Since last October, I have been collaborating with Ennis, Alex, and James of Social Impact Studios on “How We Fish”. Located on the Archworks Building at 125 North 8th Street, “How We Fish” focuses on a timely subject of significant national relevance: the value and meaning of work for individuals and communities. Social Impact developed and maintain a project site which documents the citywide workshops, discussions, and events that were held over the past 8 months. The site also hosts our Living Creative Brief, a document that has transformed over time lending insight into our thought process with each workshop, and how the design evolved.

The Final Design

The Final Design on the Archworks Building

The following is reposted from

Our artist team for “How We Fish” spends time updating the cornerstone Living Creative Brief to capture the ideas and spirit of community meetings and forums across the city. The brief helps keep the story flowing from neighborhood to neighborhood and connects to the visual ideas that have been in development for the last few months. It also helps explain the visual symbols that are being used to tie the whole story together.

After many months of community conversation and late nights on the design on the “How We Fish” mural – we’ve completed the multi-level design review process and are happy to share the final design for this mural about work – what it means to individuals, neighborhoods and our city and region. Click the thumbnails throughout this post to see more!

You can read the last version of the creative brief to see where the design was in April. Additional review with a design panel, workforce development experts and local families (including kids!) added even more content and helped us move it to its final state.

Some additional highlights include:

This mural has always been called “How We Fish” as a reference to the proverb: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Thanks to the input of the mural sponsors Citizens Bank and the parents of kids at McCall Elementary and Childrens’ Village (the home building of the mural), we were encouraged to really make the most of that saying. It meant a lot to local residents of Chinatown who talked about the importance of helping our kids really learn to prepare for work and what it can do for their future. It’s said that the proverb was originally Chinese, but those same
parents encouraged us to put it in many locations in the mural. You can spot that proverb in several places throughout the mural – in Chinese on the “awning” represented in the “Merchant Economy” area of the mural; in English along a representation of our two rivers and in the visuals of those rivers, fish and nets.

There are a few places in the mural where we highlight quotes we heard from the community – in neighborhoods across the city! We had those from an early stage, including the voices of youth who attended sessions at South Philly High.

As we finalized the design, we realized we were missing the perspective of very young children. We decided to dedicate a small, short extra extension of the wall to the kids at Childrens’ Village – so they could adopt that area and be part of the making of the mural, but also to show their perspectives on work both visually and through quotes.

You can read all of the quotes from the toddlers through school-aged children on our previous blog entry “A Kid’s Perspective.”

Thanks to the input of workforce development experts in the city, we expanded the visual representation of work to include more people in the medical and service fields. The small extension wall now depicts not only the children, but also public service workers like the police who use the parking lot right below the wall where the mural will be installed! We also included images that symbolize not only young people and their education, but the increasing need to be collaborative and innovative when it comes to finding or creating viable work for the future.

Our overall message “Work Unites Us” continued to ring true as we finalized this design. While there is a central image of one “worker” highlighted on the mural, the images of work through different economies and as shared between the interconnected fabric of society shows how much we must rely on each other to be successful at work and in our lives. As an artist team, we were brought together to collaborate in ways we never dreamed possible at the beginning of this project. As a team of partners devoted to exploring the foundations and the future of work, we learned that we will have to teach and learn from each other to move to the future. And as a compilation of community conversations, we were united to discuss a topic that is so important for our times as well as our own individual lives.

Now, the next phase of WORK begins! Stay tuned for updates on community Paint Days throughout the summer to join us to paint the mural and get it ready to be installed on the wall!

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