Jun 28

Interview with Councilman Clarke

We caught up with Councilman Clarke to talk about the series of murals along Ridge Ave in Strawberry Mansion, his old stomping grounds, and it’s meaning for the community.

How did it feel to see the series of murals in your old stomping grounds?  

First and foremost, it’s inspiring, at a time when we all need inspiration. The last year has been hard on us, for obvious reasons, but especially hard on this area given the history and the fact that we know minority communities have been disproportionately impacted, health wise and economically.

People need joy and inspiration in their neighborhoods right now and this is how we can do it in a way that’s reflective of the community. Obviously murals don’t solve all the issues we’re facing right now but in art we see hope. Sometimes hope is the most important thing. Hope reminds us that better days are coming.

Seasons © 2020 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Shawn Theodore, 2113 North Corlies Street. Photo by Steve Weinik.

You grew up in Strawberry Mansion, why do you feel the community there needs public art? 

Strawberry Mansion is an area that’s often discussed in negative terms, because of the challenges we face and have faced for generations. The constant negative narrative is not healthy for any of us. That’s why for years I‘ve tried to showcase the positive people and projects happening in Strawberry Mansion – the faith leaders, the community organizers, the small business owners, the dance troupes, the artists, all the success stories. Those need to be heard too. (I called it “Good Things Happening in Strawberry Mansion” long before that phrase got popular for the entire city!)

We talk a lot about how representation matters. It truly does. Very often, people need to see what’s possible before they can achieve it for themselves. And with regards to art, people need to be reminded that art is everywhere, comes from everywhere and always has value.

The fact that something is hanging in a fancy building in an affluent part of town doesn’t make it art. Art comes from artists, manifested through their talent and their vision.  That’s what I want the kids in Strawberry Mansion to know: that people in their neighborhood can and do create great art, and have been doing so for a very long time.

North Philadelphia, Quilt a Pattern for Generations © 2020 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Destiny Palmer, 3110 Ridge Avenue. Photo by Steve Weinik.

What has been the reaction from the community? 

The reaction from the community has been very positive, in no small part because the three pieces selected for this corridor are so vibrant and colorful. Whatever way you are passing through Ridge, – on foot, on a bicycle, or in a vehicle – they draw your eye and make an impact. They’re resonating with people and they’re thanking us (and Mural Arts) for bringing some color to the area in what has been a dark time. One of the great things about having the Mural Arts Program working in our neighborhoods is that, even at a time where other sources of art such as museums and galleries may be closed for safety reasons, Mural Arts can bring art right to our doorsteps. We’re very grateful for that.

Last updated: Jun 29, 2021

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