Tag Archive: Kien Nguyen

We Got the Band Back Together, Maaaaaaan!

This week I got to work with my two favorite partners in crime to install a piece of a mural we completed over 2 years ago. The Citywide Mural that Michelle Ortiz, Kien Nguyen and I designed, was temporarily displayed in its entirety (29’x105′) in 3 different locations: 30th St Station, The Gallery @ Market East, and one night in Loews Hotel.

After a period of time, it was always the intention to break the work up into 7 pieces and install them throughout the city. The first section is now up at Ana B. Pratt Elementary School on 22nd Street in North Philly. When all is said and done, these 7 sections will lie within a half hour tour route. Hopefully by this time next year, the entire project will be permanent.

Huge HUGE thanks go out to Deborah Zuchman who had the herculean task of finding a home for 7 giant vertical mural strips in a city with an abundance of horizontal walls.

Here is a shot of the complete design. (click to enlarge each section)

a temporary mural gets an extended stay….

…while a permanent mural’s life gets cut short.
click to view thumbs

Great news this month, my temporary project “Changing Seasons, Lasting Symbols” located in the courtyard of City Hall, was set to come down after a full year, but it looks like the mural will live on into 2012. Kien Nguyen and I had planned to salvage as much of the 3200 square foot project as possible, while the rest would be scrapped or reused for future construction sites. But the good people of Urban Outfitters (who we have collaborated with in 2009) have stepped in and saved the day. Within the next week or so, our mural will be disassembled and moved down Broad Street to the Navy Yard and serve as a another construction blockade well into Spring/Summer 2012. A huge thank you to Lauren and everyone at Urban Outfitters for taking an interest in the work. I will post pics as this develops.

The bad news comes in the form of vacant lot development in Logan, right in front of my “Restoration” mural. (a.k.a. the one that took a year and a half with the 17ft high relief triangle covered in stained glass) I’m really saddened to hear this news, a lot of people had their hands in making this project possible, both behind the scenes and in workshops and classrooms. We even partnered with the school across the street, doing a mini mural with the 3rd grade while giving presentations of our mural, explaining the images and symbols, and how they relate to Logan. It kills me to think that it only lived for 3 years, but thats how it goes. Restoration is just one in a growing list of murals I’ve seen get whitewashed, torn down, or built in front of this year.

Its a good thing I documented the hell out of it… and made this interactive page.
Restoration: A Closer Look

The City Hall Courtyard Mural

This summer I teamed up with Citywide partner Kien Nguyen once again to create a 3200 sq ft Mural that is being installed in City Hall’s courtyard.

The mural was funded mostly by Kelly/Maiello Architects, the firm that has been in charge of the city hall restoration for the past 13 years. For the next year or so, they will be restoring the south facade of the courtyard, and many partition walls have been built to house their equipment. The walls reach 8 feet high and all together measure 400 feet wide.

Kien and I took tours of the City Hall building to brainstorm for ideas. I HIGHLY recommend seeing the mural and then taking a tour of the building. The 1 1/2 hour tour is given daily at 12:30pm sharp, the office is found to the right of our green “East Wall”. The tour office’s number is 215-686-2840. The tour highlights the symbolism and meaning behind the building’s layout as well as the 160 reliefs and sculptures found throughout. We felt that our design should focus on these same things.

click to enlarge

Our design puts a contemporary spin on the many relief and free standing sculptures scattered throughout the architecture of City Hall. We reinterpret their poses though Philadelphia’s diverse residents. We consider the complex symbolism and meanings of the sculptures and the significance of the four directions they face.

click to view thumbs

The compass on the floor of City Hall’s courtyard plots out Center City’s major squares. Our design brings these squares to life as realistic panoramas in colors reminiscent of the four seasons.

The patterns specific to each season are taken from motifs found throughout City Hall’s decorative interior.

click to view thumbs

Pillars and archways occupy the corners of each major wall using Calder’s sculptures of people spanning the four corners of the globe.

click to view thumbs

Imagery from Philadelphia’s major public parks can be found within the archways. For example the west wall depicts Clark Park, and the East Wall has images of Penn Treaty Park, which the statue of William Penn is pointing to.

This design brings into focus the sculpture, imagery, and patterns found throughout Philadelphia’s City Hall Building which can otherwise go overlooked.

Once the design was agreed upon, we had to move quickly in order to get everything started. The entire month of June was spent drawing the East and West Walls of the project. Those walls broke down into 40 8’x5′ panels that would be projected and drawn in great detail.

We began the West Wall in the studio during July, the East wall drawings were sent to a summer Mural class held at Audenreid High School. The class of 50 youth spent their summer blocking the backgrounds of the east wall and under painting of all its figures.

click to view thumbs

Once July started we gained 3 interns and two volunteers. Two of our interns, Latasha and Matt were former Mural Corps students, they were the standouts in their respective classes. Matt was a former student of Kien. Julia was our other intern, who has spent most of her life making art all over the world most recently Mexico and Burkina Faso. Julia painted 4 of the 6 mini landscapes within the archways and several of the mural’s figures.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we were assisted by The Mayor’s daughter Olivia and her good friend Jenny. They braved the heat of the studio for an entire month and helped block in portions of the west wall.

click to view thumbs

By mid August we were finishing up the East wall. On the 23rd we installed all 40 panels. We blocked out 2 days for the install and found money in the Audenreid Budget to hire 5 of their best students. The 5 would help us install the panels and assist in the studio painting the north wall for the rest of the summer. I like to refer them as the 3rd wave of assistants.

click to view thumbs

Currently we are busy working on the South Wall in Studio, it consists of 25 panels Many of which have been worked on by the men in my Graterford Prison Class. I’m excited to get those panels back so I can post photos. The figures and backgrounds look incredible.

We are looking to install the final 2 walls on September 15th and 16th in the City Hall Courtyard. If you are around please stop by and say hi.

Once the project is up it will have about a year to a year and a half on the site before construction is completed. We are hoping that some of the panels could be auctioned off for fundraising purposes. The fundraising could benefit Mural Arts and future restoration projects in city hall.

oh and one last thing…. here is a video I made for the Audenried students showing them how we work with the underpainted figures.

Citywide Installation: The Gallery at Market East

The Citywide Mural was taken down on October 11th from 30th Street, and a few weeks later was reinstalled in a new location at the Gallery just inside the 9th and Market St entrance.

As it turns out, the mural found a home on a wall that was big enough to accommodate all the sections in their proper order. Our thinking for months was that the mural would be divided into seven sections and distributed throughout the gallery, in fact the design itself was created around the fact that it would eventually be in seven equal parts. We’re all thrilled that we can get one final look at the entire mural. Its going to be up for a long time as well. Last I heard it may still be there through the holidays and into January! Between The Gallery and 30th St, the mural has found an incomprehensibly vast audience.

There is going to be another event as well. On Wednesday December 9th at 11am there will be an event held on site at the Gallery to rededicate the mural and announce the list of permanent host sites for many of the mural’s sections. With any luck the event will help find a permanent home for any final panels that remain.

Big thanks go out to Kathryn Ott Lovell, Deborah Zuchman, and Cheryl Durgans of the MAP Staff for finding the time to take on the unenviable task of managing the remainder of this project, and finding it various homes throughout the city.

Oh yeah, and before I forget, here is a link to a WHYY interview with Peter Crimmins that aired the day of the Dedication at 30th St.

WHYY Peter Crimmins Interview

Click Photos to view Slideshow

30th St Dedication Photos

The Citywide Mural was officially dedicated at 30th St Station on September 25th. The event was well attended, despite the early 2pm start time. The crowd was filled with familiar faces of the people who volunteered their time during the workshops and paint days.

I wish I could remember the names of all the people who got up to speak during the ceremony, and the specific name of the choir that performed, but almost two months have passed between the dedication and right now. I’m lucky I found some time to post.

What I can remember is that the event was overwhelming, but in a good way. We got a lot of positive vibes from the crowd, and a lot of praise for the job that we did. The music from the choir filled the entire building, everything seemed larger than life. The staff at Mural Arts really outdid themselves putting this event on, I can honestly say it was the best dedication I’ve ever had.

That night Michelle, Kien, Myself and a few friends went to Yakitori Boy, rented a karaoke room and celebrated. I’m going to miss working with those guys, we worked together well as a team. Hopefully this wont be the last time we collaborate.

Click any thumbnail to view slideshow
all photographs by Mike Reali

30th Street Installation!

The Citywide Mural is up and can be seen up close in the North Waiting Room of 30th St Station.

Kien and I set everything up for the Stagehands Union to hang, all in all the process took 3-4 hours. Peter Crimmins of WHYY was on hand to interview us for a segment that will air Friday morning. Ill post the audio when I get it.

Dedication Friday at 2pm!

click for expanded view

Citywide Mural Completion and Dedication

Mural Dedication: This We Believe City-wide Mural Project

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 · 2:00 – 3:00 PM

Celebrate the Mural Arts Program’s first Philadelphia-wide mural project, a cornerstone initiative of the 25th Anniversary Celebration! This We Believe was created by artists Eric Okdeh, Michelle Ortiz and Kien Nguyen through eight months of community forums, a public vote, and community paint days to create a collective work that expresses the beliefs of the city.

This project was made possible by the support of: The Sunoco Founation, WHYY, LEADERSHIP Philadelphia, Penn Project for Civic Engagement, Philadelphia Daily News, 6abc, Philly.com, IATSE, Amtrak at 30th Street Station, PREIT and the Gallery at Market East.

Call 215.888.9166 or e-mail events@muralarts.org for more information.

The Citywide Mural titled Living in the Presence of History was completed in studio earlier this week, following an intense 6 weeks of painting and tying together all of the work from the 7 paint workshops and the men from my SCI Graterford Mural class. We’ve had well over 300 volunteers take part in the murals painting and it was up to my teammates Kien, Michelle and I to bring the work together and make it seamless.

We took a photo of our progress every 15 minutes and I created this video out of the shots.

The final remaining paint days open to the public took place over 3 days

North Philadelphia
Saturday, July 11 · 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
The ARC/PDDC, 2350 West Westmoreland Street

South Philadelphia
Saturday, July 18 · 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Columbus Square, 12th and Wharton

Southwest Philadelphia
Saturday, July 25 · 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Myers Recreation Center, 5800 Chester Avenue

The following thumbnails were from those dates. Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time and spent an afternoon with us painting this massive mural.

Click any Thumbnail to begin the slideshow

The Anthropologie Mural Installations

I’m a bit late in posting this, but I wanted to get some photos up of the installations of our Anthropologie Mural, which hung in two separate spaces during the past few months. Initially it was installed and dedicated in the gallery space at the Anthropologie Store in Rockefeller Center, NYC. This was the location the mural was designed to fit in.

The opening was held on May 6th, and the mural remained up until June 20th. Kien and I along with Jane and the Corps staff brought the students of both classes to NYC. We somehow got everyone to actually board buses at Love Park at 6am! I still cant believe it all went off without a hitch. Once we arrived the Anthropologie staff was on hand with coffee, juice, and breakfast for the event. Everyone was thrilled with how things turned out, all in all it was a great day.

Click the thumbnails to view the slideshow of images of the mural and the dedication.

At the end of the exhibit, the mural was taken down and shipped to the Urban Outfitters Headquarters at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia. There is a large cafeteria space in one of the buildings, within that space a wall was specially built for exhibitions. Kien and I were onhand to install the project again. Its actually still up in the space and the building is open to the public.

Click the thumbnails to view the images

Click Thumbs to view Video

There may or may not be a closing reception, I am still waiting to hear. It will be difficult to organize both groups for a trip at this point as the school year is ended and everyone has gone in separate directions. Two of my graduating students are now interns with Mural Arts, and some others have stayed to be involved in the Mural Corps Summer Program.

I’ve recently been hired to maintain the blogs of all 8 Mural Corps sites this summer. I will be traveling to all eight sights once a week gathering information, photos and video for the website…


This is my first official contracted web job! There will be updates every single week starting Monday.

I’m glad to still be involved with the students in some capacity this summer. I officially left Mural Corps after 6 years of teaching this June to focus more on my murals. Shari Hersh (the head of Mural Corps)Louise, Noni, and Shelby (the Corps Staff) contacted old students of mine from the past 6 years and threw me an awesome barbecue. Ill really miss the classroom and the students, but I feel the timing was right. I had 4 seniors this year, all of them on to bigger and better things in the fall, and I couldn’t have ended with a better project. The Anthropologie Mural (officially titled “Styles May Vary”) was an unbelievably high note to go out on.

Our Citywide Mural Paintdays and Progress

We are officially halfway through our paintdays for the Citywide Mural!
Things have been extremely busy throughout the past month and a half (thats why I havent been able to update much), for now I’ll focus on Citywide….

The Paint days kicked off with Wall Ball 2009. We brought a single 5’x15′ panel for people to paint during the cocktail hour. We even got to meet Jane Seymour at the event, but she didn’t get to paint anything

I was cut out of the photo, most likely because I had a beer in my hand… and I was sweating profusely (not because of nervousness, but because the lights we were under were like heatlamps)

Since then we’ve had 4 total paint days that saw a total of over 300 volunteers working on the first two sections of the mural; dubbed the “industry” and “History” sections.
During our last paint day on July 1st, hundreds of volunteers came out to participate, thankfully we had more than enough work to go around. The Mayor even stopped by to paint.

Peter Crimmons of WHYY and a Cameraman from Univision were on hand to record and interview my teammates and myself along with the volunteers. I will post links when they become available.

We’ve been covered again in the Inquirer, that story can be found here.

…Finally here are some photos of the paint days, and below the thumbnails some video of the sheer madness of the Sunoco Welcome America turnout…

Click any Thumbnail to begin the slideshow

also… here is the info for the remaining paint days… come out and be a part of it!!

“This We Believe” Paint Days

North Philadelphia
Saturday, July 11 · 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
The ARC/PDDC, 2350 West Westmoreland Street

South Philadelphia
Saturday, July 18 · 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Columbus Square, 12th and Wharton

Southwest Philadelphia
Saturday, July 25 · 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Myers Recreation Center, 5800 Chester Avenue

Team One WINS!

Our Team’s design has officially won the first ever Citywide Mural Competition! Massive thanks to everyone who voted and to those people who reached out and spread the news of the project and our design to friends and family. There are literally too many to list right here, but I will make my way around to thanking all of you personally. Over 4500 votes in total were cast. We could not have done it without your support!

I also want to thank my teammates Michelle and Kien for being equally as obsessive and working hard to make this design a possibility.

View Michelle Ortiz’ work here.

Much respect to Team Two (David Guinn, Phillip Adams, and Damon Reaves) whom Ive known and worked alongside for years.

Team one

Click design to Enlarge

Since receiving news of our win, there has been some press.

Valerie Russ of the Daily News wrote two articles on the project. The first taking place during the voting and the second after our design was chosen.

Article One
Article Two

Peter Crimmins of WHYY interviewed my team after news of the win. There’s audio of that somewhere; Ill update this post when I find it. For now, here is a link to the article he wrote.

WHYY Write-up

Peter’s article lists the scheduled Citywide Paint days where we will have prepared sections of our mural that anyone (regardless of skill level, or age) can participate in helping us paint. These are great events to bring the kids out to. They are as follows…

Sunday, June 21 at the Allens Lane Art Center, 601 W. Allens Lane, 10 am – 1 pm.

Saturday, June 27 at the John Perzel Community Center, 2990 St. Vincent Street, 10 am – 1 pm.

Sunday, June 28 at Wall St. International, 1431-39 N. 52nd Street, 10 am – 1 pm.

Wednesday, July 1 during Sunoco Welcome America! in all four city squares simultaneously from 1 – 3 pm:

*Rittenhouse Square, 18th and Walnut Street
*Logan Circle, 19th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway
*Washington Square, 7th and Walnut Streets
*Franklin Square, 6th and Race Streets

Saturday, July 18 at Colombus Square, 12th and Wharton, 10 am – 1 pm.

Saturday, July 11 at The ARC/PDDC, 2350 West Westmoreland Street, 10 am – 1 pm.

Additional paint days will be scheduled in Southwest Philadelphia.

For more information on the paint days please visit

www.muralarts.org/thiswebelieve or call 215-685-0729.

The finished mural will be hung temporarily in two central locations in Philadelphia: first in the North Waiting Room at 30th Street Station and then the Gallery at Market East. At the end of the exhibition, pieces of the mural will be installed in neighborhoods all over the city. In late September, the mural will receive a final dedication, celebrating the culmination of the 25th Anniversary.

Please come out, and thanks again for participating!

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