Community Voices Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Posted: May 21, 2000

When violence strikes a family Our mural, "Families Are Victims, Too," in the 1300 block of South 50th Street, is like no other in the city. It makes a statement about an ongoing crisis facing our city.

People talk about "closure" when it comes to the death of a loved one. But for most people, there is no closure. When you love people and you lose them, you miss them. They do not have to be famous to be remembered.

This mural speaks of "awareness." Children can learn from it: "Oh, I remember him. He was so young. I can and will get my life together."

The mural is a healing place for loved ones so they do not have to visit a gravesite.

It keeps the memory of our loved ones alive. There are a few unsolved deaths that have taken place and maybe, with the mural as a reminder, someone will come forward.

We want so much to help in any way we can to ease the pain of the family and friends of these young people. We would like to see another mural done to include those young people whom we weren't able to include on this one.

Our program, Families Are Victims, Too, provides counseling services, crisis intervention and other services to families who have lost a loved one through violence.

You might find someone sitting on the benches by the mural that were donated to us, crying and hoping for a smile or a hug from someone who cares. We do that, too. We can and will help the families through the process of the pain and hurt that they endure.

Garnet and Sandra Spicer

Philadelphia

Mayor Rizzo back where he belongs In the fall of 1996, I was approached by the Mural Arts Program about painting a mural on the south side wall of my building, a home where I live today and grew up as a child. A place where my father, Antonio Bonuomo, once operated his meat market.

After much thought and contemplation, I decided that the mural might give the Italian Market a much-needed uplift.

When the arts people suggested Frank Rizzo as the subject of the mural, I was very excited. The former mayor of Philadelphia once walked the Ninth Street Market as a young policeman. This was a fitting spot! Mayor Rizzo, who was family to all who respected and loved him, would be where he belonged.

The Rizzo family agreed. A petition was signed by the merchants approving the site, and the mural people got started.

When completed in the spring of 1998, it was a masterpiece.

A mural dedication ceremony was held, with Mayor Edward G. Rendell, the Rizzo family, many politicians, merchants and neighbors in attendance, and there was much enthusiasm and praise. The area was filled with great joy. Television and newspaper people flooded the streets, allowing everyone to share in this new gesture of respect and hope with the Italian Market people. It was great!

Today, the Rizzo mural is constantly viewed with only positive praise and affection. Tourists take many pictures as mementos of their visit to Philadelphia. Shoppers and passersby are amazed to view this great giant of Rizzo.

I am so pleased and proud to have this mural on my home wall.

Agnes Viso

Scene brightens the neighborhood The history of our "Italian Landscape" by Diane Keller begins in 1994, when 2600 E. Dauphin St. fell down. The house had been vacant for almost 10 years.

The day the house collapsed, a letter was sent to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to find out how to start a community garden. We planted some flowers on our own, but there was a great deal of trash, and some dumping occurred, which killed the flowers.

Early in 1996, PHS said, "Yes, we can help. What would you like?"

So, the first community garden meetings were held, and a mural was requested for our garden wall. In September 1996, the artist Diane Keller came to meet with us. We discussed many options and decided on a mountain scene with a garden at the front of the mural. Keller was very excited because this was her first landscape mural.

In October, scaffolding was erected and the wall was painted white. Throughout this month the mural progressed from the top (clouds and sky) down to a bevy of flowers that bloom year-round.

Neighbors lent a hand: One helped put the blue chalk outline on the wall, a couple ran an electric cord out of their window for Keller to use, and the paint was stored and mixed in my kitchen. Many neighbors sat out on their steps to watch the mural progress. Every day I would set chairs out for some of the retired men in the neighborhood to sit on. One of these men, Henry Kozierachi, was a professional photographer. He and Keller had many discussions about the cloud formation in the mural. Kozierachi brought out many photos of mountains and clouds to show Keller that her "cloud concept" was not correct. So she changed the mural clouds, to everyone's satisfaction.

The mural was completed (except for the protective coating) by mischief night, Oct. 30. We usually sit out on mischief night to prevent damage to our cars and houses from eggs being thrown. That mischief night, about 10 of us sat out together to prevent mural damage. Happily, it came through unscathed.

Today the mural gives us green to look at through the winter. Spring, summer and fall, it gives depth to our community garden. Keller had suggested planting flowers like those in the mural by the wall. When in bloom, those flowers give the mural a three-dimensional aspect.

Every year we meet together to pull weeds, plant flowers, prune bushes and enjoy our "vacant" lot. The group meets three or four times a year to plan the garden. We are still picking up trash, but the mural has helped to bring the garden and community together.

Mary Thomas

Involving history and the community There are a number of things that I wanted to see the mural do for Manayunk. First, to enhance the area behind Canal View Park (take a cinderblock wall and make it look better). At the same time, give a context to the canal, tell its history. Because the canal is a work in progress, people visiting Manayunk look at it and have no idea what the ditch of dirty water represents.

I also wanted to address ways to engage different aspects of the community with the project. That's part of our mission at Manayunk Development Corp. We develop projects, such as Pretzel Park and Venice Island Recreation Center, and try to engage the community in projects where we can.

The mural of Manayunk canal scenes on Main Street met our goals. It shows the history of the canal and the role it played in the community, and we involved a number of groups in the process. We have received positive feedback from groups in the community, and the mural has not been defaced - which will happen if the community feels that it has no ownership.

Kay Smith

Dump turned into a garden The mural that was done at 16th and Indiana, "Sunflowers," brought a burst of sunshine into the neighborhood, which was a dump site until young minds of the future turned it into a garden of hope.

The community now can use this site for a picnic area, a quiet place to sit and eat lunch, or just to come out and relax.

The members of the community were a big part of the mural and now take pride in their community by keeping it clean and using it as much as possible, including for weddings, workshops, night movies, rallies and other community events.

Doris Phillips

Standing together to keep area clean Since our mural, "Together We Stand, Divided We Fall," was completed at Ninth and Indiana, it has beautified our neighborhood tremendously. We are pleased to say there have been no graffiti markings. The children are able to appreciate its beauty and recognize what it has done for us. A community group has joined together to ensure its upkeep.

It has also become a tourist attraction, with people from other neighborhoods coming to appreciate its beauty. We are truly grateful.

Peaches Ramos

Children take part in community revival We wanted to change abandoned lots into flower gardens and playgrounds, and give neighborhood kids a chance to participate in deciding how to beautify their neighborhood through gardening.

First, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society allowed community youth to participate in a program that taught them how to take care of a garden.

In the fall of 1996, with the help of the United Way Day of Caring and area businesses and volunteers, the youth and the block captains cleaned several lots, and the site at Seventh and Emily Streets was given a new look. That spring, Penn students and the neighborhood youths they mentor developed the design for the mural through a contest.

With the design in hand, we contacted the Mural Arts Program, which provided the artist and other needed resources for us to make our dream come true.

The wall at 2015 S. Seventh St. went from rags to beauty. This mural has made a great difference in our neighborhood. The Snyderville Community Development Corp. is still involved with all of our partners in some way or other, and we continue to reach out to anyone we can in our efforts to rebuild our neighborhood.

C.B. Harris-Ramsue

Full-scale program starts with a mural We were hoping that the mural "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" would unite the community in our stand to end the violence, drug abuse, disease and senseless deaths that plague our youth. We wanted to bring to life a lot in which a senseless death occurred and create a beautiful place where we could come together to celebrate life's accomplishments. A place for us to remember our loved ones by planting flowers, which brings new life in their memory.

Today at 27th and York Streets sits the "Village Memorial Garden," dedicated in memory of George Alexander Patterson, a young man who lost his life on this very lot while he was on his way to work. The lot, once an eyesore, now proudly complements the work of art painted by muralist Calvin Jones and continues to flourish with the support of many. We hope to keep improving yearly.

After taking on the task of developing the lot in 1995, we began organizing block captains and our youth to clean and beautify our neighborhood. We started a garden club to maintain the garden and clean lots. We started a sports program that now accommodates 300 youth from our area. We are working with local elementary and middle schools to develop an after-school program, and we are assisting teachers with overcrowding classrooms that hinder students' learning.

We are working with the city on plans to assist community members in getting their high school diploma or GED, as well as training that could lead them to jobs as teachers, teacher's assistants and crossing guards. The participants involved in this program also will receive training in parenting, time and income management, and housing and family counseling.

We are working with the necessary agencies and political figures to enhance city services needed to accommodate our community's growth and develop housing and commercial businesses in the area.

Glenda Tate-Flythe

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