Exploring Beyond the Philadelphia Mural Mile

Philadelphia Muses by Meg Saligman on the Philadelphia Mural Mile

There is more to Philadelphia’s art scene beside the Mural Mile. While walking the Philadelphia Mural Mile is a must-do when visiting; other areas in Philadelphia have fantastic street art just waiting for you to find. As the ‘City of Murals,’ there are hundreds of murals on the side of buildings, down side streets, and around corners. You can take a specialty street art tour off the beaten path or just wander around the city. But, definitely, explore beyond the Philadelphia Mural Mile, and you won’t be disappointed in how much art there is to find in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Mural Arts Information & Maps

Tree of Knowledge by Michael Webb

Tree of Knowledge by Michael Webb c. 2003

Since 1984, the Mural Arts Philadelphia has been responsible for getting over 3600 art murals created and painted on the side of buildings. In addition, Mural Arts works with community groups to educate children in the arts and involve them in the creation process of the murals. Currently, the Mural Arts is one of Philadelphia’s largest employers of artists with over 300 annually. With this attention and passion for art, it is no wonder that Philadelphia is known as the ‘City of Murals.’

A People's Progression Toward Equality by Jared Bader

A People’s Progression Toward Equality by Jared Bader

To see these murals, you can sign up for a walking tour with Mural Arts, which has different tours depending on the day. Or you can do what we did and wander around until we found a mural. There are hundreds of paintings to find, and each one is better than the next. For the ones I found, I saved a spot on this mural arts map if you want to see which ones we found and where they were. You can also download the self-guided map of two different routes to choose from to make your own journey through this city of murals. Someday I plan to go back and find more of these beautiful works of art.

Black Family Reunion by G. Byron Peck

Black Family Reunion by G. Byron Peck

The Philadelphia Mural Mile

Theater of Life by Meg Saligman & Juan Dimida

Theater of Life by Meg Saligman & Juan Dimida

The Mural Mile is a little misleading as it is actually longer than a mile. In fact, the Mural Mile consists of over 17 large art murals along a 2.5-mile walk through some of Philly’s neighborhoods. Although finding these are not as easy without a map. Make sure you download one before you head out on your exploration of the city. It also might help to check to see where your favorite ones might be, so you don’t miss it accidentally. But, even off the Mural Mile, you can find amazing street art around almost every corner. All you have to do is start walking and look up!

Gimme Shelter by David Guinn

Gimme Shelter by David Guinn c. 2004

Street Art Tour Honoring African American Heros

The Tuskegee Airmen: They Met the Challenge by Marcus Akinlana

The Tuskegee Airmen: They Met the Challenge by Marcus Akinlana

During Black History Month, you can sign up to go on a special trolley tour that takes you around Philadelphia to see street art honoring prominent African Americans from Philly. For only two days, this two-hour curated tour gives you an incredible history lesson on civil rights, freedom, and equality through street art. They will take you through multiple Philadelphia neighborhoods where you will be able to amazing works of art, learn about the process to create those murals, and absorb some much-needed history at the same time. Tickets for the “African American Iconic Murals Trolley Tour” are $32 through Mural Arts Philadelphia.

If you can’t make this special trolley tour during those two days in February, you can always do a self-guided street art tour through Philadelphia. For those viewing the murals on your own, you can learn even more history at the African American Museum. This museum is the first major museum devoted to Black American history in the United States.

Mapping Courage: Honoring W.E.B. Dubois and Engine #11 by Willis "Nomo" Humphrey

Mapping Courage: Honoring W.E.B. Dubois and Engine #11 by Willis “Nomo” Humphrey

Love Letter TourAnyplace Anywhere Anytime Love Letter Street Art in Philly

The Love Letter is a series of 50 rooftop art murals that showcase the artist’s (Stephen Powers) love for his city and collectively express as a love letter from a guy to a girl. When Kayla and I visited Philly, she had heard about the love letters and wanted to see them. So, on the last morning, we drove around looking for them while Kayla captured these photos.

They are best viewed from the Market-Frankford elevated transit line. But, you can see some of the murals from the road from 45th to 63rd street along Market street. You can also sign up to take a tour of the Love Letters, and it will be mostly from the train.If You Were Here Love Letter Street Art in Philly

I'll Wait Love Letter Street Art in Philly

Art in Unexpected PlacesA Painted Window on a Wall in Philly

When you are in Philadelphia, make sure to look at every wall you pass by. You never know what you might see. Even if it isn’t a large mural, you might find cute artwork somebody painted on their home. I love that someone painted an actual window on a boring part of the building to liven it up. Plus, walking down side streets, you might come across beautifully decorated garage doors. Keep your eyes open.Bright Yellow Flowers painted on a Garage Door

Creative Trash BinsTrash can painted with 09 red jersey

I love cities that can take ugly things and make them beautiful. Philadelphia is one such city that has public-art initiatives to reimagine trash bins into works of art. Not only trash bins, but utility boxes have been decorated to add to the neighborhood instead of being eyesores. I wish more cities adopted this initiative to beautify neighborhoods with art.

Percent for Art ProjectPhiladelphia Art sign in the City Center

Why does Philadelphia have so many murals, sculptures, and outdoor art within its city? The answer is the Percent for Art Program. This ingenious city program established in 1959 requires companies that are building or renovating to put 1% of their total construction costs for municipal projects to be set aside for fine arts. Each company would be required to add an original public art project for the community. As you explore Philadelphia, this is why you see so many art sculptures and pieces around the city.

This program was the first of its kind in the nation, and since then, it has been replicated in cities across the country. The Percent for Art program is a fantastic program for communities that are developing and expanding to include art pieces for communities to enjoy visual art along with the steel and concrete. What an excellent way to give back to a city!

Summary

If you are a lover of all things art, you won’t be disappointed in visiting Philadelphia. There is art on almost every corner and down every street that you don’t have to try very hard to find amazing art murals. When you visit, make sure to walk the Philadelphia Mural Mile. But, don’t forget to expand and explore beyond the city center and you might just find your favorite street art yet.

Have you been to Philadelphia? What is your favorite art mural in the city?

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Pennsylvania for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

8 Comments

  • Nishi 23July2020 at 5:01 AM Reply

    Wow-what a unique post I never read this kind of post before. I just can’t believe that this mural is in Philadelphia. As many folks make a trip to this beautiful to experience the waterfalls, museums, and others. But this is the best attraction which should not miss. This is very helpful post for travelers. Thanks for such a great post!

    • Heather 23July2020 at 10:59 AM Reply

      Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Cate 19July2020 at 2:42 PM Reply

    This post is amazing! We are about to move to Philly and I am so glad to know about all the amazing art there! We have a similar program in Cincinnati and I was really going to miss the art – but no more! Thank you.

    • Heather 19July2020 at 3:00 PM Reply

      How exciting for you, Cate! I’m so glad that I was able to show you all the art that is available in Philly. I also have a bunch of other posts on Philly if you want more ideas of fun things to do while you live there. Good Luck with your move!

  • Sue Davies 18July2020 at 5:54 PM Reply

    Great info on {Philly. Been planning to drive down for a while. I’d really like to do the Mural mile.

    • Heather 19July2020 at 12:36 AM Reply

      You will love it, Sue! I hope you can get down there. There are so many murals to find.

  • Jen Mostert 18July2020 at 9:16 AM Reply

    I love the idea of the Percent for Art Programme. I wish more cities did this and supported their artists.

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