The art of Frankford

Artist Cesar Viver­os will pro­duce mur­als along Frank­ford Av­en­ue. He com­pleted this mur­al titled My Life My Path My Des­tiny, at Le­high Av­en­ue and Tulip Street, in 2005 and has pro­duced more than 25 mur­als in Phil­adelphia in 14 years. JENNY SWI­GODA / TIMES

Cesar Viver­os knows how to em­brace the heart of a com­munity in his mur­als. Next spring, he’ll paint Frank­ford’s writ­ing on the walls.

Some­time next spring, mur­al­ist Cesar Viver­os will put Frank­ford’s story on the walls along the neigh­bor­hood’s busi­ness cor­ridor.

But be­fore Viver­os paints one stroke or draws a single im­age, he’s go­ing to do a lot of listen­ing.

Viver­os, who works for the city’s Mur­al Arts Pro­gram, will at­tend just about every com­munity meet­ing in Septem­ber to meet and talk to Frank­ford res­id­ents. He will cre­ate mur­als along or near Frank­ford Av­en­ue, and he wants to hear stor­ies about the neigh­bor­hood from the people who live there.

In the fall, said Mur­al Arts pro­ject man­ager Ne­tanel Por­ti­er, com­munity meet­ings will be con­duc­ted at which neigh­bors can tell those stor­ies and, later, some private meet­ings with Viver­os will be sched­uled.

“We need to pe­ti­tion the neigh­bor­hood … and get every­body on board. Cesar wants to hear per­son­al stor­ies,” she said.

He wants to hear about memor­ies, she said, but also about hopes and dreams. He’ll use those im­ages to cre­ate “a co­hes­ive series of pub­lic art­works.”

Some of these will be large and some smal­ler, she said. They’ll be situ­ated on Frank­ford Av­en­ue or just off the av­en­ue. Some of the mur­als might be vis­ible from the El, she said. Viver­os said he has been rid­ing the El to get an idea how mur­als might be seen from com­muters’ per­spect­ives.

The in­ten­tion of all this work is to get the feel of Frank­ford in the art­work.

“We are tak­ing a lot of time to do this re­search,” Viver­os said. “The more people we ap­proach, the more chances we have of get­ting more in­form­a­tion.”

Por­ti­er said a lot of oth­er ef­fort will go in­to mak­ing Mur­al Arts’ plan in­to the dur­able and mem­or­able im­ages that will be­come part of Frank­ford Av­en­ue’s streets­cape.

Viver­os can’t just pick any wall.

“We first need au­thor­iz­a­tions,” Por­ti­er said. “Then, we eval­u­ate what state the walls are in so we can budget for prep work.”

Mur­al Arts is reach­ing out to build­ing own­ers right now. Ex­actly how many mur­als will be cre­ated won’t be de­cided un­til it can be de­term­ined what walls will be used.

Com­munity meet­ings will be in Oc­to­ber, but no ex­act dates or loc­a­tions have been set yet, Por­ti­er said. After those meet­ings and oth­ers that will be sched­uled later, Viver­os will be­gin design­ing the mur­als.

Since work is con­ceived as a series of mur­als, Por­ti­er ex­pects designs will be com­plex. Viver­os then will sub­mit those designs to Mur­al Arts. Those will be re­viewed dur­ing the winter.

“Then, he is ready to go,” Por­ti­er said.

A lot of work will be done in a stu­dio, she said, and neigh­bor­hood people will be in­vited to par­ti­cip­ate.

“We’ll have paint days with the com­munity,” she said.

“We paint mur­als on non-woven cloth that is then ad­hered to the walls,” she ad­ded. “We call it ‘para­chute cloth.’ We’ve been us­ing it for years. It is ad­hered to the wall with a gel me­di­um … and the paint­er will paint over it again.”

The work is then coated to pro­tect it from the ele­ments.

Some paint­ing will be done dir­ectly on walls, Por­ti­er said.

“It might be a mix of both,” she said.

Be­cause so much of the paint­ing can be done on cloth — and in­side — the work can be done without re­gard to the weath­er.

But the weath­er will be a factor, de­term­in­ing when the art­work can be put on the walls.

“We’re look­ing for spring,” Por­ti­er said, “but it might be sum­mer. It de­pends on the weath­er.”

Schedul­ing will be com­plic­ated be­cause there will be a num­ber of sites, she said.

Viver­os, 42, is from Vera Cruz, Mex­ico. He has been with Mur­al Arts since 1997, so there are lots of ex­amples of his work throughout the city.

One of the largest is at Ara­mingo and Le­high av­en­ues. He has oth­ers along Le­high Av­en­ue, on Broad Street and in South Phil­adelphia. One of his walls is on the 200 block of W. Gir­ard Ave. That’s near his home, so he gets to see it all the time.

Viver­os cur­rently has a stu­dio on the 2200 block of E. Le­high Ave., but he ex­pects to move it to Frank­ford when he be­gins his work on the neigh­bor­hood’s mur­als.

“We’re go­ing to do it right there,” he said. “We’re go­ing to be there.” ••

Con­tact John Loftus at 215-354-3110 or at

On the wall …

Since 1984, the Mur­al Arts Pro­gram has cre­ated more than 3,500 mur­als and works of pub­lic art. Sev­er­al are in Frank­ford. Walk through the neigh­bor­hood and mur­als can be found off Frank­ford Av­en­ue. Some ex­amples can be found on Hedge, Tack­awanna, Unity and Griscom streets.

The Mur­al Arts Pro­gram en­gages more than 100 com­munit­ies each year in the trans­form­a­tion of neigh­bor­hoods through the mur­al-mak­ing pro­cess, while award-win­ning, free art edu­ca­tion pro­grams serve chil­dren throughout the city.

The Mur­al Arts Pro­gram also serves adult of­fend­ers in loc­al pris­ons and re­hab­il­it­a­tion cen­ters.

Each year, al­most 10,000 res­id­ents and vis­it­ors tour the Mur­al Arts Pro­gram’s out­door art gal­lery.

For more in­form­a­tion, call 215-685-0750 or vis­it www.mur­

You can reach at

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