Aug 20, 2014

The latest progress at Mapping Freire

by: Marcus Balum

*Mapping Freire will be dedicated on September 19th at 11 a.m. Join us for the celebration!
More info HERE>>

For the past year, we have been working directly with teachers and students at Freire Charter Schooldeveloping an arts integrated curriculum for The Mapping Freire project. We sought to create a consistent narrative throughout their academic subjects using a public art project as the anchor. The goal of this initiative was to offer arts and design based programming where it didn’t exist before, reinforce academic content through the visual arts, as well as generate student photography for use in the design of a public mural project. The recurring themes were community and place, how we define community, how we define ourselves within the community and how schools and education define communities.

The idea behind the mural design, to showcase the over 6000 photographs taken by students, the artist, and contributions via instagram using the hashtag #mappingfreire, stems from conversations in the classroom with the artist, teachers, and students. It illustrates the idea that charter school communities are created not necessarily from students coming from the surrounding location of the school but from all over the city. It seeks to illuminate the diversity of the student body through the varied places they see as they travel to and from school through a kind of photographic cartography.

In tandem with the in-school integration I taught an after school program with 10–15 Freire students that was a more focussed photographic campaign. We took field trips to places like City Hall and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and took weekly walking trips around the school to take photographs. The after school class also created digital collages of the artwork generated by students during the daytime classes to create prints that were displayed in Mural Arts Philadelphia Art Education Department’s annual student exhibition.

The process used in the development of this mural project is unique to Mural Arts Philadelphia. It is a multimedia approach that primarily involves the use of large format printing. The substrate used to print is a metallic primed cloth. The prints are installed and then fine glazes of acrylic paint are used to intensify darks and saturate color. Coupled with the glazes, the reflective quality of the metallic surface collects the surrounding light and exaggerates the slight changes to the mural’s look depending on time of day, season, weather, and viewing angle.

The Mapping Freire project mural is currently being installed at 2110 Market Street. The artists are moving along quickly in anticipation of next month’s dedication of the finished mural on September 19th. As the cloth is going up, students and staff from Freire Charter School and the Center City community are beginning to spot familiar Philly landmarks and buildings, and recognize their photographic contributions to the project. Once all of the cloth is adhered to the wall, lead artist Marcus Balum and his assistants will be reinforcing parts of the mural with paint in order to really make the colors pop out. If you want to help document the installation process, use #mappingfreire and #phillymuralarts on your Instagram and Tumblr posts.

Mark your calendars now for the public mural dedication on Friday, September 19th at 11am, at 2110 Market Street.

For more information, contact Jameson Paige at

Last updated: Mar 21, 2016

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