What is the Legacy of This We Believe?

This We Believe did not become the lasting citywide public installation that organizers initially envisioned, but the project continues to resonate. Most notably, lessons learned from This We Believe led Mural Arts to embark on more projects that were larger in scale and deeply collaborative.

This We Believe: Living in the Presence of History. Eric Okdeh, Michelle Angela Ortiz, Kien Nguyen (2008-2009). This We Believe was created in celebration of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s 25th anniversary and was painted by over 500 Philadelphians. 29’x105’. (Assistants: Briana Dawkins, Michael Gamble, Andrea Pitt.)

Michelle Angela Ortiz, artist

As a muralist this is something that I’ve always done.

Before and after This We Believe, Ortiz worked closely with the people whose stories she reflects in her art. In 2017 she began a series of work based on her conversations with immigrant mothers who were detained at the Berks Detention Center.

Karen. Michelle Angela Ortiz (2018). Familias Separadas: Harrisburg. Installation on Capitol Steps. Photo: Colibri Workshop.

Eric Okdeh, artist

Our process is something that I keep today.

Listen to Okdeh’s TEDx talk, where he reiterates: “The seat of my engagement lies in conversations, in interviews, and then artmaking exercises.”

“Art By All.” Eric Okdeh (December 2017). TEDx Wilmington (15:05).

Phillip Adams, artist

Out of everything, the conversations were incredible and deeply meaningful.

For Our City, Our Vets (2012), Adams and Willis Humphrey worked closely with Warrior Writers to create a mural that reflected the deeply personal experiences and perspectives of veterans in Philadelphia.

Our City, Our Vets (western wall). Phillip Adams and Willis Humphrey (2012). Philadelphia, Mural Arts Program. Photo: Steve Weinik.

Jane Golden, Founder and Executive Director, Mural Arts Philadelphia

This is by far the most democratic mural we have ever done.

Jane Golden, This We Believe dedication address, 2009

Second Citywide Mural Project

In 2012 a second Citywide Mural Project examined the nature of work. Like This We Believe, it was developed through a series of community forums facilitated in partnership with the Penn Project for Civic Engagement.

How We Fish. Social Impact Studios and Eric Okdeh (2012). Philadelphia, Mural Arts Program. Photo: Steve Weinik.

Image of La Frontera Block Party

Open Source

In 2015 Mural Arts launched Open Source, a citywide public art exhibition billed at the time as the largest in Philadelphia’s history. Fifteen artists from within and beyond the region created installations that reflected a range of local stories. Some artists collaborated with stakeholders to make the works. Others invited audiences to complete the pieces by interacting with them on site. Together, they explored topics including recycling, immigration, mass incarceration and restorative justice, behavioral health, arts education, and neighborhood change.

La Frontera. Ernel Martinez and Keir Johnston (2015). 2200 North 8th St. Photo: Steve Weinik.

Monument Lab

In 2017 Mural Arts produced Monument Lab, a citywide public art and history exhibition that asked, “what is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?” Prototype monuments designed by local and international artists and a series of public programs involved more than 250,000 people in face-to-face conversations about Philadelphia’s monumental landscape.

The Battle is Joined. Karyn Olivier (2017). Photo: Mike Reali.