A tribute to the Mummers

Mary Galla­gh­er-Stout has cre­ated 80 im­ages for her artist­ic trib­ute to the Mum­mers. JENNY SWI­GODA / TIMES PHOTO

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 mgal­stout@ve­r­i­zon.net 

The price is $24.95. 

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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