Weekend of tours highlights Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s citywide ‘Open Source’ exhibition

Photo: Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Open source is a term you may see getting tossed around a lot these days. If you’re a developer or merely Internet-savvy, it’s probably something you know quite well: free license to a product’s design and universal access to make changes to it, followed by its subsequent redistribution. In Philadelphia right now, “Open Source” means even more courtesy of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. As part of this Knight-funded project, Mural Arts has partnered with 14 local and international contemporary artists to bolster Philly’s already second-to-none public art game.

A few of the participating artists hail from abroad, including JR from France and Jonathan Monk from England, but obviously there is a heavy presence from the United States as well, and specifically Philadelphia-based artists.

“The Norris Homes Historical Marker” © 2015 Jennie Shanker. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Jennie Shanker, for instance, pays tribute to the soon-to-be-demolished Norris Homes in North Philadelphia. Utilizing the existing retaining walls for an elevated Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority train track, Shanker dutifully recreates the facades of the missing structures while working with the local residents to create a website populated with content from the community. This tribute to the past of a quickly changing city will be dedicated on Oct. 29 at 4 p.m.

Ernel Martinez and Keir Johnston of the Amber Art & Design collective present “La Frontera,” in which they have converted a warehouse at 8th Street and Susquehanna Avenue into a community center. The space is designed to be a venue for sharing stories of migration and immigration to Philadelphia, in part to help bridge the African American and Hispanic communities largely divided by 5th Street. Information from these personal histories will be displayed inside and outside the building. “La Frontera” is open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in October from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. On Oct. 21 from 6-8 p.m., Martinez and Johnston will extend the project to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art for a one-night performance.

This weekend, there will be trolley tours to many of the “Open Source” locations. On Oct. 23, the tours will visit sites in North Philly, while on Oct. 24, they will head south. On Sunday, Oct. 25, there will be a full tour. If you can’t make the tour route, don’t worry–you’ve got the rest of October to see what’s going on, and the results of “Open Source” will be around for a long time to come.