In the summer of 2011 volunteers and members of North Philadelphia neighborhoods came together to paint a mural at the Cecil B Moore Recreation Center Playground at 22nd and Lehigh Avenue. This grassroots project began with Teyona Jackson, who met a group of girls called the P.I.N.K. Ladies at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where she gave educational tours. They invited her to their Recreation Center where she felt inspired by the positive energy involved in the youth mentorship program and saw an opportunity to use her skills with arts management and she invited me in to serve as lead artist.
Reflecting upon my artistic career it is clear that many of my mentors have helped develop my ability to create, utilize resources, and articulate ideas, so I became a part of the mural project because I wanted to use this opportunity to inspire others as my mentors did for me. My responsibility was to demonstrate the painting process to volunteers and collaborate with the community.
Seeking to build trust and respect with the residents of the area we focused on the use of educational workshops and meetings at the community center, door-to-door informing, and social networking along with cooperative learning to ensure participation in this mural’s success. The community’s ideas stimulated discussion and interaction among the neighborhood and a consensus was reached about the mural’s theme. Working with the guidelines to incorporate singer and songwriter Jill Scott in the mural who grew up around this area along with some of the children’s recreational activities at the playground the mural design was brought to life.
Our team brought in assistant artists DonChristian Jones, Eve Hall, Elle Tabb, Lanita Sims, and videographer Kanids Hutcherson as dedicated supporters. A system of students teaching the younger ones was encouraging for us to be able to innovate a way for us to utilize our skills in an uplifting way. With high standards for visual clarity, the team mixed a variety of vibrant paint colors and researched efficient use of materials to proceed with mural making. Projecting digital figures onto scaled parachute cloth we developed a paint-by-numbers aesthetics in hopes of combing all proficiency levels as various volunteers were able to tackle more complex problems.
Donations of supplies came from neighborhood hardware stores. One obstacle faced was acquiring scaffolding with little time and financial resources, however, our prevail was to carefully use tall ladders to help prime and paste the mural onto the 21ft by 73 ft wall. We learned that painting directly on the wall inspired graffiti artists to come at night and tag over our progress so we painted on parachute cloth in the basement in the recreation center and hung the mural on the exterior wall so that community could see the big picture come together at once. Although the building that displayed the mural across from the recreation center was demolished, this project was a success because it gave stakeholders and the community an opportunity to collaborate with each other and create something larger than ourselves. Our mission was to give the residents in the area pride. The mural project involved using critical thinking to connect and help each other create something larger than ourselves. I am inspired by what a group of dedicated individuals can accomplish.