You can help paint the mural! Did you know that most new Mural Arts murals are painted off-the-wall on large pieces of “parachute cloth?” This resilient and super-strong material is painted in a workshop and then affixed to the wall – adhering to the contours and providing a permanent bond.

Painting off-site gives even more opportunity for the community to participate in making a local mural. People of all ages and abilities can join in the process and see it come to life.

JOIN US FOR COMMUNITY PAINT DAYS to make this mural a reality!

Saturday, July 21, 2012, 11 am to 2 pm
Mural Arts at The Gallery, Level 2
9th & Market Streets

Saturday, August 4, 2012, 11 am to 2 pm
Mural Arts at The Gallery, Level 2
9th & Market Streets

Labor Day Workshop & Celebration
Monday, September 3, 2012, 11am to 2 pm

125 North 8th Street (at the mural site)

Visual Design Revealed!

Creative Brief Update:
Visual Design Revealed!

Our artist team for “How We Fish” spends time updating the cornerstone Living Creative Brief to capture the ideas and spirit of community meetings and forums across the city. The brief helps keep the story flowing from neighborhood to neighborhood and connects to the visual ideas that have been in development for the last few months. It also helps explain the visual symbols that are being used to tie the whole story together.

After many months of community conversation and late nights on the design on the “How We Fish” mural – we’ve completed the multi-level design review process and are happy to share the final design for this mural about work – what it means to individuals, neighborhoods and our city and region. Click the thumbnails throughout this post to see more!

You can read the last version of the creative brief to see where the design was in April. Additional review with a design panel, workforce development experts and local families (including kids!) added even more content and helped us move it to its final state.

Some additional highlights include:

This mural has always been called “How We Fish” as a reference to the proverb: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Thanks to the input of the mural sponsors Citizens Bank and the parents of kids at McCall Elementary and Childrens’ Village (the home building of the mural), we were encouraged to really make the most of that saying. It meant a lot to local residents of Chinatown who talked about the importance of helping our kids really learn to prepare for work and what it can do for their future. It’s said that the proverb was originally Chinese, but those same parents encouraged us to put it in many locations in the mural. You can spot that proverb in several places throughout the mural – in Chinese on the “awning” represented in the “Merchant Economy” area of the mural; in English along a representation of our two rivers and in the visuals of those rivers, fish and nets.


There are a few places in the mural where we highlight quotes we heard from the community – in neighborhoods across the city! We had those from an early stage, including the voices of youth who attended sessions at South Philly High.


As we finalized the design, we realized we were missing the perspective of very young children. We decided to dedicate a small, short extra extension of the wall to the kids at Childrens’ Village – so they could adopt that area and be part of the making of the mural, but also to show their perspectives on work both visually and through quotes.


You can read all of the quotes from the toddlers through school-aged children on our previous blog entry “A Kid’s Perspective.”

Thanks to the input of workforce development experts in the city, we expanded the visual representation of work to include more people in the medical and service fields. The small extension wall now depicts not only the children, but also public service workers like the police who use the parking lot right below the wall where the mural will be installed! We also included images that symbolize not only young people and their education, but the increasing need to be collaborative and innovative when it comes to finding or creating viable work for the future.

Our overall message “Work Unites Us” continued to ring true as we finalized this design. While there is a central image of one “worker” highlighted on the mural, the images of work through different economies and as shared between the interconnected fabric of society shows how much we must rely on each other to be successful at work and in our lives. As an artist team, we were brought together to collaborate in ways we never dreamed possible at the beginning of this project. As a team of partners devoted to exploring the foundations and the future of work, we learned that we will have to teach and learn from each other to move to the future. And as a compilation of community conversations, we were united to discuss a topic that is so important for our times as well as our own individual lives.

Now, the next phase of WORK begins! Stay tuned for updates on community Paint Days throughout the summer to join us to paint the mural and get it ready to be installed on the wall!

A Kid’s Perspective

The “How We Fish” artists team recently visited Childrens’ Village – the child care & activity center housed in the mural wall’s Archworks Building at 8th & Cherry Streets – to talk with parents and teachers about the project and it’s subject: WORK.

The wall itself has a small side area that we’ve designated as the “project area” for school-aged children in the program. They’ll be part of the Paint Days and installation throughout the summer as part of a collaboration with the center.

After robust conversation about their children’s future and the importance of work in their lives, we all concluded that it would be helpful to hear from the young people who attend Childrens’ Village themselves! As we have done in other parts of the mural, we will highlight a few quotes from the children that convey their feelings and ideas about work, what it means to them and what it means to their community.

Here are some words of wisdom from the kids!

” Work is like when you have to do something important.”
“You have to work really hard if you care about what you are doing.”
“Work means teamwork.”
“Work is projects in school.”
“You make money doing things.”
“You go everyday and make money.”
“Helping each other build something.”
“Making something.”
“Get money.”
“Get your kids stuff.”
“Help get money so they can get their medicine.”
“Workers who build buildings.”
“When mom and dad are busy.”
“Rappers, Shopping and Fruit Stores.”
“Working Out.”
“Wearing a hat.”
“Work is using a hammer.”
“You need a hammer!”
“Clean up”

“Making something right.”
“Work means you cook food for your friends at the restaurant.”
“Work is building houses and schools.”
“It means parents have jobs so they have money.”

Design Direction Preview!

Creative Brief Update:
Design Direction

Our artist team for “How We Fish” spends time updating the cornerstone Living Creative Brief to capture the ideas and spirit of community meetings and forums across the city.  The brief helps keep the story flowing  from neighborhood to neighborhood and connects to the visual ideas that have been in development for the last few months.

Here are some narrative highlights that they shared at a recent Design Direction Review. You can catch a glimpse of some of the visuals that go with this narrative throughout the story – and see how the mural is starting to come together!

The team will continue to refine the design with special attention being paid to the present and future state of work in our city, region and world. What do you think the future of work LOOKS like? Share your ideas at:

Narrative Highlights:

  • Based on our many community meetings and the physical nature of the viewable area of the wall, we wanted to highlight a central image to depict one person’s direct experience with work.
  • We also wanted to place that experience in the context of the larger social and communal need for work – to serve human needs and advance society.
  • It is important that the mural carries a unifying message and highlights common values and goals associated with work.
  • To capture the rich history of work in Philadelphia, but put it in a living context, we feature 4 “economies” in the design. We try to highlight their place in history as well as universal quality that make them relevant today:
    • Agricultural
    • Industrial
    • Merchant/Main Street
    • Knowledge-Based

  • Within each “economy,” we feature the following narrative and visual elements:
    • A large “value” word that we heard at community meetings (note: the design shows everything in English, but we plan to have some items in Spanish and in Chinese)
    • Quote from our community meetings that relates to that value
    • Mosaic glass design element







  • The central industry highlighted is the Philadelphia garment industry. There are several reasons for that:
  • The wall naturally has a “woven” feel to it. Philadelphia has historically produced textiles and sewn products since it’s founding. We saw an opportunity to connect the two.
  • We heard a lot about what works means to individuals, which we will capture in images, text and quotes. From a perspective of providing a hopeful and aspirational larger message, we want to show how interconnected people are through work – and how much we must rely on that to function as a pluralistic, diverse society. The symbol of fabric is a good fit for that part of our story. You’ll see it in the wall design as a printed piece of “working class” fabric (broadcloth denim) that tells an illustrated story of that interconnectivity.







  • Many participants in the Congresso session were retired garment workers and talked about a time when that industry was thriving in north Philadelphia.
  • We discovered that Children’s Village – the childcare center in the building that will house the mural – was created in 1976 for the children of the workers of the Amalgamated Men’s Clothing Union the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to care for the children of parents in their workforce development center and factory across the street.
  • Today, the garment industry is a bedrock industry for Chinese workers in the area – often serving as their first “stepping stone” job when they immigrate here and giving them a foundation on which to further their professional development in other areas.
  • The overall theme of the mural is that “Work Unites Us” – as people, as a society, we come together at work in ways that we don’t in our personal lives. From the highest common denominator of shared goals and social values to the task of getting practical work done, we want to acknowledge and celebrate this interconnected aspect of work.

We think it is important to present a snapshot of experience, but also represent the “higher quality” of what work does for us as individuals and society. We think that one of the most important messages we can get across is that work unites us in society and keep things running. We are interdependent on each other. Working together brings us in contact with all sorts of folks we might not otherwise know.  Work is a unifier and binds us together as a society. We also want to create a clear message that is aspirational for workers, employers, and educators alike – and we want it to be spelled out, literally to be seen from the highway and above the treeline. We think the phrase “Work Unites Us” captures that sentiment. We would like to treat that text in the way old signs were painted right onto buildings so it feels timeless and part of the wall.

When we acknowledge how much we rely on each other and honor everyone’s special contribution through work we take the first step. When we value quality of life as an equal if not more important partner to financial gain, we will truly be more sustainable and fulfilled. It’s an age-old perspective, but it is so important that we are talking about these issues now, during these times.

McCall School Hosts Mural Discussion in Chinatown

Thanks to principal Carol Domb and counselor Qi Tang, the How We Fish team got a chance to talk with parents and students from McCall Elementary about the mural project right in the Chinatown neighborhood – just blocks from the wall site!

It just so happens that artist team member Ennis Carter’s daughter also attends the local neighborhood public school that serves the “Washington West” part of Center City and includes Chinatown. Over 60% of the students there live in Chinatown, so this mural at 8th & Cherry Streets has special meaning to them.

Through the translation of Mr. Tang, our team talked with about 15 parents and students about the meaning of work and ideas for the mural. The universal theme of our children’s future was highlighted by parents and resonated with everyone. Despite the challenge of language barriers, the room was engaged and people were excited about helping to design and paint this large-scale art to celebrate work in their neighborhood.

To continue this outreach, there will be a full neighborhood meeting in Chinatown to discuss the mural even more:

Wednesday, April 18th
5:30 – 6:30pm
Chinese Christian Church & Center
Spring Street Campus: 225 North 10th Street

Forum Unites the Pros!

Over 70 people representing nearly 30 different providers of workforce development services in Philadelphia gathered last week for a forum organized by the Mural Arts Program and Citizens Bank.

From small working groups that discussed practical approaches to skills development to a group-wide exploration of the “future of work” in the 21st century, participants contributed feedback for How We Fish: A Mural About Work while making connections and learning from each others’ accomplishments.

Keynote speaker Dr. Laura Wolf-Powers, assistant professor in the graduate city and regional planning program at the University of Pennsylvania provided the context for the day and new ideas about workforce development. By connecting to the past and looking to the future, she addressed the many challenges and opportunities facing professionals in the field – some universal and some unique to our contemporary times.

Eric Okdeh and Alex Peltz from the artist team brought the projects’ “Swatch Words” activity to the group. Attendees shared their thoughts about the future and importance of work on painted fabric swatches, like many of the people who attended community meetings around the city. Assembled the same day into this commemorative poster, the words created a message put together like a mosaic: united!

If you’d like your own version of the poster, please contact the artists at:

Swatch WORK

Throughout the Discovery Phase, the Mural Team met with Philadelphians to discuss the meaning of “work.” They presented their thoughts, as words and images, on small pieces of cloth to replicate the mosaic style of “How We Fish.” We’re now into the Design Phase, and in keeping with the true collaborative spirit of this project, we are revisiting those swatches to guide our design sketches. 

What ideas, values, emotions, experiences stitch together our collective understanding of WORK? That…is the question.