Community ‘Art Making Days’ will brighten Chelten Avenue with a mural

One wall in Germantown is about to get a facelift. The west-facing side of 310 W. Chelten Ave. — currently a Christian book store — will be the site of a new mural courtesy of the building owner, local developer Stan Smith of Philly Office Retail in partnership with the Mural Arts Program.

During a planning meeting hosted by Germantown Community Connection on Monday night, artist Jonathan Laidacker met with a dozen community members to discuss his plans for the project.

Laidacker has created numerous murals across the city and recently celebrated the completion of the “How Philly Moves” mural attached to the parking garage at Philadelphia International Airport in October. The 85,000 square foot — and nearly a quarter-mile long — mural is the Mural Arts Program biggest yet and the second largest in the world. He described his mural style as “an environment to live in” by painting realistic figures to create a mural-within-a-mural feel.

It won’t just be Laidacker behind the paintbrush. The project will begin with volunteers from Germantown who bring ideas, drawings or photographs to community art-making days to give the artist an idea of where to start.

From there, Laidacker will sketch a design on parachute material and host community paint days where volunteers will fill in the “paint by number” grid to finish the mural over the winter. Then, the finished product will be glued to the wall where it shrink wraps itself to the building.

Some ideas during a summer meeting about the mural ranged from the project representing “diversity and unity” and a “gateway into Germantown,” also highlighting historical aspects of the neighborhood. The artist said broad ideas are more successful in the project, since they leave room for different interpretations.

The Mt. Airy Art Garage will host the community painting days at their West Mt. Airy Avenue studio.

“You don’t have to worry about getting paint on the floor,” said Arleen Olshan, co-founder and treasurer of the organization. She says a community mural has more impact than just an art exhibit that lives inside a museum. “We’re honored.”

James Jackson, president of Price-Knox Neighbors, stopped by for the question-and-answer portion of the presentation.

“To be honest, at first I thought, ‘Oh, another mural,'” he said. After learning more about the open process, he admitted he was impressed and his neighbors were excited to get started. “It’s refreshing.”

Ken Weinstein, local developer and co-founder of Philly Office Retail, said he wants to see a “critical mass” of murals in the neighborhood so the Mural Arts Program will start offering tours of the Northwest. He has a “Doo Wop” themed mural on the side of Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy.

Weinstein said that citizen “wall hunters” are welcome, and that any local building owner who wants to offer the facade of their property can get in touch with him.

The next community-wide meeting will be held at 5534 Pulaski Ave. at 7 p.m. next Monday to discuss more ideas and schedule community art-making days.

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