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Steve Powers Paints A Pair of New Murals That Reflect Philly History and Celebrate Immigrants

December 23, 2018

A pair of temporary new murals by Steve (ESPO) Powers, created with Mural Arts Philadelphia, honors Philadelphia immigrants and pays homage to various histories of the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood.

At a quick glance, passersby of Steve Powers’ new murals at 18th and Sansom streets may notice a few Philly references and think this is a simple neighborhood/Philly pride mural. But of course nothing is so simple when you’re talking about Steve Powers, whose side-by-side complimentary murals address two separate inspirations.

The first is the mural closer to 18th street that rises about two stories tall. This mural has many references to Philadelphia and Rittenhouse Square history, including references to the Mütter Museum, Philly’s famed medical history museum, and Frank Furness, one of Philadelphia’s most notable architects. There’s a reference to Project HOME, the nationally recognized non-profit that provides housing, opportunities for employment, medical care, and education to homeless and low-income persons in Philadelphia. As well as a reference to American composer and Curtis Institute alumni Leonard Bernstein. And a reference to Nina Simone, who famously auditioned for but was not accepted into the Curtis Institute. “[Nina] was rejected, not because of her skill, but because she was black,” explains Nina’s daughter in this article from Bryan Buttler for Philadelphia Magazine published after the release of the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? in 2015.

Steve Powers second mural, which stands about five stories high, appears to depict namely small businesses in and around the Rittenhouse area. And it is perhaps a more subtle node to Philadelphia immigrants and the fact that immigrants are and have always been crucial to our city and our country’s economy. As Forbes pointed out in an article this past summer, “Immigrants form 25% of new U.S. businesses, driving entrepreneurship.” When beginning his piece, Steve wrote the following along with a photo of the mural to his Instagram: “The story of America is immigration. The end. It’s also the beginning of every good story about America. This particular story is about 5 stories tall.”

Frequent readers of this blog may remember that it was in these murals’ exact location last year that internationally renowned artist and activist JR’s Inside Out Project installed a temporary mural as part of a country-wide mural campaign created to urge Congress to protect undocumented children. So, I suppose, it’s also possible that with this second mural Steve Powers was winking as this wall’s recent history as well.

As I wrote, it appears that as of now both of these murals by Steve Powers are only temporary and could go away at any moment, like JR’s. Mural Arts has confirmed as much on their Instagram. But there’s apparently a chance they’ll be made permanent, and Mural Arts says it’ll inform us if that ends up being the case. So if these murals interest you, you should head out to see them sooner than later, just incase.

Check out Steve Power’s Old City mural from 2016 here!

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