Roots honored with mural | The Triangle
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Roots honored with mural

The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has created over 3,500 murals and works of public art since 1984, earning Philadelphia the title of the “City of Murals.” Since the Mural Arts Program was established, over 100 communities have positively transformed, education outreach programs have been served, and adult offenders in local prisons have broken the dangerous cycle of violence and crime through the restoration of art.

Jennifer McCreary, director of communications for the Mural Arts Program, stated the importance of murals in Philadelphia by noting that “so much of our work in muralism is looking at innovation.” Moreover, the Mural Arts Program is a great way to connect with young artists and the importance of art in education.

The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program recently announced the launch of an eight-month-long mural project in collaboration with the Roots, a Grammy-winning band native to Philadelphia. Band members Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter will be thoroughly involved throughout the creative process of the mural, which is planned to depict The Roots’ success story from the beginning of their existence to the present day.

The Roots Mural Project will be located in the South Street Headhouse District, a high-traffic area. As South Street natives, “The Roots were very definitive that the mural be painted in the South Street area. That is where they hung out in high school and started exposing their musical talents,” McCreary noted.

In addition to the mural, an interactive website and education program called “The Roots 101” has been created to further increase community involvement. In January 2010, Thompson recorded the narration for the Mural Arts Program’s Albert M. Greenfield African American Iconic Images Collection. The 47 images in the mural collection exemplify African Americans’ culturally rich experience in Philadelphia.

Following the recording, Thompson and the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia thought to join and create “The Roots 101,” an educational program using new technology in the mural-making process, thus engaging young, promising, tech-savvy individuals.

McCreary explained how the relationship flourished: “[We were] putting together the audio tour for the Albert M. Greenfield African American Iconic Images Collection. We approached Ahmir Thompson to narrate it as an established Philadelphian artist. This mural is a way to honor The Roots and their involvement.”

Along with an online lesson guide and video series of the mural-making process, “The Roots 101” educational program will allow instructors to integrate imagery, musical compositions and video into the curriculum, further encouraging students to understand The Roots’ real-life success and their impact on the artistic realm of Philadelphia and the rest of the world.

The Roots will be present throughout the project’s development, including design evaluation, speaking with course students and the final dedication of the mural, which is expected to be completed in the summer of 2012. McCreary described The Roots as “uniquely Philadelphian and incredibly innovative, which creates a connection with muralism in Philadelphia.”

This project will not only employ hundreds of artists, assistants, instructors and muralists, but it also intends to unify Philadelphia through community painting workshops in the spring of 2012.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter of The Roots, Philadelphia Mural Arts program director Jane Golden and Kamal Gray of The Roots are collaborating to create a mural in honor of The Roots on South Street.
Artists or artist teams interested in the creation of The Roots Mural Project and engaging the community in all phases of the artistic process from design to execution and dedication are encouraged to apply for the project through The deadline is Nov. 21. After the artist/artist team and design of the mural is finalized, the creative process will commence.

For further information on the Mural Arts Program, call 215-685-0750 or visit