Oct 3, 2023

Common Space / Espacio Común: Celebrating a Decade of Creativity with Amber Art & Design

by: Chad Eric Smith

Amber Art & Design (AAD), synonymous with mural-making, public art installations, community engagement processes, educational programming, and arts and culture consultancies, is thrilled to announce Common Space / Espacio Común: 10 Years of Practice with Amber Art & Design. This exhibition, opening at Icebox Project Space from October 12th to November 9th, 2023, celebrates a decade of creative excellence in the City of Philadelphia and beyond.

A Journey of Ten Years 

The exhibition is curated by José Ortiz-Pagán, a renowned cultural worker who encapsulates AAD’s artistic evolution over the past decade. Since its founding, AAD has utilized public art to spark meaningful change and build community, and this month-long celebration gives you a front-row seat to its ongoing story.

Planning workshop with community members at Impact Services June 2, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Themes and Artistry 

The exhibition dives into themes that resonate with all of us, including communality, history, memory, collaboration, and investment in community voices. But it’s not just about the past; the show explores the timeless human act of gathering, sharing a meal, and exchanging ideas.

Showcasing over 50 Philadelphia-based artists, the exhibition is a testament to AAD’s diverse and innovative work. From visual works to live performances, the vibrant display highlights the collaboration and creativity that AAD champions.

Opening Celebration 

Join the opening celebration at the Icebox Project Space (1400 N American St) on October 12th from 6 pm to 9 pm. Experience the artistic brilliance of AAD’s local and national collaborators, witness live performances, and participate in communal art-making. Entry is free, making it a perfect evening for all art lovers.

Beyond the Exhibition 

The celebration doesn’t end with the exhibition. Throughout October, the community can engage in free workshops, panel discussions, artist mixers, and curated communal art-making opportunities. These events aim to elevate BIPOC artists and cultural workers, facilitate community learning, and create a joyful space for artists, organizers, and supporters.

Remembering Willis "Nomo" Humphrey 

The exhibit pays tribute to Willis “Nomo” Humphrey, a founding member of AAD and an extraordinary contributor to Philadelphia’s public art scene. A memorial space will honor Willis’ generous spirit, unique artistic style, and enduring impact.

“Willis Humphrey was one of our city’s finest muralists,” said Jane Golden, Mural Arts’ Executive Director, after his passing in 2018. “He was a wonderful painter whose style was completely unique and was always timely and relevant. He was a role model, a collaborator, the consummate public artist, always giving and sharing and creating. His passing leaves a huge void in our city.”

Willis “Nomo” Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Willis’ body of work is renowned for its profound exploration of African-American history and experience. Among his celebrated pieces are Staircases and Mountaintops: Ascending Beyond the Dream at the MLK Recreation Center, which delves into the Civil Rights movement’s history, and Colorful Legacy in West Philadelphia, a vivid portrayal of the systemic obstacles faced by boys and men of color. 

Furthermore, Willis has created large-scale tributes to local luminaries such as comedian Kevin Hart and musical group The Roots (AAD’s first official mural collaboration as a collective), along with a commemorative piece dedicated to Bishop Richard Allen, marking the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 200th anniversary. Most recently, in collaboration with his frequent artistic partner and AAD co-founder Keir Johnston, Willis completed a mural featuring Octavius V. Catto, a prominent Civil War-era figure known for his activism in voting rights, education, and oratory in Philadelphia.


  • Staircases and Mountaintops: Ascending Beyond the Dream section by Willis Nomo Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Colorful Legacy by Willis "Nomo" Humphrey & Keir Johnston. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Colorful Legacy by Willis "Nomo" Humphrey & Keir Johnston. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Legendary by Amber Art & Design featuring Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • The Legacy of Bishop Richard Allen and the A.M.E. Church by Willis Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Remembering a Forgotten Hero by Keir Johnston and Willis "Nomo" Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Foster New Ideas, Relationships, and Collaborations 

The Rec Crew from Mural Arts, composed of alumni from its Restorative Justice Guild and Women’s Reentry programs, is actively involved in constructing and setting up this exhibition.

“This exhibition is an opportunity for us as a collective to reflect on the collaborative work we’ve been doing for the past 10 years creating public art and engaging people in the process, “ said Linda Fernandez, Co-founder of Amber Art & Design.  “We hope this show brings people together to foster new ideas, relationships, and collaborations.”

Stay informed about the exhibit programming by signing up for the Amber Art & Design newsletter at amberartanddesign.com and following them on Instagram at @amberpublicart.

Last updated: Oct 2, 2023

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