Mar 11, 2013

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Artist Ann Northrup

by: Latanya Vicks

We’ve come a long way since the suffrage and women’s rights movements of the early 20th century; in 2013, women are doing their thing! We’re world leaders and professionals balancing demands of motherhood, marriage, friendships, and more and, according to Beyoncé, we run the world.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to give a nod to some notable female muralists who are brightening up walls across Philadelphia.

First up is Ann Northrup who made history by completing the first ever mural in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia – Wissahickon Crossing. I had a chance to talk with Ann about the design and how her work is continuing to inspire the community.

Latanya:    How did you determine the location for this mural, since it’s the first of its kind in Chestnut Hill?
Ann:    Karen Boyd, owner of Bredenbeck’s Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor, wanted a mural for many years, and had a great wall that was waiting for an inspiring piece. She employs numerous artists in her cake decorating business, so she knows how art inspires people.

L:        What was your inspiration for the design of this project?
A:    My idea was that there would be a magic window, framed by architectural and landscape elements, through which you could see the beautiful landscape of the nearby Wissahickon River.
I created a trompe l’œile design that really fools the eye, playing on the architecture of the building, which has a slate shingled mansard roof in the front. I painted shingles at the top of the mural, which seem to extend the roof around the side of the building. I also painted an area at the rear of the mural wall to look like a cottage. There is a community garden planned for the spring, which will be continuous with the painted garden at the bottom of the mural.

L:        How involved was the community in the design and production process?
A:    They were truly involved in its creation. The artist who would fill the blank canvas was selected through an extensive community process, involving a large committee of gallery directors, muralists, art teachers and local business people. They wanted a design that featured nearby Wissahickon Park and the architecture of Chestnut Hill.

L:        What were the challenges of placing this mural in this location?
A:     In the very beginning, a few people were worried that some might think Chestnut Hill had graffiti issues that needed to be covered up by a mural. However, by the time the design was presented, there was an overwhelming consensus that it was not only beautiful, but very much reflective of their community.

L:              What kind of feedback have you received from the residents thus far?
A:         People are very excited about the mural. Chestnut Hill is a community of artists, and they hold lots of festive events – they feel that this fit right in. Throughout the painting process, passersby and even people in cars shouted out their support. Because we painted directly on the wall, and not on parachute cloth, we were there a long time, and really had a chance to become integrated into the community.

L:    What is your connection to this community? Do you have any interesting stories?
A:     I had a wonderful summer and fall painting this mural. Families would come by every afternoon to get ice cream cones and watch us paint. Small children would try to walk right into the landscape of the mural. There was a community day where parents and kids could draw the design on the wall and kids were able to decorate (and eat) Bredenbeck’s cupcakes.

I also collaborated with the art teachers from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and J.S. Jenks Elementary School. The students painted a companion mural with the same subject – the Wissahickon Park – but added many charming animals and a bridge to signify the bridging of their two communities. The mural travels between the schools and is a source of pride for all the students that were involved.

L:        What’s up next for you?
A:        I’ll be at an assembly celebrating with the young muralists at Springside and Jenks!

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories of our women muralists!

Primary Funding for Wissahickon Crossing: Bowman Properties Ltd, Bredenbeck’s Customers, Bird-In-Hand Consignment Shop, Karen Boyd-Rohde, Chestnut Hill Business Association, Chestnut Hill Business Improvement District, Chestnut Hill Hospital, Bob and Nancy Elfant, the Peck Family,
Valley Green Bank

photo by Steve Weinik

Last updated: Jan 27, 2016

Share Your Thoughts