Express News Service

There’s more to Philadelphia than the famous Philly cheesesteak. Pennsylvania’s most populous city is the cradle of art. Its public murals—the city is recognised as the Mural Capital of the World—make it nothing short of an open-air art museum. “With close to 4,500 murals and sculptures, art is all around you,” says Robin Bloom of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. One of the most famous murals is the one of writer Edgar Allan Poe by the artist Peter Pagast.

The oval painting has been done on a house across the street from the historic Poe House, to honour the literary giant who was once a resident of the neighbourhood. There are also pieces by accomplished artists like Robert Indiana of the iconic Love sculpture fame. A similar Amor sculpture created again by Indiana, to mark Pope Francis’s historic visit in 2015, is installed at the Sister Cities Park close by.

The Swann Memorial Fountain in the middle of Logan Square next to Love Park is a notable sculpture by Alexander Stirling Calder. His father, Alexander Milne Calder, created the sculptures on the iconic City Hall right across which is also the world’s largest free-standing masonry building. The parkway ends with the jewel in the crown, the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, an ode to a collection of Asian, European and American art.

Philly by segway

The first striking piece one notices on entering is the statue of Diana by celebrated American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Just past the 90-year-old copper-gilded idol are colossal, wall-to-floor, elaborate mural-inspired tapestries from the 16th century. As one navigates everything from van Gogh and Picasso to Du Champ, Japanese teahouses and Indian temple art, the journey of falling through the looking glass of art begins.

Right outside, the flight of steps that lead down to the main road, are also the ones that ‘Rocky’ ran up. 
A bronze statue of Sylvester Stallone in his immortal boxing avatar stands adjacent to them. Further up, rooted in solitude along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece, The Thinker, which sits curled up outside the Rodin Museum. 

A five-minute walk away is the Barnes Foundation which welcomes you with a tranquil, Japanese garden-inspired landscape and gives you a sneak peek into what was once the world’s largest private art collection. Another powerful public sculpture is Freedom, on Vine Street. Created in the year 2000 by long-time resident artist Zenos Frudakis, the bronze installation has often been equated with the Statue of Liberty and Michelangelo’s David.

“One of the things that makes the art and culture scene in Philadelphia so wonderful is the variety,” says Irene Baker, author of 100 Things to Do in Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Walk down the Midtown Village neighbourhood to view the street art in Gaybourhood, Philly’s iconic queer community area that is hands-down the merriest part of the city, or see the 3,000 sqft Sanctuary City, Sanctuary Neighbourhood mural that acknowledges immigrants. These highlight the city’s reverence for inclusivity. 

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