Center City District Philadelphia has curated a creative group of local, all women identifying artists, to design a set of banners recently installed in the downtown area to greet Philadelphia’s slight reopening. Many of the beautiful, visual renderings are filled with bold colors and elements of nature or patterns that remind us of some of the lessons gleaned during lockdown:
1. That the human footprint is taxing on nature.
2. The inadvertent mercy that quarantine afforded our environment should become a regular, willful human practice.
3. That the arts are needed now more than ever to communicate our differences and expand our capacity to imagine a brighter future.
The next time you’re around Philly’s City Hall, look up to see prints of my digital painting of the Great Spangled Fritillary resting on a leaf near a milkweed flower; a butterfly that is native to this region.
I decided to illustrate a scene from nature with the hope that it might inspire a much-needed reprieve from self-quarantine, the coronavirus pandemic, capitalism, and the racial injustices that we are currently confronting. My banner is not intended to distract from these realities; instead, it aims to encourage viewers to notice other simultaneous happenings, and different ways of being in the world; things that could recalibrate our sense of being. As more and more of us were persuaded to stay-home over the last few months, nature was motivated to blossom and demonstrate its beauty with a fullness it is typically deprived of because of the quotidian hustle and bustle of human life.
Nature’s new bloom was one of many slight indications of our environment reaching for restoration. Docks once muddied from moving ships were now becoming clearer and offering a scenic view of schools of fish that are less encumbered in their habitat. Streets polluted with traffic were now being visited by animals whose absence, or sporadic wondering, are adaptations to the dangers of human presence. I wanted my illustration of nature, then, to serve as a nod to Spring-time and a reminder of the inherent rejuvenation embodied by our natural world when our patterns are considerate of its well-being. The responses this pandemic demanded have revealed the far-reaching harm we as humans cause our world as well as an opportunity to change our habits and re-emerge with more compassion to shape a healthier environment moving forward.
The butterfly symbolizes happiness and good luck that I hope will guide this city into the future. The adage that when a butterfly crosses your path, it is a sign that you have to leave your past behind you to embrace all changes that are about to come into your life feels resonant today.
Nearly 200 vibrant banners will be installed over the next several weeks along highly visible stretches of the central business district including Market, Chestnut and Walnut streets, west of Broad Street; East Market Street; the Washington Square area; Midtown Village (13th Street), Avenue of the Arts (South Broad Street); John F. Kennedy Boulevard; and around the perimeter of City Hall.
The designs were reviewed and approved by the city’s Art Commission. Center City District (CCD) commissioned a diverse roster of eight local artists to each create designs for this city’s “welcome back” effort. The talented women who I’ve had the honor of being a part of this collaboration with includes Dora Cuenca, Molly Egan, Karina Puente, Angela Rio, Miriam Singer, Gerri Spilka, and Gina Triplett.
I want to express gratitude to the organizers behind this project, JoAnn Loviglio, Prema Katari Gupta, and Amy Genda for bringing art to life in Center City. For more information, please visit: centercityphila.org