Tag Archive: Mural Corps

a temporary mural gets an extended stay….

…while a permanent mural’s life gets cut short.
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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 Interactive Outdoor Classroom at Hartranft Elementary

One of the two big commissions I’ve been working on this summer finds me back at Hartranft Elementary School at 8th and Cumberland Sts. I spent this past spring conceptualizing ways to turn a very odd tucked away space (located at the rear of the school outside of the kindergarten classrooms) into an interactive learning space that K-8th Grade students could enjoy.

Picking up where Jenny Shanker (the lead muralist at the site in 2008) left off was no easy task. I wanted to be able to put my own spin on the space, while taking into consideration all the hard work that came before. View Jenny’s blog covering her time at the site here.

In 2008, my Mural Corps class and I designed and painted a tree in the front of the school, as well as gameboards that were cut out of stone and tile and installed on benches. These pieces would serve as a jumping off point in my design of the Kindergarten space.

Aside from a focus on education, the community decided on an interesting theme/idea for the space “What would it look like if you were the size of an insect?” That’s it! That’s all I had to go on. Once again I was given control over the budget, and we looked to include elements and work with materials that I’ve never experimented with before.

The tree in 2008 was a result of my students’ vector drawing exercises. I took the same idea and applied it to the entire space this time using blades of grass.

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Then I took a look at those windows. The grates on the outside give the area a caged in feel that’s not at all warm or inviting. I am working with a metal artist Rob D’amico, providing him with drawings so he can fabricate a metal framework that will go on top of the mesh. This framework will outline and continue the grass motif over the windows, and will be brightly colored to all but phase out the mesh from view. We need to keep the old panels underneath for safety reasons.

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Rob has also spent time installing sheets of metal over the three columns that divide the space. I created and invented magnetic games out of these columns, that are based on parts of the curriculum that teachers felt were significant problem areas for the students.

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Column one is about metric system conversions, the students are able to fill in the blanks with the correct numbers or decimals.

Column two concerns: number sequencing, the time of day on different clock faces, and data measurement. The data measurement face was my contribution and not based off of the teachers input. I felt that these modern units of measurement are equally as important, and the school also understands the relevance and need for basic computer literacy. To make the sheer size and scope of a term like an exabyte palatable to a young student, I thought about music and did some math. Considering an average song is a 5MB file, I calculated how much continuous music there is in a Kilobyte, Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte, Petabyte, Exabyte, Zettabyte, Yottabyte,and Brontobyte. (By the way an Exabyte is 1,994,927 years of continuous music)

Column three concerns: Basic Symmetry, Spelling, and the US Standard of Measurement.
Continuing the insect theme, the symmetry face involves quadrants of a butterfly that need to be matched to find symmetrical markings. The honeycomb patterns for spelling bees. An inchworm broken up into many magnetic fragments that can measure to a few inches, feet or a yard.

While painting the notches on the Inchworm wall I found an ACTUAL inchworm walking around on the column.

The fourth face of all the columns falls in line underneath a larger wall that Jenny painted and set ceramic tile on. I kept the grass motif on these faces so as to not interrupt the work above too much.

I managed to work the floorspace into the design as well. The northwest corner of the space will serve as the classroom, I ordered prefabricated benches and tables that will seat 24 students, The wall next to the windows is painted with chalkboard paint.

The floor is painted with concrete stain. The corners of the space have been completely brightened. I managed to work in a Venn Diagram, and Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division games as well as a number grid into the floor.

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The games and grids will be done in slate tiles. The same colors used for the bench games a few years back. The games as well as the fencing are still a work in progress.

Finally to end the concept, we have some maps. The teachers found that their students really struggle with geography, especially locally. They have a hard time figuring out where they fit into the larger scheme of the city. The students and I projected three maps all with a “You Are Here” key to give this sense of place. The city map breaks Philadelphia down into neighborhoods, the state map into counties, and the country map into States. The country map is painted in chalkboard paint so students could fill in the abbreviations of each state. The Mural Corps Students were surprised to see just how many counties in the state we’ve named our streets after.

I cant make this post without mentioning the class of students I worked with this summer. Under the instruction of Charles Barbin, this group worked hard (in one of the most steamy Julys I can remember) in order to pull this one off. They were a lot of fun to work with, and they really made me miss teaching. Thank you Shawn, Anthony, Brandon, Jahbree, Raushanah, Juliett, Geraldine, Zoie, Gabby, Ashlee, Brittney, Jazemine, and Korrie. I also can’t forget to mention my interns Julia Jack- Scott and Latasha Billington who braved the heat at this site, and then assisted me in the afternoons in my oven of a studio on my other commission.

The site isn’t 100% finished as of this post. The tables need to be shipped and installed, the metal blades of grass fabricated, painted and installed, and the tile games have to be set into the ground. All this should be done by the time I leave by the end of September.

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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.

The Anthropologie Mural/Blog

SO in the past few months, my Mural Corps class teamed up with another site run by my friend Kien Nguyen (who is also my Citywide Project Teammate) to create a mural for Anthropologie. The work will take up three walls of an exhibit space in their flagship store at Rockefeller Center, NYC! During January and February we met with people from their main office in the navy yard to discuss the design and throw around ideas.

The classes began taking photographs of themselves inspired by fashion photography, and combining the imagery with patterns that can be found in any Anthropologie store as well as in everyday life. The resulting design combines the Anthropologie aesthetic with a youth perspective.

The mural is currently being painted by both classes in the Thomas Eakins house, and will be temporarily on display at Anthropologie’s flagship store in Rockefeller Center in NYC from May 6th to the end of June.

This is a huge opportunity for the class,as the mural will be seen by an incomprehensible amount of people in those two months!

The project will be getting some press, but im not sure if i can discuss details yet. I’ll post more when I’m sure it wont mess up any kind of opportunity we might get.

In addition, to document this whole project (since its a rare opportunity) I’ve decided to start a blog with my class. This time around it will be run and updated by the students themselves. One student in particular took courses in film at NYU last summer, she will hopefully lend her talents and time shooting some footage and putting together clips for the site.

The Student Blog (check for weekly updates)

This is the design in its entirety, use the scroll bar below to view the design details.

My Work in 2008

Here is a slide show of all my 2008 work. I could have spent hours uploading the thousands of pics I’ve taken during these projects… so I decided to leave out progress shots and workshop photos. They can be viewed on the main page. Instead, here are the final shots and details of my work last year.

To see the slide show you might need a flash plug-in, which can be downloaded here.

Hartranft Mural Corps Student Blog #5

This last Hartranft Student blog comes a bit late. There was a lot of video to work on this time around.

The mural is very close to being complete. Here are some images of the wall as it stands right now. We were finally able to reach the very top of the mural with our bucket lift, it was a tight fit, but Jenny, Beverly, and I were able to match the colors spot on. Before this as a class we were able to touch up just about everything, we even installed some glass.

Heres a slideshow of the Tree of Honor wall.

Here are the last two interviews the students conducted. Koran interviews Desiree Bender, my co-instructor, and Colin interviews Keir Johnston the lead assistant muralist for the project.

Hartranft Student Interview #7

On the last day, Desiree and I planned to turn the tables on the students and interview them about their experience this summer. We were all pretty wiped out, as the last day had us touching up and installing glass panels, but we managed to get it done. What you see here is our last few minutes of class. Its a mix of exhaustion, and relief. Ive assembled all 8 interviews into one movie that will be part of a DVD I’ll give to my class.
Hartranft Student Interview #8

…as an extra bonus to the dvd, I put together this slideshow of some of the best photos of the summer, mixed with a time lapse progression of the wall being painted. I feel it captures the spirit of the class this summer.

and finally… This installment of

… shows the class trip everyone took to the
Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ

Hartranft Mural Corps Student Blog #4

Week 5 finds us close to the end of the project. We spent the beginning of the week grouting the glass seed panels, and blocking in most of the main “Tree of Honor” wall. Week 6 is going to be a tough one, we still have to lay out and install the tree trunk completely in glass, install our seeds, and touch up the main and entrance walls. On top of all of that We are trying to squeeze out our final 4 interviews.

Here is a slideshow of the week in photos…
Two more interviews were conducted this week. Drew interviewed Beverly Fisher about her role in the project, and Sakina did our first man on the street interview with George the corner store owner.

Hartranft Student Interview #5

Here is a slideshow combining this and last weeks photos from Khalil.
I want to wrap up this blog with some writing. During this week my class had to write a few paragraphs about their experiences with the project for the funders. Here are the first few papers…


My name is Koran Morris and I have been with Mural Arts for 3 yrs. I have been introduced to this program by my Art teacher at M.L.K. High.

Projects in the past were based on self portraits of stars such as Will Smith, Joe Frazier. This project was nothing of the sort it was the opposite. This one was based on leaves and grass and we had to cut glass. I have come to the realization that this type of art inspires people and from looking at the wall before and looking at it now it’s like looking at the before and after picture of an acne commercial.

Throughout the yrs. of experiencing with this I have come to the realization that this program help us grow inside and out. This program also helps us get along well with others and working like a team. I have also learned that this program also reaches out to people who are in jail and is trying to make a drastic change in there lives. This program is an inspiration and motivation fuel that can fill you up.
My name is Shelby jackson and I found out about the Mural Arts Program through my school art teacher. When I first entered the program I knew a lot about painting but not about murals and other art techniques incorporated. Over the course of time I learned how to map out murals and cut glass. Our instructors Eric Okdeh and Desiree Bender guided us and answered any questions I had.

Our site is Hartranft, an elementary school in North Philadelphia. Although the mural is about honoring those who’ve helped the school its also about bringing color into the lives of the children. Not only do I think the school will enjoy it but the whole neighborhood. It’s actually very rewarding to see people from the neighborhood stop to admire and ask questions about the Mural. I hope to work in the program next summer.
I enjoy working on the project I feel like we are given a positive message to the kids because so many kids ask about it and if they could paint with us, feels like I’m a big brother.

I love painting. I’ve been paint with mural arts for 2 years now and it gets more and more fun. This time it’s a lot different I got to paint on a sky jack’ never been on one of these before this project. It’s lots of fun up there and hot. I now have a tan from being up there, comes from hard work. I just want to thank everyone who made this possible for me and my new friends I’ve met here. -Jalel Bullock

My time at Hartranft has been fun. I’ve learned so many new things with working with the Mural Arts Program. Everyday was a new experience. Starting out we painted and slowly transitioned to glass cutting. Each had its own triumphs and struggles, but were very beneficial in the end. For example, I learned how to cut glass and make mosaics out of it. Never before had I been exposed to glass work, and surprisingly I liked it. I know now that knowing these types of techniques is not only good to know for an aspiring artist but also gives you a heads up on other things in art. I’m glad that I had the chance to get to know other young artist and learn new things. This experience has been amazing. Sometimes I couldn’t believe that we got paid for doing something that was so fun. This experience has given me a new view of art and a broader understanding of how it can be. I’ll always remember all the things that I’ve learned and will appreciate everything that the Mural Arts Program has done for me and the other muralist. I can’t think of any other way that I would have wanted to spend my summer. -Lindsey Jackson

Hartranft Mural Corps Student Blog #3

This week We’re going to start off the blog with 2 interviews we weren’t able to film last week due to the heatwave.
Lindsey and Shelby Jackson, sisters in the Corps class, interview Dr Judith McMonagle (The school Principal) and yours truly.
The questions center around the impact of the mural on the neighborhood and school and my experiences as a teacher, collaborating on murals with students.

Hartranft Student Interview #2

Hartranft Student Interview #3

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During Week 4 we began painting the main “Honor Wall” mural. The logistics of which is tricky as we are only able to have 3 people on the lift at a time. One of those 3 people needed to be myself or my assistant teacher/muralist Desiree Bender. So we recruited our fastest painters and got to work.

Meanwhile the rest of the class soldiered on continuing to cut glass and arrange the mosaic, as well as begin the final touches on the seed wall.

Finally we return to the second installment of

Khalil’s iPhone was down for a few days due to a screwy firmware update. He was back in business by the end of the week capturing everyone at work. Here are his best shots this week…

Click on the thumbnail to view larger photo

This coming week should be a good one. Weather permitting, we will be trying to get most of the Honor wall blocked in. The glass work will be close to finished as well. All in all we are wrapping up this mural right on time. Next week on the blog there will be more video interviews as well as writing from each student about the project thus far.

Hartranft Mural Corps Student Blog #2

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Here we are in week 3.
The students spent most of this past week getting acquainted with the glass cutting tools and handling mosaic patterns.

Some elected to do some of the touch up painting on the ground level wall

The main mural wall was put on hold these past few weeks due to wires that needed to be wrapped. Our scissor lift comes within a foot of these wires and we had to wait on PECO. They finally arrived on Monday, and now we are able to proceed with the Tree of Honor wall!

My class kicked off a series of interviews this week. Time was spent writing a set of good open ended questions for each subject of the interview. Unfortunately the heatwave cut our week short and we were unable to film 2 more interviews we had planned. Here is the only one we were able to film this week… the remainder will appear in next weeks blog.

Hartranft Student Interview #1

and finally…

Khalil has always kept his day to day activities well documented through his iPhone. Since he has started on this mural he’s taken dozens of photos of our work almost every day. We are all secretly jealous  of how hip and tech savvy he is. Here are some of his best photos…

Click on the thumbnail to view the larger image.

Hartranft Mural Corps Student Blog #1

This summer, my Corps class will be painting and installing a mural at the corner of 6th and Cumberland Street in North Philadelphia. Hartranft Elementary School is home to a massive Public Art transformation this year. The entire city block is being beautified with mosiac, ceramic, glass and painting, as well as undergoing a massive “green” facelift. Trees plants and an orchard have been planted and cared for on site.  

My spring class designed one wall of this project, dubbed the “Tree of Honor”, which gives recognition to long standing community leaders (or seeds as they appear in the design). 
The tree will be mostly painted, but the trunk and seeds will have a stained glass mosaic element. 

The Main artist on the project, Jennie Shanker, designed this interior wall we will also be painting. 

Jennie has a blog that documents this massive multimedia undertaking going on in North Philly. You can read more about her project here, shes done a great job of showing all of the work that has gone into her mural and the changes its bringing about

We will be posting pictures and video of our progress on the mural every week this summer. I will be turning over these blog entries to my students who will be in charge of documenting our work and what they have learned. 

This is Okdeh Corps Class: Summer 08

…and these are the photographs they have taken so far. 
Priming, Gridding and Drawing

Color Mixing

Glass Seed Cement-Board Shaping


In the next week we will be taking video and you’ll get to hear about the project first hand from the students who assisting in its completion. 

Stay Tuned…
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