Jun 28, 2023

Finally on 13th

by: Jenny Donnelly Johnson

A mural about Philly's Ballroom Scene 

A dreamchild of applicant Jacen Bowman and the many members of Philly’s Ballroom scene, Finally on 13th celebrates the 30th anniversary of Philadelphia ballroom culture. This mural, designed by Nile Livingston, will stand alone as the Gayborhood’s first mural, honoring this rich practice of Ballroom that has recently become mainstream. The mural is the first in Philadelphia to celebrate black queer culture in a neighborhood steeped with that history which is fast impacted by gentrification. The mural will be dedicated on September 23, 2023, on 13th Street between Pine and Spruce Streets.

With deliberate input from the community through discovery and documentation, Nile Livingston has painstakingly created a mural that incorporates and celebrates actual Philadelphia Icons of ballrooms. The Icons include Michael Gaston, Tiny Cartier, Kerri Mizahri, Renee Karan, Kelly Harper, Alverian Prestige, Jay Blahnik, Meechie Lavin, Jacen Bowman, and Mann Prodigy.

We hope this mural celebrates the folks who didn’t get their flowers just as much as those here now, who can receive them while they can hold and smell them. This project is intimately intertwined with the black/brown/queer/lgbtqia+ community. It has been handled with care and treated as incredibly special, magical, and culturally unique. This project is culturally and historically directly linked to Philadelphia and marries both the past and present in a joyful, celebratory union. 

“I want this mural to offer a face to a particular local history that may be largely unknown or obscured by Ballroom’s recent mainstream posture.” says mural designer Nile Livingston, “The mural honors cultural forbearers who established Philly’s scene with little external fanfare and plenty of local need from a community countering numerous oppressive attacks.”

As part of the process for the mural making, Mural Arts held a Panel Discussion at the Barnes on November 3, 2022, about Philadelphia Ballroom culture. Participants included Jacen Bowman, Meechie Lanvin, Mann Prodigy, and Alverian Prestige.

Finally on 13th is a declaration, a marker, and a call to action to honor the history, the people, the art, and the icons, those who are here and those who have transitioned. It is a neighborhood-defining mural. It is an opportunity to preserve history and to give flowers to those who have influenced us and so many. 

“This colorful collage method will communicate the vastness of the scene as a living space.” explains Nile Livingston, “We chose the wall in the gayborhood to ensure that the mural’s vibrance matches the lives of persons coming into their being in that small section of the city.”

On Saturday, July 22, from 4 pm – 6 pm, there will be a Collage Workshop with artist Doriana Diaz at Vox Populi, 319 N. 11th Street #3. This is a unique opportunity to engage with the community and celebrate iconic Ballroom figures through collage art. Bring your creativity and join us as we create stunning collages that will become part of the project’s archive.

This project was made possible in part with support from the National Academy of Design/Edwin Austin Abbey Memorial Trust Fund for Mural Painting.

Images from Ballroom Panel Discussion 

  • Philly Ballroom scene mural announcement and panel discussion, November 3, 2022. Photo by Troy Bynum.

  • Philly Ballroom scene mural announcement and panel discussion, November 3, 2022. Photo by Troy Bynum.

  • Philly Ballroom scene mural announcement and panel discussion, November 3, 2022. Photo by Troy Bynum.

  • Philly Ballroom scene mural announcement and panel discussion, November 3, 2022. Photo by Troy Bynum.

Last updated: Sep 19, 2023

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