While wandering around the neighborhood of Mantua, murals can be found at almost every street corner. It’s not surprising, considering Philadelphia is famous for its eclectic murals. Murals are meant to reflect the culture of a certain area, so what exactly do Mantua’s murals say about its people, its customs and the neighborhood in general?
The first mural we came upon was on the Spring Garden Bridge. Though it’s not precisely in Mantua, it seems like the welcoming road into the neighborhood. The mural includes different portraits for the entire length of the bridge, a series of diverse faces that illuminate the bridge.
After some research, it turned out that the mural on Spring Garden Bridge was the first mural created by the Mural Arts Program, a program that has produced 2,800 murals citywide. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, the program was started in 1984 by program director Jane Golden in order to prevent graffiti.
So far, it’s worked pretty well. Out of the 2,800 murals in the city, only eight have been defaced with graffiti. Murals in Philadelphia neighborhoods give communities a way to express themselves. The Mural Arts Program works with public school students, prisoners and criminal victims. Basically, the program works with real people to create the perfect mural for that certain community and Mantua is one of those communities.
With Mantua’s diverse population of college students, African Americans, Italians, Puerto Ricans, Middle Easterners and more, it seems just right to have a mural of various faces at the entrance of the neighborhood.
Other murals scatter the streets of Mantua, including a stunning image of hands holding a bunch of flowers at 39th St., a portrait of a hopeful young boy in an oversized basketball jersey looking up at the horizon on the side of Gateway to Ministries church, a mural on 39th and Aspen streets featuring one of Mantua’s own, Ms. Jones, holding a quilt while children examine the beautiful purple patchwork and a mural of a young girl holding up the stars, the “Reaching for Your Star” mural at 37th St.
Murals are created in order to increase the safety, respect, and aesthetics of communities. Residents in Mantua hope this to be true in their neighborhood and optimistically await more meaningful murals to inhabit their streets.
By Jacalyn Clay, Rachael Hidalgo and James Brotherton