May 9

Painting the Future with the NFL

by: Laura Kochman

When the National Football League approached us at Mural Arts Philadelphia about using painting to commemorate the 2017 NFL Draft this April, we weren’t sure what to expect. Philadelphia is a proud sports city, and we’ve done murals for the Eagles, the Phillies, and most recently the 76ers, but we’d never done anything like this. The project evolved into a theatrical live painting event, with 16 artists painting 32 canvases during the draft as a rapt audience gathered.

Sixteen artists participate in live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 27, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Sixteen artists participate in live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 27, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

On the first night of the draft, we counted down to 8 p.m., waiting to see who the first pick would be. Each artist was assigned two draft slots, but we had no idea who the teams would select. NFL representatives, each with two phones, buzzed from artist to artist as news started to arrive, and the paintings started to flow.

Artist Felix St. Fort live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 27, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Artist Sarah Ryan live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 27, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 27, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

“Which team is on the clock?” we kept asking, as draft picks changed unexpectedly, and a few artists had to switch their assigned canvases at the last second. The painting pace was rapid, and artistic styles varied widely. Every time we turned around, a sketched outline would become a full face.

Artist Santiago Galeas live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 27, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 27, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

The artists kept working the next day during the second round, finalizing their work and putting it up for display. The completed paintings were on view for the rest of the NFL Draft Experience, and the NFL plans to gift the original artwork to the School District of Philadelphia.

Artist Ryan Psota live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 28, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Artist Willis Humphrey live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 28, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Artist Rebecca Simon Miller live painting at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 28, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

All 32 paintings made at the 2017 NFL Draft Experience. April 28, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Our annual Eagles Day event is next week, when Mural Arts staff will gather at Lewis Elkin Elementary School in Kensington and help paint a new mural with the Eagles—maybe we’ll get to say hello to their new team members!

Thank you again to all of the artists involved in this project, some of whom are Mural Arts regulars, and some of whom were wonderful new faces: Felix St. Fort, Morgan Shankweiler, Nathaniel Lee, Keith Greiman, Randy Bullock, Sarah Ryan, Ali Williams, Ryan Psota, Hawk Krall, Rebecca Simon Miller, Distort, John Zerbe, Santiago Galeas, Amir Lyles, Willis Humphrey, and Priscilla Anacakuyani Bell.

Watch time-lapse footage of the live painting on the NFL site >>

Want to support innovative Mural Arts projects? Donate through our Kickstarter, where you can make a gift of any size (and get swag in return!) to support open hours and free or low-cost public programming at our Monument Lab project hubs.

Last updated: May 9, 2017

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