WHAT TO DO ON VALENTINE’S DAY IN PHILADELPHIA Or any Saturday Celebrate The Mural Arts Love Letters

Last week I finally checked out the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program will highlight the renowned Love Letter project, by artist Stephen Powers with my love Mike. It was a cold, cold day, but the story of the Love Letter project warmed our hearts as it will yours too. Before Virigina was for Lovers, February was for lovers and this year the Mural Arts project is taking back the moniker for Philadelphia with a special series of events as Love will be in the air, in the form of public art, for Valentine’s Day Weekend 2010 in Philadelphia. An exhibit, public tour, and special Love Train event will take place February 12-14, 2010.

A collaboration with internationally-renowned artist Stephen Powers, Love Letter is a series of over 50 rooftop murals and street-level signs in and around the Market Street corridor in West Philadelphia, spanning from 46th Street through 63rd Street – created during the summer of 2009. The complete work of art and corresponding film, collectively titled Love Letter, are unlike anything Philadelphia has ever seen from its public art in terms of size, scope, ambition, and universal appeal. The murals are artistically-designed text, mostly seen from the elevated train along the upper levels of row homes and businesses along Market Street in West Philadelphia. They read like love notes from a boy to his unrequited love, in non-sequential messages, like analog versions of modern-day text messages.

Events will begin on Friday, February 12, 2010, with the Exhibit Opening of Love Letter. An exhibition of sketches, found objects associated with the project, and some personal work by artist Stephen Powers will be on display through February 28 at 1226 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. The Opening Reception will take place on February 12 from 5:30 – 8:30 pm and is free and open to the public.
On Saturday, February 13, 2010, tickets are available for the Love Letter Public Tour, the weekly scheduled public tour of Love Letter at 10 am. The tours depart from the LOVE Park LOVE sculpture in JFK Park, 1600 Arch Street, for a ride on the El train accompanied by a Mural Arts Program tour guide. Tour passengers will learn intimate details about the project and specific murals along the way. Space is limited, and reservations are required. The cost is $17 per person, which includes the SEPTA train token. Reservations are required by calling 215-685-0754 as space is limited. The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is now offering these tours of Love Letter every Saturday from 10 – 11:30 am.

The Love Train will be the culminating event of the weekend, on Sunday, February 14, Valentine’s Day. Love Train is an exclusive 5 m.p.h. tour aboard a privately-chartered, festively-decorated, SEPTA El Train to view Love Letter, with commentary provided by a special guest. The tour will be followed by a private reception at SEPTA’s grand mezzanine to celebrate the spirit of love with hors d’oeuvres and champagne. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is sure to impress. Love Train departs at 3 pm from the LOVE Park LOVE sculpture in JFK Park, 1600 Arch Street on February 14. Tickets are $40 per person, $75 per couple. Space is limited and reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased at 215-685-0754.
The Love Train event is a partnership between SEPTA and the Mural Arts Program. In conjunction with the event, SEPTA is running a love promotion. Did You Find Love on SEPTA? SEPTA is running a contest where riders can submit their SEPTA love stories about how they found new loves or re-connected with lost loves while riding on a train, bus, or trolley. Submissions of love stories can be made to between January 18 and February 1, 2010. Winning submissions will be invited to ride the Love Train and attend the VIP reception on February 14.
The primary creative force behind the project, Stephen Powers, was born and raised in Philadelphia and spent several years as a youth painting graffiti on these rooftops. In 1989, Powers started publishing On The Go Magazine, which eventually grew large enough to necessitate a move to New York City in 1994. After several years of steady growth and mounting debt, Powers and his partners folded the magazine rather than sell it out. He went on to write the book The Art of Getting Over, and started learning to paint signs. Powers opened his studio practice in January of 1998. Since then, he has shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Deitch Projects, the 49th Venice Biennale, and the Luggage Store in San Francisco. In 2003, he founded the Dreamland Artist Club and partnered with Creative Time to commission over 45 artists to paint signs and rides at Coney Island. In 2008, he returned to Coney Island with Creative Time and opened the Waterboard Thrill Ride. As a 2008 Fulbright Scholar, Powers painted a love story in the streets of Dublin and Belfast.
For this project, Powers returns to paint Love Letter across the very same rooftops under which he came of age in Philadelphia. The driving concept behind the project and film is the story of a boy writing on walls to win the heart of a girl who rides the el train through West Philadelphia each day. He leaves her a “love letter” along the roofs of the buildings that are visible from the train, in hopes that she will see them, and they can be together. The work functions both as a love story between two young adults and a beautiful proclamation of an artist’s love for his city, his neighborhood, and the trains that are a part of its core. In Powers’s own words, the project is a “love letter meant for one but with meaning for all.” The film will be directed by Joey Garfield, a long time Stephen Powers collaborator, and will be produced by New York City-based production company Ghost Robot.
As part of the project, the artist and the Mural Arts Program created a sign-painting enterprise as a jobs training program for young people in the neighborhood, while providing businesses with much-needed signage. In addition, the project employed community residents to paint signs and murals throughout the summer.
Mike and I really enjoyed Love Letter’s and you will too. Each piece reminded me of one of those ’60s fun message postcards, great messages. Even though it was 10F out it still drew a crowd of 8 people, which is idea.The Love Letter project is funded by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative (PEI), a program of The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Project partners are the Brownstein Group and SEPTA.