A Fox Chase native illustrates the essence of a Philly New Year’s tradition in a new book.
When Mary Gallagher-Stout was growing up in Fox Chase, her family watched the Mummers Parade — but only on TV.
“My father didn’t care for the parade,” she said in a phone interview earlier this month. “We weren’t allowed to go.”
So, as a Philly kid, she missed getting the sidewalk perspective of the city’s full-color annual Broad Street extravaganza.
She caught up later, and now a Philly ex-patriot living in suburban Virginia, the artist has captured the Mummers string bands in a book full of her pastel and charcoal drawings.
My Eye On the Philadelphia Mummers is a collection of 80 images, she said. Some catch a whole parade scene; some are close-ups. All are drawn on copies of the Philadelphia Daily News, and that unusual choice is visible in Gallagher-Stout’s art.
“Newspapers have been the connective tissue that has kept communities linked in and informed for ages,” she stated in an e-mail to the Northeast Times. “These works are a celebration of community and the newspapers that unite them.”
She has high praise for the Mummers, who carry on traditions of family members playing music together.
“They’re artists,” she said. “There’s so much art involved in what they do.
How did an artist who now lives about 40 minutes south of Washington, D.C., come to create a book of drawings of Philly string bands?
There are no Mummers in Gallagher-Stout’s immediate family. She wasn’t born in the Northeast, but she moved here with her family in the 1980s. She attended Fox Chase Elementary School, St. Hubert, Northeast High and Community College of Philadelphia. She’s married to a federal marshal and, because he was transferred out of the city, they wound up in Stafford, Va., a town near Fredericksburg. She’s a full-time artist. She’s also a mom with a teenage daughter and a 22-year-old son who is in the U.S. Navy.
Gallagher-Stout does a lot of mixed-media work, most of it acrylic, on large canvases, she said. She describes her work as expressive and colorful.
A few years ago, she started working on something different — a project capturing American cities and putting the drawings in books. Her first book in her Real Life Drawings series contained images from Washington, D.C.
She said she planned to do her second book on Philadelphia, and it occurred to her that Mummery would be great as the subject matter.
“Music is in my blood and is a big part of how I see our fair city,” she said. “When thinking about how to introduce Philly to the rest of the world, the Mummers Parade immediately came to mind. Who better to usher in all the sites and sounds that make Philadelphia the City of Brotherly Love?”
Although no members of her immediate family are Mummers, some cousins are involved in the Woodland String Band; the connections she made through them led to the Mummers Association, getting photos of the 2011 parade and visiting the string bands’ annual performance, The Show of Shows.
“I got permission from Tom Loomis, of the Woodland String Band, to sit in on a practice and create a few images,” she wrote to the newspaper. “Long story short, the artwork was greeted with tremendous response. Mr. Loomis said, ‘I smell a fund-raiser,’ so here we are.”
Any money raised from the book’s sale is donated to the Mummers, she said.
Gallagher-Stout said she tries to capture time in her work.
“I didn’t just want to do costumed guys,” she said.
She wanted to do something a little different.
“I wanted to capture the artistry,” she said. “I was looking at dance moves, gestures … what it feels like.”
She wanted to draw the moments of the parade.
“I think the artist’s job is to put a pin in time and say what’s happening,” she said.
“I’ve created original art works on the Philadelphia Daily News, which is primed with gesso and spattered with the primary colors. Additionally, I painted neon stars to convey the music that accompanies the glittery costumes and carefully choreographed performances. Armed with charcoal and pastel I’ve painted four to five images of each band. Images vary from band to band as the cast of characters dictates. The marching tempo of the parade is echoed in the artwork. The viewer will find fluid and few quick strokes of bold colors to describe movement. Pauses are created with tight lines and concentrated perspectives.”
The book is available at Amazon.com or by directly contacting the artist. She is selling her original artwork, too.
Gallagher-Stout is not stopping her series with Philly. She said her ambition is to “visit each major city in the United States and render that imagery onto each city’s newspaper.” ••
Mummers in print…
My Eye On the Philadelphia Mummers is available on Amazon.com or directly from artist Mary Gallagher-Stout by e-mailing email@example.com
The price is $24.95.