12 cool pieces of Philadelphia public art to get out and see right now

Philadelphia’s solid public art scene includes Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, Winnie Sidharta’s cheerful Hardena mural / Photography by Jeff Fusco

We love it when strangers ask us to tell them about the LOVE statue, the Magic Gardens… Rocky. But what about when the visitors are not there? It’s time to break out of COVID hibernation and visit the murals and street art that put us on the art map – including new works that tourists haven’t even heard of yet.

News

1. Consensus

Be among the first to see this nationwide participatory public art project that runs from May to September 1; the Philly version is led by former poet laureates Yolanda Wisher and Trapeta Mayson.To visit Monument laboratories for more information.

2. Against Fuerte

Miguel Antonio Horn’s ContraFuerte haunts a downtown alley. / via streetdept.com

This Miguel Antonio Horn The sculpture, completed in 2021, is striking in both its location (in a downtown alley) and its construction (clad aluminum figures attached to a walkway leading to a parking lot). A diamond in the rough. Cuthbert Street between 12th and 13th Streets, Midtown Village.

3. Magical Fantasy

The fantasy village of Morag Myerscough at the Navy Yard / via streetdept.com

The latest Group X/Navy Yard collaboration brings the whimsical work of the London company Morag Myerscough at the old military base. The luminous geometric structures will be visible until October. Marine Parade Grounds, Broad Street and Constitution Avenue, South Philly.

New classics

4. Land buoy

Photo by Mr. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Installed in 2014, Jody PintoThe tribute to Philadelphia’s immigration history — with a climbable spiral staircase facing the Delaware River — is worth the trip. Pinto, whose family emigrated from Italy, called it “a platform to watch, dream and remember”. Washington Avenue Pier, Pennsport.

5. Maja

Maja by Gerhard Marcks / Photograph by Meredith Edlow courtesy of the Association for Public Art

Thanks to the Association for Public Art, the sculpture of Gerhard Marcks returned to the walk in 2021 after 25 years of storage. The German artist and Bauhaus professor, whose work was called “degenerate” by the Nazis, spoke out against anti-Semitism throughout his life. His female figure miraculously survived a bomb that destroyed the artist’s home and studio in Bremen in 1943. Ben Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street, Spring Garden.

6. MVP

public art sculpture mvp

by Brian McCutcheon MVPready to play at Smith Playground / Photograph by Jaime Alvarez

Brian McCutcheonThe Philadelphia Bronze is Philly’s first commissioned statue of an African-American girl. The basketball player, inspired by a 12-year-old athlete and meant to inspire local youth, is perfectly placed near the basketball courts at Smith Playground. 2100 South 24th Street, South Philly.

7. A love letter for you

A love letter for you by Steve Powers / Photography by Steve Weinik, courtesy of Mural Arts Philadelphia

On the rooftops of West Philly, 50 murals by a former graffiti artist Steve Powers spell out words of love to passengers passing through the El. Between 45th and 63rd Streets, visible from Market-Frankford El, West Philly.

Neighborhood gems

8. We’re still here!

Chip Thomas got hands on with Maia, Darin Rowland, Ursula Rucker and Malachi Floyd on We Still Here! / Photograph by Steve Weinik / Mural Arts Philadelphia

This artwork by Chip Thomas, aka Jetsonorama, is a collaboration with Mural Arts. It features the words of spoken word artist/activist Ursula Rucker along with poetry from community members and young writing students. 22 Maplewood Mall, Germantown.

9. Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X Mural by Ash Ryan / Photography by Laura Swartz

Ash RyanThe three-story mural of this LGBTQ icon, covering an entire wall of the Writer’s Block Rehab living room in the Gayborhood, was painted last year after his debut album Montero has been freed. Visit to see the mural, then enjoy a craft cocktail and charcuterie board. 1338 Cypress Street, Midtown Village.

10. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, Winnie Sidharta’s Merry Hardena Mural / Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Get a serving of art with some of the best Indonesian food in town on your next visit to Hardena in South Philadelphia. The title of this merry Winnie Sidhartha-led mural (featuring paintings by Kien Nguyen, Sammy Kovnat and Emily White) is the Javanese word for “Unity in Diversity”; the work tells the story of Indonesian immigration to Philadelphia. 1754 South Hicks Street, Point Breeze.

11. “Local Creatures”

Photo courtesy of Evan Lovett/VURT

Wall arts might be the biggest, but it’s not the only mural game in town. Discover the work of emerging organizations such as Creation VURT and Paradigm Gallery. VURT’s ‘Local Critters’ project features animals commissioned to ‘beautify communities in need’; by Evan Lovett Philadelphia trash panda (actually a pretzel-eating raccoon) in Port Richmond is remarkable. Locations across Philly including Kensington, Port Richmond, Pennsport, East Falls and Queen Village.

12. Legacy

Fashion designer Walé Oyéjidé’s legacy pays homage to the African diaspora / Photography by Steve Weinik / Mural Arts Philadelphia

Fashion designer Walé Oyejidewhose art-inspired clothing has appeared in films, including Black Panther, lent his talents to this fabric-inspired mural on the side of Blackwell Library. The intricate piece pays homage to the culture of the African diaspora. 125 South 52nd Street, West Philly.

Published under the title “Art on Foot” in the May 2022 issue of philadelphia cream magazine.

Christopher S. Washington