Spring Garden Street Bridge Mural Dedicated Near Art Museum
Vibrant, colorful tulips stretch across 94 five-by-ten foot aluminum panels on the Spring Garden Street Bridge, filling up more than 6,000 square feet.
It’s this type of beautiful artwork on a considerable scale, linking the Mantua neighborhood to the Art Museum and the Ben Franklin Parkway, that impresses Jane Golden.
“People are going by here really fast, but you also have pedestrians, so you have to take into consideration your different population of viewers,” said Golden, founder and executive director of the city’s Mural Arts Program. “So we thought it would be really nice to reference a floral motif, and that fit perfectly with Mantua’s love of tulips—because they look at tulips as a sign of regeneration.”
The Spring Garden Street Bridge mural, created by longtime public art specialist Betsy Casañas, was dedicated in a ceremony held on Sunday afternoon. Public officials and community volunteers commended the work of around 500 volunteers, who completed the project across the past 12 months.
“It’s just really beautiful to consider the work we do as a stepping stone,” Casañas said in a speech to about 100 people gathered on the bridge. “I’m absolutely thankful and honored to work with the Mantua community.”
Golden has historical and personal ties to the mural. In 1984, then-Mayor Wilson Goode asked her to paint a mural on the bridge for the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network (PAGN). Goode was also founder of the PAGN—which eventually led to the creation of the Mural Arts Program.
“This bridge was totally defaced, there wasn’t a square inch that didn’t have graffiti,” Golden said. “It was seen as like an attractable problem, and they said, ‘Maybe a mural would help.’ And so we went to work and we did this project in three weeks.”
Back then, Golden worked with block captains and other community leaders and groups to beautify the bridge. Now, the new $100,000 mural features collaboration between Mural Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mantua Civic Association, Drexel University and other community groups.
One of those groups is Beauty for Ashes, a Mantua-based youth group founded by Tanya Powell in Mantua 15 years ago. Powell said her eight students helped paint this mural over a span of six weekends, and have contributed to other Mural Arts projects in the past.
“Our purpose is that we want to give back and we want to serve and we want to help beautify our community,” Powell said. “So whether it’s something small or large, it doesn’t make a difference to our students.”
Along with Golden and Casañas, prominent community leaders and officials spoke to the crowd gathered about the mural’s impact on Mantua. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell praised community leaders for collaborating with Mural Arts and other programs, and Mantua Civic Association President De’Wayne Drummond spoke about how the mural is an extension of the values held by former-PAGN executive director, Tim Spencer, who held that position when the first mural went up.
Brenda Lewis, who is a lifelong Mantua resident, is an Executive Board member of MCA, and shared Drummond’s belief about Spencer.
“When I think of this mural, I think of Tim Spencer,” said Lewis. “And it saddens me, because he wasn’t able to see what he started.”
“It means the community coming together,” she added of the mural’s impact. “Mantua’s been struggling for a long time, but today shows the togetherness of this community.”