Take a tour of Manayunk to find some of its newest masterpieces.
By Megan Douress
Photos by TERRYLEAHYFILMS (terryleahyfilms.com)
In an effort to bring people together during the pandemic, the Manayunk Development Corporation founded the Art is Manayunk committee, which has overseen the installation of several new pieces of public art since the spring. Below are just a few of the latest, but there are more to come! What’s your favorite?
Rainbow Bridge by Sugar Cadavers (@sugarcadavers)
Shurs Lane and Cresson Street
Rainbows have long been a symbol of hope, luck, and solidarity. When Philadelphia was under a stay-at-home order, handmade paintings could be found inside the windows of homes and rainbow chalk art was a regular sighting on afternoon walks.
In honor of what would have been the 31st Annual Manayunk Arts Festival on June 27-28, 2020, local artist, Michelle Smith, also known as Sugar Cadavers, installed “Rainbow Bridge” at the intersection of Shurs Lane and Cresson Streets just as Philadelphia was entering the yellow phase.
“This mural is much more minimalist than my usual work!” said Michelle. “I love color blocking but tend to always end up adding lots and lots of detail to my pieces. I was so excited by the location for this piece and wanted to highlight the iconic shape of the stones composing the bridge,” she continued. “I thought this was a great chance to try something more bold and simple to really highlight the existing beautiful architecture of the bridge arch.”
“Rainbow Bridge” has been a favorite — and an Instagram hotspot! — among visitors and residents of Main Street since its installation in June.
“I designed this mural to be playful and colorful and to spark joy and hope in the people who pass by it,” said Michelle. “I want people to feel inspired to follow their dreams and their passions, even if it seems impossible. The world needs rainbow warriors, spreading love, compassion, and joy even in these times of revolution.”
Watermelon Manayunk by Glossblack LLC (@glossblack)
4328 Main Street
One Main Street project led to another for Jimmy, also known as Glossblack LLC. Back in July, Jimmy was commissioned to paint a mural on the interior walls of Pizza Jawn at 4330 Main Street when a boarded up blank canvas next door was calling his name. He quickly got in touch with the property owner and the rest is history.
“This mural was 100% my own idea — created for the space,” said Jimmy. “Much of my work is client-driven, so it was nice to create something that was fully mine. I also don’t typically do letters made of fruit, so this was also a first!”
“I wanted it to be very fun and bright and drive home the summertime vibe – with the strong intention to turn people’s heads as they are driving down Main Street,” he continued.
Jimmy also donated his lettering talents to “Manayunk at Dusk” at 4000 Main Street in 2017. Since painting “Watermelon Manayunk,” Jimmy was commissioned to create a mural on Taqueria Amor’s building, which can be seen from the Manayunk towpath.
“I hope people are pleasantly surprised when they encounter it,” Jimmy said of “Watermelon Manayunk.” “It’s definitely intended to give locals a sense of pride and provide a fun photo opportunity with friends. I also hope that it plants the seed — no pun intended — that we can do more with boring vacant spaces, even if it’s just there for a short time. I believe it’s important for communities to allow artists — local and non-local — to work in public spaces, mix things up, and help inspire others.”
Tulpenhanink nta by Paul Santoleri
2 Cotton Street (Cotton Street and the Manayunk Canal)
The Manayunk Towpath is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of walkers, bikers, and runners every year. When the city was shut down due to the pandemic, Manayunk saw a significant increase in foot traffic for those seeking some fresh air, and the Manayunk Development Corporation was inspired to add more art to the path for all to enjoy.
Local artist, Paul Santoleri, has done a number of pieces in the Manayunk area, most notably the mosaics on the Fountain Street steps and “Concrete Tree” on the northern end of the towpath, so it was only natural for him to pick up where he left off. Paul incorporated both paint and mosaics for the new installation on the Cotton Street Bridge, which he named “Tulpehanink nta,” meaning “turtle creek” in Lenape.
“I thought that it would be beautiful to embed glass into the rough texture of the bridge surface and to create reflective medallions on a painted background,” Paul explained of the design. “The three mosaic areas depict the local turtle, a catfish, and milkweed, which attracts monarchs. They all live here on the banks or in the canal. I also wanted to convey a sense of the movement of water – although it goes by slowly, the water is always moving.”
While anyone walking the length of the towpath can see the similarities of “Tulpenhanink nta” to Paul’s other work, Paul is often inspired by his surroundings with each piece he creates.
“I try to respond to the situation at hand, so my work often varies from piece to piece,” Paul said. “I believe there is a consistent thread that comes out of my hands. These are tiny mosaic pieces and I have not used that technique in many other public artworks.”
He hopes that Manayunk residents and guests enjoy the piece as much as he enjoyed creating it.
“I was especially happy to see the turtles stick their heads out right under me and watch while I was installing,” Paul said. “I hope there might be smiles in response to the artwork and that the people using the trail might slow down and notice the beauty of the area they are riding, walking, and jogging through.”