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Philly murals at PAFA exhibit Beyond the Paint.


In a departure from the Pennsylvania Academy of Art’s usual M.O., the new exhibit Beyond the Paint: Philadelphia’s Mural Arts is a surprise. It’s a show of documentation–photographs of murals, videos, artifacts–the first-of-its-kind exhibit for PAFA, said Museum Director Harry Philbrick. Beyond the Paint is exuberant, populist, and interactive. It’s even a little gritty, with hand-painted signage and wheat pastes reminiscent of graffiti and the cityscape.

Hand-painted street-style signs and utopian dreaminess give the show visual and emotional punch.
Hand-painted street-style signs and utopian dreaminess give the show visual and emotional punch.

Generally, my experience of documentary shows is they are torture–dusty and pompous. During installation, I got a chance to walk through the show, along with other members of the Outreach Committee for the show. To say I was wowed is an understatement. What I saw captured the mural program, which will celebrating its 30th birthday in 2014. The exhibit also captured the exuberance of its founder, Jane Golden, no easy task, while it gave a taste of how murals have created a sense of place that is pure Philadelphia.

During installation of Beyond the Paint, at PAFA
During installation of Beyond the Paint, at PAFA

Yes, there are murals I love and murals I don’t, but Golden has made a mark (with more than 3,000 murals). Her crusade to save Philadelphia with paint deserves this no-holds-barred treatment, which includes mega participatory programing for kids and families too. A review of this show by Rachel Heidenry will follow in the next few weeks. I just had to share my enthusiasm.

Love the murals? Dislike the murals? Sunday’s your chance to hear and be heard about your feelings of the role of murals in the city:

Who Shapes the City? A Conversation About Public Space and the Arts
Sunday, November 17th, 2013, 4 to 6 pm Free with a reservation.

Beyond the Paint
November 15, 2013 – April 6, 2014
Fisher Brooks Gallery, Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building
Tonight’s preview party, 6:30-8:30 pm, $10 for all not affiliated with PAFA
Sunday admissions are free


Phillip Adams was in the middle of creating this subway sunrise in the concourse.
On my way home, I passed Phillip Adams creating this subway sunrise in the concourse, above his long-standing series of portraits.

On the way home from that walk-through, I bumped into artist Phillip Adams. It was dark out, but there he was, painting a sunrise on the oppressive cast-concrete ceiling leading to the 15th Street Subway-Surface car station–the colors themed to the portraits he painted that have hung in that corridor for a number of years. Hey, I thought it looked great–and really did make a difference!