Jan 21, 2016

Decoding the Mural: Highlights from Steve Powers' newest mural

by: Carly Rapaport-Stein, RJ Rushmore, and Steve Weinik.

Contemporary artist Steve Powers has contributed some memorable imagery to Philadelphia and New York’s graffiti scenes. Powers’ work is there along the Market-Frankford Line in A Love Letter for You, on the walls around Ralph Brooks Park in Southwest Philly, in Fishtown on Front Street and inside La Colombe, and many more signs and designs throughout Philadelphia.

Powers’ most recent mural, Philadelphia, is located on 2nd street between Market and Chestnut in Old City. There are tons of great Philly references woven into this piece, encompassing everything from art to food to music. We’ve put together a list of our five favorites – and we hope you’ll help unravel the mysteries of the mural by adding your favorites!

1. Philly’s got Art

World renowned modern artist Alexander Calder was a Philadelphia local. His pieces are on display in private and public collections all around the city, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Olde City mural highlights the modern art movement by placing Calder’s work front and center, paying homage to the original piece Red Mobile from 1956 with bold red shapes.

2. Philly’s got GOLD(EN)

Our executive director, Jane, was honored to see a family reference in the center of the mural – look above “CITY” and see if you can spot it!

3. Philly’s got History

Ben Franklin appears quite a few times throughout the mural’s imagery. From a Ben Franklin cartoon to Poor Richard to Silence Dogood to a lightning-struck-key to that famous bridge, the Ben references abound.

4. Philly’s got Food

As many locals know, Philadelphia’s culinary scene has a mouthwatering array of specialties. Philly foods scattered throughout the Olde City mural include Lorenzo’s Pizza, Herr’s Potato Chips, Philadelphia Soft Pretzels, and of course the infamous Philadelphia Cheesesteak.

5. Philly’s got Talent

Talented sibling duo Zoe Strauss and Cosmo Baker have made a name for themselves in the Philadelphia art scene, and both make an appearance in this mural, alongside references to David Bowie, John Coltrane, King Britt, Teddy Pendergrass, Hall and Oates (check out the image of a Quaker Oat can with an Oates moustache), and a few more Philly favorites.

Bonus find: What is it?

The design also incorporated some special requests from passers by. One item that made it onto the mural is a Toynbee Tile. The mysterious tiles are found embedded in asphalt crosswalks, and bear a bizarre message about resurrecting the dead on Jupiter. Invented by an anonymous Philly artist, more than 600 tiles have appeared in 15 states and 4 countries since the mid-1980’s. Mural Arts photographer and Toynbee Tile fan Steve Weinik made the request, and Powers generously added one to the final mural.

What are your favorite images in the mural? Leave us a note on Facebook or Twitter and let us know!

Many members of the communications team joined in to contribute their favorites, including Carly Rapaport-Stein, RJ Rushmore, and Steve Weinik.

Last updated: Jan 25, 2016

Share Your Thoughts