Community begins to brainstorm for upcoming mural at the Wissahickon station

 Lead artist David Guinn presents to the group. (Queen Muse/for NewsWorks)

Lead artist David Guinn presents to the group. (Queen Muse/for NewsWorks)

Members of the Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association held the first of several community planning meetings to discuss the installation of a new mural at SEPTA’s Wissahickon Regional Rail station. 

Three members of the community group — Sarah Sequin, Janis Chakars and Jose Ramos — submitted an application for the proposed mural to the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program in November and received approval for the project in January.

The Mural Arts Program has since selected architect and muralist David Guinn as the lead artist for the project. Guinn, who has painted more than 30 murals throughout Philadelphia and other cities in North America including New York City, Washington, DC and Montréal, presented examples of his work and shared his vision for the mural with some 25 residents who attended last week’s meeting at Northern Children’s Services.

“My vision when I saw the wall was something bright with strong colors, some organic shapes, and big brush strokes indicating cascading waterfalls from the Wissahickon Creek and then more rigid, geometric shapes designed around the architecture of the neighborhood,” Guinn said.

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“I think with those things overlaying one another, we will get something that’s really exciting and really beautiful and unique.”

The mural will fill 2,200 square feet of a retaining wall running along the outbound platform of the Wissahickon Regional Rail station.

Residents in attendance shared their ideas for the mural with Guinn. Several people mentioned wanting the mural to represent the history of the Wissahickon train station, while also showing the neighborhood’s progression into more modern times.

“There’s lots of ways we can imply a lot of these things without getting stuck in one era or the other,” Guinn added, reassuring residents that their ideas would be incorporated into the final design.

Mural Arts Program Director of Community Murals, Cathy Harris, said the next step for the project is for Guinn to incorporate the feedback he heard from attendees at the meeting, and come up with a design to present to the community. Harris expects the design phase — which would include multiple iterations of the design and additional meetings with the community — to conclude on June 30.

Actual painting of the mural would begin in July with the help of some students from the Cook-Wissahickon School. Ramos, a literacy instructor for the seventh and eighth grade at Cook-Wissahickon School, said he sent notifications to the parents of his most artistically-inclined students, requesting permission for their children to participate in the mural installation over the summer. Ramos expects that roughly 10 to 15 students will participate.

WICA member Sara Sequin said residents are excited about the impending mural and about Guinn being selected muralist.

“We sense that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the project,” Sequin said. “I think he’s going to do a great job. He’s really a great artist who is a really great fit for what the neighborhood is going for.

Chakars thought the meeting was a success and agreed that Guinn was a good fit for the project.

“I thought it was a very civil and smooth discussion with good suggestions from everyone, and I feel like everybody’s kind of on the same general page,” he said. “I think the artist is going to be able to go back and come up with something good. I felt really lucky to get David Guinn. He’s the best person for this project.”

James Dougherty, a 20-year resident of Wissahickon, said he’s excited about the project as well.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea. I think it will be good for the community and I can’t wait to see it all come to pass and hopefully look at it and say ‘wow, this is something our neighborhood was able to accomplish,'” Dougherty said.

When completed, the Wissahickon station mural will join the more than 3,800 indoor and outdoor murals installed by the Mural Arts Program throughout Philadelphia.

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