Philadelphia’s blossoming and world-renowned MuralArts program has just completed its latest project. Fondly referred to as the “Summer Kaleidoscope,” the project is an extremely large mural that’s also got some big plans for the rest of the year.
Designed by Baltimore-based mural artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn, collectively known as “Jessie & Katey,” the mural is mesmerizing and sure to turn more than a few heads. And since we’re talking about Philadelphia, America’s not-so-secret weapon in the world of street art, thats saying something!
The mural is called the Summer Kaleidoscope for obvious reasons: it’s bright colours and swirling yet geometrically symmetrical shapes lend the piece a disorientating yet captivating feel of the children’s toy. Looking at it, the mural seems to move and swirl just like a real kaleidoscope, but without having to move it around yourself.
Summer Kaleidoscope was a massive undertaking, right from the beginning. The piece was designed to take over The Oval, an eight-acre public space in the Benjamin Franklin parkway in Philadelphia, and it accomplished that through a lot of hard work and passion. The mural took five days to complete, relying on the talents of over 20 artists who took rollers and brushes to pavement in the early summer sun. Overall, the mural takes up over 33,000 square feet, and combines the colours of over 800 gallons of paint into something bright, colourful, and fun.
But perhaps the best part of the entire mural lies beyond the art itself. Unlike many art projects, which go up and rely on people passing them and commenting, Summer Kaleidoscope is actually the grounds for a wide range of summer activities designed to get local people engaged. Events were held in the area that targeted Philadelphia’s diverse residents, from live music and beer gardens on Thursday and Friday nights to free screenings of movies that are fun for the whole family, like My Cousin Vinny and Back to the Future. And kids could enjoy the many recreation activities set up on and around the mural as well.
Summer Kaleidoscope combines the draw of street art with tangible interaction that proves street art is more than simply something to look at. For Philadelphia, the colours and patterns of the kaleidoscope became a focal point for almost anyone in the city who wanted to enjoy free or very affordable entertainment that brought people together. Much more than simply a place to look at shiny art, the entire project elevated the community and brought people together, literally on a piece of street art that also beautified the area. Such an accomplishment is rare in street art, but always desirable, and hopefully similar integrations will pop up all around the world: showing people that street art has value beyond the paint on a surface.