Mural Projects: From Blank Walls to Thriving Communities

Murals are becoming an increasingly popular way to engage community members and display culture and history. A mural is a piece of artwork painted or applied on a large permanent surface, such as a wall or ceiling. These unique creations bring life and color to streets, create opportunities for community projects, attract visitors and allow artists to publicly showcase their talent. WRC’s Wilmington Creative District vision plan includes recommendations explaining the potential benefits of mural projects for the city. Murals, along with other types of street art, can be used to publicly display the Creative District identity. There are many available surfaces for murals throughout the District. These blank side walls can be used to not only distinguish the Creative District, but also showcase local talent and integrate youth engagement and job skills training. “Bringing inspiration to the streets,” as we like to call it, can positively impact different aspects of city life in Wilmington.

The Kalmar Nyckel mural is an example of a successful mural project in the City of Wilmington. Michael Kalmbach, founder of the Creative Vision Factory (CVF), managed the mural project along the walls of the Kalmar Nyckel shipyard with the help of Anne Yoncha (mural designer), several artists, CVF team members and additional volunteers. CVF is an organization in Wilmington that helps individuals with behavioral health disorders express themselves and recover through the arts. The artists worked together and incorporated the input of Samuel Heed, the main historian of the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation. They decided to transform the dull walls into a historical timeline of the shipyard, depicting the landing of the Kalmar Nyckel on the Christina shore and the New Sweden colony. The project was completed in June of 2013 and the vibrant colors of the mural engage all who visit the shipyard today with a captivating story.

Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard Mural Project

Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard Mural Project

Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard Mural Project

Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard Mural Project

Another Wilmington mural project is Peoples Park located in LOMA. The project was organized by artist Eric Leshinsky in conjunction with the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA) and the exhibition of imPERFECT CITY. The design and planning process for the park began in February 2013, and the project was never actually completed—but the artists planned it that way. According to the public description of the park, “Peoples Park is intended to be a way of starting a conversation about parks and public space in Wilmington and a stage for ideas that could be the basis for new parks and public spaces everywhere.”

"Peoples Park" in LOMA

“Peoples Park” in LOMA

On a national scale, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has produced many successful projects. The largest mural arts program in the nation, it aims to create positive change through its collaboration with community-based organizations, nonprofits, schools, city agencies and more. Jane Golden, artist and executive director of Mural Arts Program, will be the keynote speaker for WRC’s September Creative Chat. Golden has organized more than 3,600 public pieces of artwork through Mural Arts Program and has developed art education, restorative justice and behavioral health programs. Golden has received awards for some of her projects such as How Philly Moves, an 85,000-square-foot mural at the Philadelphia National Airport, and Philly Painting, a project that transformed 60 buildings along a Philadelphia commercial corridor with the help of Dutch artists, community members and local businesses.

"How Philly Moves" mural, Philadelphia National Airport

“How Philly Moves” mural, Philadelphia National Airport

"Philly Painting" mural, Philadelphia commercial corridor

“Philly Painting” mural, Philadelphia commercial corridor

For more examples of mural projects, take a look at the 26 best cities in the world to see street art.

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