Wallpaper Stories at EPCC

A new mural at the East Passyunk Community Center reflects neighborhood stories—past, present, and future.

This summer, a new mural will be installed by Mural Arts Philadelphia on the wall facing the yard of the East Passyunk Community Recreation Center  (EPCC) at 1023 Mifflin Street. The image, created by wife and husband artist duo Kim Hall and Justin Hardison, incorporates community input in a design that functions as “wallpaper on the outside of a building.” The design will allow South Philly resident to find something familiar and meaningful, though the meanings of the images may be different and unique to each passerby.

Hall and Hardison, who frequently collaborate on different projects, walked different (artistic) paths before meeting in Denver and then traveling to and working in metropolises such as New York City and London. About ten years ago they made the move to Bella Vista where they found space for art and artists that is not driven by corporate need. Here, among other things, they run a pattern studio that makes wallpaper, fabric, and handmade objects for homes.

The city, well known for its mural arts scene, has become a home and a place where they feel a sense of belonging. A sense of community is important for Kim and Justin and they have found that here among other artist, muralists, and their South Philly neighbors. Community also plays an important role in both the designing process and final design of the mural that will face 1023 Mifflin Street.

The couple finds a lot of satisfaction in community projects and collaborating with others (and each other, even though they do also have individual projects) and that shows. Since their youngest family members go to the EPCC, they started the mural project knowing the community and what makes it special and unique.

Design for the new East Passyunk Community Center mural by Kim Hall and Justin Hardison.

A concept design for the mural existed prior to the two (virtual) public meetings where the artists shared the ideas behind the mural and heard from community members about the images that they would like to see portrayed. Hall and Hardison believe one should come to the community with curiosity and find it important to listen to individual stories. Even though they, as artists, created the mural, through it they are telling other people’s stories.

With that as their starting point, they took all of the input from the meetings to heart. The final result evolved significantly from the initial concept. Although initially each of us may just see a set of images, over time we may make connections that will change how we look at and think about the mural. On the one hand the mural tells us a story—images related to the history and present of our neighborhood are well represented —and on the other hand it will serve a backdrop for new stories to tell.