Mural Arts Program sets up shop in Gallery

The Mural Arts Program has just opened a retail store in Center City.

Over the last 25 years, the public art organization has created more than 3,000 murals in Philadelphia. An experiment at The Gallery at Market East will turn that legacy into currency.

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has always sold T-shirts, mugs, calendars, and coffee-table books online. It now rents a third-floor brick-and-mortar store and artist studio, at a reduced rate.

“Third-floor retail is always hard–no matter where it is,” said Ed Glickman, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), the owner of the mall. “There are so many arts programs in Philadelphia looking for space, we’re looking for people. The space is sitting empty. Our long-term plans in the next financial cycle call for renovation, but in the interim why not use it for the community?”

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Poised between the Pennsylvania Convention Center and historic Independence Hall, the Gallery mall wants to tap into tourism traffic. With the Mural Arts Program as a tenant, tourists will come to the Gallery to buy tickets for guided tours of the city’s 3,000-plus murals, and volunteer to help paint new murals on giant swatches of cloth in the artist studio.

“We envisioned a program in between a tour and a visit to the studio, where a family could spend a day in Philadelphia around mural arts,” said Glickman. “And, hopefully, have some lunch in the Gallery while they were here. Maybe buying a few things wouldn’t hurt, either.”

“Art can enliven public space,” said Jane Golden, Mural Arts Program director. “We’re so interested in that nexus between public art, economic, and community development.”

This is not the first time the Gallery has given retail space to artists cheaply, or for free. Earlier this year the same space was used for a month by local dance ensembles, and the University of the Arts installed a graduate exhibition there last May. The new lease with Mural Arts will keep them around semi-permanently.

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