Art Through Time: A Global View
The Urban Experience Art: Tribute to Jackie Robinson
In 1984, the city of Philadelphia established an agency dedicated to urban renewal through public art projects.
Now known as the Mural Arts Program, this organization works to clean up graffiti-scarred walls around the city, especially in historically neglected poor or minority neighborhoods, by painting over them with vibrant murals. One of the goals of the Mural Arts Program has been to include neighborhood residents in the planning and making of their own murals. This has helped to ensure the relevance of individual works of art to their respective locations as well as to the people who will live with them on a daily basis, fostering community and civic pride in the process. The Mural Arts Program has created more than 2,800 murals all over Philadelphia, and has served as a model for other similar agencies in cities around the world.
Broad Street is a major thoroughfare that runs through the center of Philadelphia, passing thorough numerous and diverse neighborhoods. The many murals along Broad Street honor civic ideals, celebrate the contributions of certain ethnic communities, and memorialize individuals whose life stories resonate with neighborhood residents. This mural, Tribute to Jackie Robinson, funded by the Philadelphia Phillies and painted in 1997 by artist David McShane, fills the entire side of a three-story building in a part of North Philadelphia that is home to a large African American population. As the first player to desegregate Major League Baseball in 1947, Robinson became a hero of the Civil Rights movement. After retiring from the sport, he worked to improve underserved African American neighborhoods with a mission clearly in line with that of the Mural Arts Program itself. McShane has said that he chose to paint the image in black and white as a reminder of Robinson’s struggle in a racially divided America. In the mural, Robinson is depicted sliding dramatically into home plate.
Jane Golden, Executive Director, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
“The Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia was formed in 1997, providing opportunities to artists and kids all over the city. We’ve turned Philadelphia into an outdoor museum because the murals reflect their voices. People have a stake in the process. I love the Jackie Robinson mural by David McShane. For me it represents breaking through barriers. It means creating change. It means flying in the face of cynicism and apathy and hostility and anything that’s negative. It means not giving up and being relentless. And I love the fact that that mural went on Miss Porter’s wall, who had been on our waiting list for five years. And when I called her and asked her if she wanted Jackie Robinson on the wall, she started crying and said, ‘Today I feel like I won the lottery.’ And she said every day she comes out of her house and sees Jackie up there is a day she knows her potential. And so that mural lives on as a beacon.”
Golden, Jane, et al. Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell.Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002.
Golden, Jane, et al. More Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell.Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.
The Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia, PA, Web site. http://www.muralarts.org.