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AMAZING New Electric Light ‘Mural’ in South Philly!

June 24, 2016

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A new, electric installation has just popped up in South Philly, and it’s maybe my favorite thing to ever happen. (Yes, I love this even slightly more than I love the new pigeon mural in Fishtown, has hard as that is to believe.)

Side thought: What Creative Gods have blessed Philly lately, THERE’S SO MUCH GREAT WORK EVERYWHERE RIGHT NOW, just scroll through this blog the past few weeks to see what I’m talking about! Okay, back to this…

This new installation, titled ‘Electric Street’, is the collaborative effort of artists David Guinn and Drew Billiau with the help of Mural Arts and the Knight Foundation. The installation is the first phase in the as-of-yet secretive ‘Percy Street Project‘, according to David’s Instagram. It’s located just south of 9th and Wharton streets, on Percy street, right near Pat’s and Geno. (It’s a bit tricky to find, so here’s a Google Maps pin!)

There’s not much information about this specific installation, or what the heck the ‘Percy Street Project’ is just yet. At least nothing that I can find. But I’m sure that will change soon, now that this installation is up.

In the meantime, please feel free to comment if you know any more about all this!

UPDATE (6/28/16):
SO excited to tell y’all that, after a number of emails, I got the full story of just how this neon ‘mural’ came to be.

It’s a story of crime. It’s a story of civically-minded, art loving neighbors. It’s a story that oddly enough involves the new construction around Fergie’s Pub (in the Gayborhood)… Read all about it at the bottom of this post!

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So just how did this mural happen, you ask?

Crime
Until the lights of this electric installation were switched on, Percy street, as legend has it, was a rather convenient spot for criminal behavior. Hidden in the midsts of some of South Philly’s most drunkardly bars, a mere three bites away from the Times Square of 24-hour cheesesteaks, the privacy of Percy street offered all those who sought it solace from concerning eyes. This in turn resulted in countless after hour shenanigans, not the least of which included: underaged drinking, prostitution, and short dumping. (I had to Google that too, don’t feel bad.)

Activism, nay Civic Engagement!
What are neighbors to do with such an oddly conceived and inappropriately employed alley? Well, the answer is simple, sort of… Allow me now to paste what long-time neighbor, Andrew Emma, wrote in his VERY helpful email to me on this subject:

“For at least 5 years, myself and a few other neighbors (including Sarah Anton and Angel D’Ippolito) are/were on the board of the Passyunk Square Civic Association. Together, we spoke to residents whose properties were adjacent to Percy street about allowing their property to have art done on them, but progress initially stalled.”

“Then, at our annual holiday party in 2014, I was talking to David Guinn, and he mentioned that he had a Knight Grant that he needed to use by a certain date. I told him about our ongoing desire for something on Percy street, and he loved it.”

“Our group met up again to talk details; David worked on design ideas, and when he thought up the lighting component, Sarah connected him to Deb Block of Theatre Exile, who then recommended Drew Billiau to be the perfect lighting guy for the project. Meanwhile, Sarah led local neighbors again to canvass the area and find folks interested in having their walls used as canvases. Months of David painting and Drew tinkering with lights later, the rest is history.”

Fergie’s Pub
How does Fergie’s fit into all of this then? Well…

As it were, David Guinn had applied to the Knight Arts Challenge in 2013 with a proposal to create artist driven public projects at Fergie’s Pub. (This was a continuation of a 2012 project there, by Robert Goodman, that was funded through a Kickstarter campaign.)

David got the grant, which was a matching grant, and had to fundraise for the match. He asked Mural Arts if they could contribute towards the match, and they did.

But then construction of the Walnut Street Tower, which literally surrounds Fergie’s, began. David had to find another location. After meeting Andrew Emma and Sarah Anton at that Holiday party in 2014, David knew where to take it…

“I loved the block, it’s an interesting spot because the street bends in a way that is totally unusual in philly. And I loved the idea of artwork that uses light. It had been a dream of mine to create something that would glow and move at night.”

“Originally the plan was for Drew to do some type of lighting installation and that I would just be project manager. But Drew felt that there should be something to see during the day so we started the project as a collaboration.”

“I called it the ‘Percy Street Project’ because it’s really a collection of people that have helped make it happen, especially Andrew and Sarah from PSCA.”

Lessons:
1) You create the world around you. Yes, sometimes with the help of other people’s money, but nevertheless it seems to me that the squeakiest wheel ALWAYS gets the grease, so squeak for what you want!

2) Also, go to holiday parties I guess. And talk with more people that you don’t already know… The butterfly effect is real y’all.

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