Germantown mural explores the healing powers of faith

At first glance, the newly completed mural on the side of LaRose Jazz Club in Germantown is a sprawling expanse of colorful, interwoven designs. Upon closer examination, though, diverse religious symbols come into focus.

” We wanted this mural to represent the transformation people go through in recovering with mental health isues and how faith is the source of strength on the path to recovery.”said Dr. Arthur Evans, who heads the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities Services

On Tuesday, Evans joined city officials and for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the 5531 Germantown Ave., a section of the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood’s commercial corridor.

Artists with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, which parterned with DBHIDS on the project, were also among the event’s 30 attendees.

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” The wall has more than four layers of paint for both the background and the designs,” explained Joe Brenman, one in a trio of artists that combined forces to create “Healing Through Faith & Spirituality.”

Brenman, Henry Bermudez and Josh Smith enlisted the help of two part-time assistants and a handful of occassional volunteers to complete the 3,000 square-feet work of public art.

The idea for the mural was the result of countless meetings between the Mural Arts Program and DBHISD, which foucses on working with Philadelphians with mental illness or addiction issues. How best to represent the idea of recovery was the overarching question during the months-long discussion.

“This mural is so much more than just the three main religions. I’m really proud, it took a lot to go through this. I can see myself in it, ” said Omi Sade Ali, deputy commissioner for DBHIDS. Sade is a practicing Orisha priest, a religion based in West African traditions.

Among the different religious symbols on the mural are a mandala, a cross, a crescent and a moon, an ankh, a table of Ifa and an andrinka.

Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts Program, were also onhand for the ceremony.


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