Aug 30, 2016

Introducing muralista Phyl Francis

by: Carly Rapaport-Stein

You’ve seen the vibrant walls around Philadelphia. You’ve heard stories about our programs, seen the artistic transformations of places and institutions. But beyond those walls, Mural Arts is made up of an ever-expanding family of people – our very own muralistas. Read on below to hear from a fantastic muralista: tour guide and volunteer Phyl Francis.

I originally came on a Mural Arts tour in 2005, while my cousin was visiting with her colleagues from Oklahoma for a conference. They asked me to show them around the city for a couple of days in July, one of the hottest weekends ever. We took a Mural Arts tour of Broad Street, and were just amazed, visually amazed.


Phyl shows off Philly Chunk Pack by Kenny Scharf. Photo by Steve Weinik.

I didn’t go on a tour for a while after that. In 2006, my husband passed away and I spent a long time recovering from that. I still had my business, but I felt there was this huge hole in my daily life, that I needed something that could be very meaningful, that I could really throw myself into. It just so happened that they were almost ready to close the Mural Arts guide training class for March 2009 and I got in right under the wire to take that training.

Phyl takes students from Rutgers on a tour near Broad Street. Photo by Steve Weinik.

I could talk about Mural Arts to everybody. I tell everyone I know, you have got to come into the city and go on a Mural Arts tour, you just have to! Tourists and residents alike are blown away by the beauty of the murals themselves. I’ve had so many people on tours who actually work or live in the city and they will say, I walk by this mural every day, my office is across the street, but I never paid attention to it because I never knew the story of the mural. From a beauty standpoint, it’s got a real wow effect, but when you talk about the meaning and the impact of what that project did for the community it serves, especially projects connected to programs like Porch Light or Restorative Justice, tour takers are just so impressed by the process and also the fact that we have been able to create so many works of art in a short amount of time. We’re almost at 4,000 murals in 33 years. And people still want us to do things, they still want us to create works of art to tell their story.

Every tour guide feels very committed because we as a group feel and believe that we are the public face of Mural Arts. We’re the ones who take strangers to our city and show them the murals and tell them the stories. There isn’t one of us who isn’t totally dedicated to this program.

And I think we do it because we all feel the way we do about Mural Arts. We want to do everything we can to make it great – well, great-er. It’s already pretty great.

Phyl takes Rutgers students on a tour of the murals around Broad Street. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Being a Mural Arts tour guide has given me something to be passionate about, even though I’m not a good artist – I can’t even draw a good stick figure! Mural Arts has done so much for so many, bringing people together that likely never would have had a chance or wanted to get to know others aren’t necessarily like them. And that’s amazing.

I think we do it because we all feel the way we do about Mural Arts. We want to do everything we can to make it great - well, great-er. It’s already pretty great.

- Phyl Francis

Last updated: Sep 6, 2016

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Anita Davidson says

I cannot say enough great things on behalf of the work and effort put into this
amazing fete. I have traveled to many states in the USA. I have seen many pieces of mural on building sites. Philly has far exceeded them. Recently to Islands in Canada witnessed fellow artists creating scenes depicting their community life and history.
Thank you for doing this and making so many people aware of the beauty, talent and stories behind the Mural.'
BRAVO to all involved.

Donna Attaway Moon says

Wow ! What a wonderful thing. I have always wanted to go to Philadelphia and now I have one more reason to see your beautiful city.

Sherry Conrady says

Great article! I was the cousin from OK and have wanted to return since my first experience seeing the varied, expressive and beautiful works. Phyl lights up when she talks about the program and is passionate about the stories which makes it come to life for me .

Donna Attaway Moon says

I've always wanted to go to Philadelphia because of all the history there, but now I have an even better reason. I have always loved art and now having my high school friend Phyl to show and tell me all about this beautiful art work would be wonderful. She's a wonderful person and I know she is perfect for this job. I hope to see you soon, Phyl !