May 28, 2015
Philadelphia, famous for its murals of Frank Sinatra, The Roots and the Eagles, will soon have one more: Pope Francis.
An executive from the World Meeting of Families announced plans for a commemorative mural honoring Francis's visit to Philadelphia entitled “The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century” at a press conference Thursday morning. It will be painted at the future home of an expanded St. Malachy Catholic School, which has been operating in the city since the 1860s.
The mural will be constructed in three sections on the elementary school's south-facing walls.
“It is going to be huge,” said Donna Farrell, the executive director for the World Meeting of Families. The mural will depict several loving families and, at its center, Pope Francis engaging with a child. When completed in November, it will cover about 4,200 square feet.
St. Malachy School is part of Independence Mission Schools. About 200 students from St. Malachy’s and another independence school, St. Veronica’s, attended the press conference.
The announcement was meant as a surprise for the kids. “We know when you came out here you were wondering, what is this all about?” Farrell told the elementary school-aged children as they sat in rows alongside the speakers podium.
When the time came for the art of the mural to be unveiled children leaned around each other, eager to catch the first glimpse of a poster depicting how the final product would look. Muralist Cesar Viveros, the project's lead artist, walked down the rows of kids, holding the poster so students could get a better look.
Viveros, a native of Mexico, has created public art in the United States for 15 years and has several paintings in Philadelphia already. His art has tackled social issues ranging from the stigma of mental health to the relationship between kids and cops, according to a press release from the World Meeting of Families.
A depiction of what the completed mural honoring Pope Francis will look like.
Contributed Art/World Meeting of Families
The mural will be located at 1012 W. Thompson Street. It will be produced through a partnership between the World Meeting of Families Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
The mural will be created using 153 individual 5’ by 5’ panels. The technique of creating individual panels allows the community to contribute to the painting process. This will be done through a number of "paint days" where people from specific organizations will be invited to take part in the painting process, according to Cari Feiler Bender, a spokeswoman for the mural arts program.
Organizations with paint days scheduled include St. Malachy's and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as examples. Some panels will also be held for participants in the World Meeting of Families.
“For me, that is what I do with every mural, I take it personally,” said Viveros. “And this surpasses everything I have done before.”
“This is the mother of all the murals.”
Jane Golden, the executive director of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, said the mural will be placed on “a fantastic wall.”
“Our goals all this time remains the same, we want to give people a voice,” said Golden. When she spoke she highlighted the value of arts in the community and the impact murals have on making the city a better place. She punctuated her lines -- delivered in a rushing, excited voice -- with small jumps and clapping.
“The arts open our hearts and our minds,” she said. “They encourage us to never forget.”
“They remind us of our heroes.”