SEPTA’S 5th Street/Independence Hall Station is getting a fantastical makeover.
Germantown artist Tom Judd has been selected to complete a permanent installation in the Old City station, a spokesperson for the transit agency confirmed Tuesday.
Judd’s proposal shows eclectic paintings designed to evoke the space and feeling of large windows in an old-timey railway.
“I wanted to take a fairly dingy place and create this new environment … where the train pulls into the station and you have the sense that you’ve sort of arrived somewhere important,” Judd, 67, said.
One panel parts curtains to show a painting of the Schuylkill River. Another shows a pair of sketched figures in colonial dress, one in breeches, a coat, and a tricorn hat, while the other wears a bonnet and hoop skirt.
Judd found inspiration for the pastiche in Philadelphia’s colonial history and especially the work of American Revolution-era painter and naturalist Charles Willson Peale, as curated by Karie Diethorne. “Everything from portraits to skeletons to pictures of birds — everything you could imagine was in one display. I loved it,” Judd said.
The 5th Street Station mural will ultimately measure seven feet tall and span around 400 feet of platform for a total of nearly 3,000 square feet.
It won’t be the artist’s first large-scale public art installation in the city, though it will be his biggest. One of Judd’s billboard paintings can be found on 11th Street, north of Vine Street, and another stands between Arch and Market just across the street from the Arden.
While SEPTA officials have selected Judd for the commission, final approvals for the project are still pending.
Judd’s selection comes two years after the city’s Art Commission approved plans to revamp the Market-Frankford Line stop. In addition to the public art component, the project includes modernizations of station infrastructure and renovations of entrances and exits for accessibility.
The artist’s work will join more than 20 other installations throughout the city as part of SEPTA’s Art in Transit program. The program, which dates back to 1988, incorporates permanent art elements into public transit renovation projects to foster community ownership and “create a more welcoming and dynamic” experience for riders.
Judd will start his project in January; he aims to complete it by next summer. And he’s excited, although he acknowledges that the task of filling 400 feet of station wall space can get overwhelming.
“There’s a lot to figure out to make it work,” he said. “I have a lot to do.”