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Manayunk Mural Project Moves Forward

Structural paintings will point toward I-76.

Manayunk's art immersion continues with a potential mural project, which could draw commuter's into Main Street.

The Manayunk Special Services District received resident backing from the Manayunk Neighborhood Council last week for an arts project to target an abandoned building and three businesses along the Manayunk Canal.

World-renowned artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, aka Haas&Hahn the Favela Painters, are onboard for a mural on the blighted Maloomian property, which is on Venice Island and faces I-76. The backs of three buildings will also serve as canvases—in a more permanent capacity.

"That property is an example of horrible urban blight. This project will convey a different message to the world—that Manayunk is a vibrant, artistic neighborhood. Not one that doesn't care," MSSC and Executive Director Jane Lipton said.

The MSSD defined four arts projects. Two of them, 30 small portraits throughout Manayunk and painted crosswalks, were realized last year. This summer, a different art installation will come to the Manayunk Canal.

For this project, the MSSC set aside $50,000, part of which will also be matched by a Knight Foundation grant. Because of the large amount, Lipton sought a permanent addition to Manayunk. Though Maloomian property owners back the plan, if development occurs there, the structure will be lost. Hence the need for the towpath inclusion.

Favela Painting in Manayunk

The Dutch duo possess a lengthy resume detailing their global community mural projects. Primarily known for work in Brazilian urban slumns, Haas&Hahn have completed murals or arts installations in the Netherlands and Miami.

Favela Painting employs bright colors and art in odd places, ("favela" means "Brazlian shack or shanty town"). This led them to pick the derelict Manayunk property.

The Maloomian plot is frequently hit by graffiti. Lipton said the Philadelphia Mural Project often reports instances decrease after a public mural is created.

"Even graffiti artists have respect for the murals," she said.

For the Venice Island project, Lipton wanted to approach neighbors before giving the artists the OK. She said the artists wouldn't conduct an engineering study until the neighborhood was behind it.

Neighborhood Thoughts

The MSSD already supports it, but the MDC hasn't yet weighed in.

"We don't want to spin our wheels before the neighbors vote. We've worked hard to move forward in Manayunk with a common vision with neighbors," she said.

On Thursday, the MNC voted for it.

One contingency Lipton established was allowing Manayunk to weigh in on the designs.

"If I can give them what they want and benefit the neighborhood, I think we'll have something great," she said.

MNC member Hilary Langer questioned how it helped Manayunk.

"I think the idea to paint (the abandoned property) is great, but I'm not sure how it benefits the neighborhood," he said.

Another resident said it should draw people in.

"If I saw those beautiful pieces of art while driving on the highway, I'd want to go into that neighborhood," he said.

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