New mural illustrates the spirit of South Philly

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South Philly’s heritage has a new spotlight along S. Broad Street, celebrating diversity, history and local landmarks.

Artist Keisha Whatley of Custom Arts Studio unveiled a 100-foot-wide mural on the outside wall of Fulton Bank at 1722 S. Broad St. on June 1. It’s called “A Community of Champions: The Extraordinary & the Everyday” and it colorfully illustrates the spirit of South Philadelphia.

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“This is no ordinary mural,” said Whatley. “A Community of Champions came to fruition after many interactive focus groups with South Philly’s senior citizens, community members and high school students.” 

Whatley had plenty of help. Her creative team worked hand-in-hand with Mastery Charter School – Thomas Campus at 927 Johnson St. and the St. Edmond Senior Center at 2130 S. 21st St. to gather feedback about what South Philly means to community members. Local residents also took part in a community paint day to help put the wheels in motion.The imagery displayed on the artwork highlights the extraordinary arts and cultural institutions, the food and sports culture and the iconic references and landmarks that make South Philly a unique place to live. 

The mural reaches 17 feet high along the wall of Fulton Bank’s newest South Philly branch. The bank was happy to lend its space to show off the pride of South Philly.

“As a community bank, we recognize every neighborhood we serve is unique, and we appreciate when our financial centers are able to reflect that,” said Sean Killen, Consumer Sales Manager for Fulton Bank. “That’s why we were excited to partner with Keisha Whatley and the Custom Arts Studio team to create a mural highlighting South Philly. Thanks to everyone involved, from our neighbors who helped brainstorm ideas to those who participated in the community paint day.”

The mural was officially unveiled on June 1 with a performance by students from the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.

The artwork colorfully combines sport, Mummers, history, culture and, of course, cheesesteaks. Visitors can vote on their favorite cheesesteak spot by scanning an interactive QR code on the lower right side of the mural. In addition, each of the 28 neighborhoods are listed along with their ZIP codes. The mural’s “Culture Portrait” style blends surrealism, traditional portraiture and research, and is a Custom Arts Studio signature visual storytelling technique. Although the mural, which took over a year to complete, is painted on Fulton’s wall, the bank is not featured in the artwork.

“What I loved about this project is that Fulton Bank did not want it to be a bank commercial or about them,” Whatley said. “They literally wanted this to be a celebration of the South Philly community as a whole and a way of introducing themselves to the community.”

Mark Zimmaro
Mark Zimmaro
Mark Zimmaro is a reporter for the South Philly Review. Follow him on Twitter @mzimmaro or email at mzimmaro@newspapermediagroup.com

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