Jan 5, 2022

The Rhythm and Revitalization of West Oak Lane Through the Power of Art

by: Chad Eric Smith

Last month, Mural Arts Philadelphia and The Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC) released a joint press release announcing that new murals will soon be created in West Oak Lane, a neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia. Award-winning photographer Shawn Theodore, a native of the Uptown/West Oak Lane community whose work was recently selected to be the inaugural artwork outside North Broad Street’s New Freedom Theatre, will be the artist behind the first mural, located at 7152 Ogontz Avenue, on a building adjacent to Relish.

A new mural by Shawn Theodore will replace an old, jazz-themed mural pictured above.

This partnership between OARC and Mural Arts Philadelphia is one that previously created the current mural at this location in 2007. It was decided due to weather and time that a new mural was needed. Mural Arts’ Lead Panelist of Design Review Ginger Rudolph contacted Kimberly Lloyd, President/CEO at OARC to indicate the need for a new mural and immediately Rudolph and Lloyd started working together to make this project come to fruition. Kimberly, who joined OARC as President/CEO in 2014, has noted “West Oak Lane on Ogontz is not only the gateway into Philadelphia but its also the beginning area of seeing Art and hearing Jazz in the City.” OARC and Mural Arts have three murals on Ogontz Avenue that can be seen from the busy streets on Ogontz. Says Kimberly Lloyd, “Having Shawn Theodore as the artist who will create the new mural is symbolic in that Theodore is from the community of Uptown/ West Oak Lane is truly amazing.” The jazz that is heard is from the world-famous Relish that regularly has nightly jam sessions at the restaurant.

In addition, OARC from 2004 to 2012 presented the ever-popular West Oak Lane Jazz and Arts Festival (www.oarcphilly.org) which saw over 500,000 people come into the West Oak Lane community over a three-day period.  Funds will be needed for the new Mural and a fundraiser will be held at Relish. If you’re a fan of jazz, you have been to Relish and enjoyed a great Jam Session and some incredible Food!  This is not a fundraiser you want to miss!

OARC’s headquarters, located at 2502 W. Cheltenham Avenue

According to President/CEO Kimberly A. Lloyd, OARC will be launching a fundraising campaign to help support the cost of making the mural in West Oak Lane, and Mural Arts will work side-by-side with them in their efforts. Led by its exuberant leader, founder, and executive director, Jane Golden, Mural Arts believes that public art not only ignites beautiful aesthetic change but that it’s a necessary creative solution to the many issues a community and a city at-large face. In a recent Yes! Media article, entitled “Why is Public Art Good For Cities?,” it states that “studies show that investments in public art can improve street safety, provide tourism and new jobs, and combat social isolation and anxiety.” Says Golden, “There is something deeply catalytic about the work.”

From left to right: Rudolph, Theodore, and Lloyd stand in front of the old jazz-themed mural that will be replaced.

OARC, Shawn Theodore, and Mural Arts will hold a virtual zoom event for the community of West Oak Lane/Uptown to provide input on the new Mural.  The date for the virtual zoom event is Thursday, March 17, 2022, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to be invited you must rsvp to info@oarcphilly.org or call OARC at (215) 549-9462.  After all, “It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing.” So stay tuned, watch as two mission-driven organizations get into a rhythm, and watch the revitalization of West Oak Lane and surrounding areas unfold through the transformative power of art.

Last updated: Mar 1, 2022

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