Scaffolding has been erected, primer has been applied and residents await the arrival of Chestnut Hill’s first mural. But for Bredenbeck’s Bakery owner Karen Boyd Rhode, it’s been a long time coming.
“I pinch myself to make sure it was really happening,” she said. “I’m quite excited about how much it’s been received in such a positive light by the neighborhood, the community and the businesses.”
Boyd Rhode said she dreamt of a mural being slathered on the side of her building about 10 years ago, when the Chestnut Hill Business Association handed out a survey on better lighting in the neighborhood.
“They started talking about some of the results and one of the things they brought up was a mural on the side of my building,” she said. “That idea just stuck.”
Although Boyd Rhode didn’t necessarily pursue the idea, she kept it in the back of her mind.
That all changed when the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program came to her asking about her wall about four years ago.
“I said yes, it was always a dream of mine for my wall,” she said.
Boyd Rhode then gathered 3,000 signatures to voice approval for the space being used as a mural.
Next, a committee was formed to hammer out the details of the mural. Boyd Rhode said she was very meticulous in her choices for the details for the mural—one being that it depict the Wissahickon and instead of other proposed paintings of an extension of the bakery or people.
“[Executive director] Jane Golden said she never saw a committee take so long, and that was nine months,” she said. “It was one of the most exciting committees of my whole life I’ve been on.”
In conjunction with the Mural Arts Program, Bredenbeck’s raised $35,000 to make the mural happen.
But the marathon isn’t over yet. Boyd Rhode said the mural will take about four months to be complete—weather permitting.
And she plans to document the whole process each day by standing in the same spot and snapping a photo.
“For my grandchildren some day to look at,” she said.
During those four months, the Mural Arts Program plans to involve the community.
So far, the mural’s lead artist Ann Northrup has toured Jenks School and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy to teach children a thing or two about art.
Boyd Rhode said she visited Jenks School while Northrup was teaching children to use just the primary colors—red, blue and yellow—to make other colors.
“I think is so awesome is that Ann is going between Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Jenks School,” she said, adding that Chestnut Hill Hospital is sponsoring for her to do so. “We’re bringing in all people on all levels of this community and it’s a great, great feeling.”
In addition to meeting with local children, Golden said there will be a summer community day—which has yet to be determined—and in the fall there will be a northwest Philadelphia mural tour.
“We are creating a northwest tour that will bring people up to Chestnut Hill and then to lunch at local restaurants,” she said. “So we see this as part of a larger economic development strategy.”
But Golden said she wants the mural to be about more than just economic development.
“I think that having a beautiful work of public art by an accomplished artist like Ann Northrup will add beauty and vitality to the corridor,” she said. “It will also be a point of attention and pride.”
Though it’s taken about a decade to make her dream of the mural a reality, Boyd Rhode said the journey was well worth it.
“This has been a very long process,” she said. “But when you’re doing something that is going to be on a wall for hopefully 25 years or longer it has to be.”