Philadelphia has a pretty fantastic art museum. But if it is a beautiful day outside, you don’t have to spend it inside a museum to see some pretty amazing art. That’s because Philadelphia is overflowing with public art scattered throughout its parks, plazas and neighborhoods. Free to experience and always on the way to something else, you can spend a day just walking the streets of the city taking in a variety of artistic expressions.
Cinematic son Rocky Balboa’s statue resides near the bottom of the Art Museum’s front steps – the training ground for the blue-collar boxer. After running up the steps yourself you are rewarded with sweeping views of the city below.
The top of the Art Museum is something to behold in and of itself. Griffins, ornaments and pediments tell stories all their own.
Behind the Art Museum is the William M. Reilly Memorial, a green walkway lined with sculptures of Revolutionary War figures connecting the museum to the Schuylkill River and Fairmount Park. I particularly like General Nathanael Greene’s tenacity.
The John F. Kennedy Plaza is located in the heart of downtown and features the iconic LOVE statue, using the beautiful fountain and Benjamin Franklin Parkway as a backdrop.
For fans of board games, the Municipal Services Building Plaza has the Your Move installation of game pieces scattered everywhere – from Monopoly to Dominoes, Chess to Bingo and of course, Sorry. For more whimsical art, there is a giant clothespin nearby.
The Lincoln Legacy Project displays the largest glass tile mosaic in the city speaking of the battle for and freedom from slavery. Using tile from France and Italy and a creative collaboration with public schools, artists and inmates this mammoth display on Chestnut Street is a highlight of Center City’s Mural Mile.
Between Ben Franklin’s gravesite and Betsy Ross’ house in Old City sits the sculptured bust of Ben himself entitled Keys to the Community, featuring his lifelike head in bronze and casts of old fashioned keys collected by local schoolchildren.
Located in Old City by the entrance to Penn’s Landing, the Irish Famine Memorial is a massive sculpture that is lifelike and stirring, honoring those who perished in Ireland and the journey that millions made to our shores as a result.
The Mapping Courage mural on bustling South Street tells the story of Philly’s 7th Ward and the local Engine 11 fire station – both important chapters in local African American history.
It isn’t just the mass of public art available. It is the way the works all meld together – amusing, educational and serious memorials intertwine and offer something for everyone’s interest. So when you tire of lines of tourists at Independence Hall – pick your head up and look around. You never know what kind of public art the city is featuring for your pleasure.
- http://muralarts.org/tour – Print maps and download podcasts for free self-guided tours or purchase tickets for intimate guided tours of popular city murals
- http://www.philamuseum.org/visit/20-565-454.html – Guided and ticketed Schuylkill Stroll tours of sculpture along Boathouse Row in Fairmount Park
- http://www.philamuseum.org/podcast/ – Download free podcast of Sculpture Garden tour outside the Art Museum at Fairmount Park
- http://www.fpaa.org/fpaa_map.html – Interactive map and listing of photos and facts about public art throughout the city
Post by and all photos credited to Molly G. @The Bumbles Blog