.

Color Me Back Mural Projects 

  • 21st Street Underpass. Artwork by Paul Santoleri. Image courtesy of the artist.

  • Emerald Street underpass mural in-process, July 8, 2022. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Community Garden © 2023 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Mat Tomezsko, 4823 Longshore Avenue. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Cloud in Your Teacup © 2022 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Adriana Amador-Chacon, Daniel Lipschutz, Monica Mathieu, Joshua Sarantitis, 2100 block of Cuthbert Street. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • My Art Gives Me A Voice © 2022 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Lisa Kelley, Suburban Station. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Opposing Forces © 2021 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Ellen Tiberino & Alvin Tull, Suburban Station. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Flowers and Color © 2023 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Mat Tomezsko, 3027 Kensington Ave. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Color me Back © City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Gabe Tiberino, Suburban Station. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • A Bliding Light & A Distant Spark mural dedication, July 12, 2022. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • A Distant Spark: Iterations 1 – 5 © 2022 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Andrea Grasso, 15th Street concourse. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Lovely Day © 2021 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Lauren "Cat" West, Walnut Locust subway concourse. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Color Me Back: A Same Day Work and Pay Program is an innovative program designed in partnership with the Scattergood Foundation, SEPTA, the Sheller Family Foundation, and Mental Health Partnerships. The initiative is managed by Mural Arts’ Porch Light community wellness program, a collaboration with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. Participants who sign up for the program have the opportunity to connect, contribute, and engage with outreach 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.

Over the past four years, Color Me Back has completed nine murals, with four currently in progress. One highlight is the mural titled Hope and Love by Paul Santoleri. The mural was designed out of a series of drawing workshops led by Santoleri with the CMB participants in Suburban Station. This is the first mural project where CMB staff and participants from both locations are collaborating around the production and installation of a mural. The project will be located on the walls of the underpass at 21st and Cuthbert Streets and is set to be wrapped up this summer.

Color Me Back is made possible through the support of the City of Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, SEPTA, Sheller Family Foundation, PA CareerLink, Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, Impact Services, and Shift Capital. Funding for Color Me Back was provided by the City of Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Erik Hirsch & Margaret McAllister, Sheller Family Foundation, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Berkowitz Family Foundation, Notely Ventures, The Barra Foundation, Mental Health Partnerships, Skillshare, Mural Arts Philadelphia Advisory Council, Anonymous.   

Additional Color Me Back Projects 

  • Color Me Back Lottery process in Love Park, March 5, 2020. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Color Me Back workshop at Suburban Station, January 23, 2020. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Mural production at the Color Me Back Kensington studio, February 2, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Mending Quilt unveiling and dedication, February 3, 2023. Photo by Troy Bynum.

  • Mural production at the Color Me Back Kensington studio, February 2, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Color me Back with Paul Santoleri, March 13, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Garden of Rare and Resilient Plants dedication at Color Me Back, Kensington, September 27, 2022. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • untitled © 2022 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Andrea Grasso, Color me Back hub space, Suburban Station. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Flowers and triangles. Photo by Emily Crane

  • Holiday Decorations with SEPTA 2021. Photo by Emily Crane.

  • Project from Kram workshops. Photo by Emily Crane.

  • Mosaics project. Photo by Emily Crane.

  • Profile Activity 2020. Photo Emily Crane.

  • RGB. Photo by Emily Crane.

  • Still Life. Photo by Emily Crane.

  • Willow tree. Photo by Emily Crane.

Last updated: Jun 30, 2023

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