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Street art: When in Philadelphia, pause and gaze at the murals

Walking in the mural capital of the world is like browsing through an outdoor museum. Here are six murals in Philadelphia which certainly deserve a closer look

October 02, 2022 / 09:32 PM IST
Keith Haring's mural 'We Are The Youth' at 22nd and Ellsworth Streets in Philadelphia, the US. The mural was restored in 2013 by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. (Photo: Keith Haring artwork © Keith Haring Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.)

Keith Haring's mural 'We Are The Youth' at 22nd and Ellsworth Streets in Philadelphia, the US. The mural was restored in 2013 by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. (Photo: Keith Haring artwork © Keith Haring Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.)

In 1984, Mural Arts of Philadelphia, the US’s largest public art programme, began creating murals on the walls of the city’s buildings, to help eradicate graffiti. No surprise then that there are more than 4,000 towering murals in the city now, earning it the moniker the Mural Capital of the World. Over the years, the Mural Arts of Philadelphia have designed several walking tours to explore the murals across the city, including a self-guided tour, to take in the murals, some of which have been done by the likes of Keith Haring. But for a visitor passing through briefly, it’s best to explore the murals as you walk around the city. There are plenty of visual surprises if you look up at buildings and walk over to parking lots. Just remember to step into small stores along the way, the ones that sell local products. They are quaint and invigorating to browse. One of the stores I entered sold exquisite stationery and paper products. Its Irish owner was helpful and generous with information about the city. “Try and get lost,” he said, “for that way you will come across some of the prettiest murals which may not even be on the map.”

Here are some of the famous murals I discovered on my walk. Along the way, I spied several murals which weren’t listed on the map but made for delightful viewing. If you want to make the most of the mural walk, it’s best to do the north and south of the Market Street. Together, it’s the iconic Mural Mile.

Untitled by Amy Sherald (2019)

Untitled by Amy Sherald, Philadelphia murals (Photo: Jayanthi Madhukar)