July 07, 2021
If you take a stroll near the Philadelphia Art Museum, you'll notice a new addition to the city: a 33,000-square-foot ground mural along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Mural Arts Philadelphia and the city of Philadelphia dedicated the project, titled "Welcome Back Philly," to celebrate the reopening of the city after the pandemic and encourage residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Local artist Felix St. Fort and a team of 42 artists and 70 volunteers worked for seven days to paint the massive mural.
They used nearly 300 gallons of paint in 100 colors to create the mural, Mural Arts spokesperson Cari Feiler Bender told PhillyVoice.
The design represents all of Philadelphia's neighborhoods and features fireworks over the cityscape and riverfront. It was unveiled during the Fourth of July holiday and is part of the city’s Vax Up, Philly campaign.
"The goal of these designs is to connect to people on a more emotional level by using art to communicate the importance of getting vaccinated," Mural Arts said in a press release. "Seeing designs that represent all neighborhoods of Philadelphia is important, and seeing messages that feel sincere, heartfelt and help build trust is critical in this campaign."
Today, I joined @muralarts to dedicate the “Welcome Back, Philly” mural by Artist Felix St. Fort, which celebrates our city’s recovery from the pandemic. It's especially exciting to unveil this mural as we prepare to welcome everyone back to the Parkway for @July4thPhilly. pic.twitter.com/Q3S2IgC5jm— Jim #VaxUpPhilly Kenney (@PhillyMayor) July 2, 2021
The Vax Up, Philly campaign distributed posters and banners, flyers, postcards, mini-murals, digital signage and more across the city to spread the message. Mural Arts paid more than 25 artists to create the materials.
The campaign specifically focused on getting the word out to communities who have limited access to vaccine clinics or information about the vaccine, and people who are hesitant to get the shot.
St. Fort is a native Philadelphian and has been working as an artist for nearly 20 years.
"My artwork reflects my interest in color and shape and how they interact to create form. For me, composition and presentation are everything, and I try to convey that in my pieces," St. Fort said.
So far 58.4% of the eligible adults in the city have been fully vaccinated, and 72.4% have received at least one shot, city data shows. The Delta variant is now the most dominant COVID-19 variant in the world, and scientists are urging people to get vaccinated.
The dedication of the mural comes as the city works to redesign the Parkway to make it more vibrant and welcoming for pedestrians. The city has narrowed down three proposals from architecture firms that responded to its request for design proposals.
They are set to present their redesign plans in a public presentation at the Barnes Foundation on July 14, before the city chooses the winner.
Residents can attend the presentation, though in-person attendance is limited. It will be live streamed.