May 11, 2023
Philadelphia is looking more "bejeweled" than ever, as the city known for its murals has added some public Taylor Swift art to its walls just in time for the singer to come to town.
Swift performs three consecutive sold-out nights at Lincoln Financial Field on May 12 through May 14 as part of her Eras Tour, and Philly's first mural dedicated to the singer has been unveiled at 200 South St. to honor the occasion. Q102 commissioned the artwork, which was painted by Emily Kelley, a 27-year-old artist and popular TikToker from South Jersey who specializes in Swift-themed designs.
Kelley noticed that each city hosting the Eras Tour so far has done something extravagant to welcome Swift, from offering her the keys to the city to changing the city's name. She wondered what Philly officials had in mind, especially given that Swift was born an hour outside Philly at Reading Hospital and spent her earliest years living in Berks County. While the city has not officially announced its plans yet, Kelley decided to get the ball rolling on social media.
"I've just loved to see what the cities (on The Eras Tour) have done for her and how they've been celebrating how her tour is coming," Kelley said. "And we were just like, well, Philly needs to do something fun and exciting, because this is her hometown and she deserves it. We love her. ... Philly is such, you know, a city full of public art that this just makes sense to welcome her home. And it's something that no other city has done before."
Kelley, an avid Swift fan who has already been to two Eras Tour shows and will attend again on Friday, hopped on TikTok to share her ideas for a Philly mural. She also emailed several people and organizations to see if any would consider commissioning a Swift-themed mural, whether painted by her or another artist. About a week ago, Kelley received an email from Rebekah Maroun of Q102's "Bex and Buster" radio show saying she loved the idea, and Q102 agreed to support the project.
After spending some time designing the art on her computer, Kelley headed to the location and spent endless hours on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday tracing, outlining and painting the mural. Thankfully, some family members and friends were able to help Kelley complete the mammoth task in the short period of time before Swift's Philly shows.
To create the mural, she brought a projector to the site to outline the design in chalk, before having her helpers complete paint-by-number style tasks to fill in the colors.
While the mural is a first for the city, it also was a first for Kelley.
"Every YouTube video about how to paint a mural, I've seen," Kelley said. "I was not confident in my ability to sketch something on such a big surface. You know, the portrait of Taylor is just as tall as I am. I've never done anything to that scale. ... I was not confident that was totally going to work. But I'm really glad it did work. Because I had no backup."
The finished product is a 6.5 by 14-foot mural with a colorful portrait of Swift, the dates of her Philly concerts, a "welcome home" message and some "Easter eggs" hinting at various Swift songs and lore associated with the singer.
"Being a Swiftie and being surrounded by Swifties, I know that we love little Easter eggs," Kelley said. "I knew I wanted to include a bunch of little icons or something that had to do with Taylor that maybe you wouldn't know unless you were a fan. ... I also knew I wanted to somehow include a photo of her on this tour. I just think her outfits on this tour are so iconic, and I wanted to commemorate that somehow."
The Swift mural is now completed and ready for public viewing and Swiftie photo opps during Eras Tour weekend and beyond. Kelley said she's already seen some fans stop by to admire the work.
"Q102 made the announcement (Tuesday) at like three o'clock that this mural was going up and I was still there when they made the announcement and shortly after, people were already pulling up," Kelley said.
The radio station is celebrating the artwork during a grand unveiling at the radio station's "Taylor Tailgate" event at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 12, at 2nd and South streets. Fans can stop by for Swift-themed music, food and giveaways.
@ekelleydesign 200 South Streer, Philadelphia 🏼✨ see you this weekend, @Taylor Swift 🥰 #swifttok #swiftie #taylorswift ♬ Karma - Taylor Swift
While Kelley has never created artwork of this scale, she certainly has experience with Swift-themed designs. Kelley studied public relations in college and worked in marketing, but during the pandemic she was laid off and shifted gears to pursue a passion in graphic design through her company ekelleydesign.
She now shares her Swift-inspired designs and merchandise on social media, specifically TikTok, where she's gained over 138,000 followers who are loving what Kelley refers to as: "really cool Swiftie art pieces."
"I'm always so inspired by Taylor," Kelley said. "And I'm always thinking of new ideas. She's always doing new stuff, and she makes it very easy to be inspired by everything she does."
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