Earth Day mural breathes new life into West Philly Environmental Education Center

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PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) – “Personally, I have always been inspired by the life and art of plants and animals,” said Eurhi Jones. “So when I get the chance to take a not-so-exciting corner of town and green it up, it’s exciting.”

Jones knew she wanted to be an artist at a young age. And thanks to Mural Arts Philadelphia, she has the chance to do it for a living.

“I believe the arts have a special place because unless we can envision a better future, it’s hard to know where to go,” she said.

Jones found his next passion project when Philadelphia was selected by National Geographic as one of four cities to create nature-inspired artwork in urban spaces. Thus, the idea of ​​”Overbrook Natureworks” was born in partnership with National Geographic, 6abc WPVI-TV and Mural Arts Philadelphia.

The location was reduced to the Overbrook Environmental Education Center in West Philadelphia. The former quarry filled with abandoned vehicles was transformed by Jerome Shabazz, founder and executive director of JASTECH Development Services, Inc. An EPA grant was the catalyst for change.

“We were able to clean up our site and add retention ponds to collect our stormwater,” Shabazz said. “And we have orchards on site, we grow plants and we’re now doing all kinds of wonderful green landscaping on our site.”

But one particular wall facing the road was far from green.

Eurhi Jones was able to draw on a selection of photographs from the National Geographic archives to design a colorful piece of art to replace the cold, bland wall.

“We chose the theme of forests thinking of native plants, native trees,” she said. “The center asked us to install bees and ants as well. They are hardworking creatures that work in community to make the world a better place.”

The mural was completed in 10 days of painting in all sorts of spring conditions. Luckily, the weather was glorious on Earth Day when the big reveal happened.

People of all ages enjoyed the artwork which draws attention to a larger cause.

“On one side you have what’s on the surface. And then you see the artists who worked there. And you see this wonderful organization that’s here,” said Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia. “And then you start reading about all the work they do, and suddenly a whole new world opens up.”

Golden hopes this piece, now one of more than 4,200 in Philadelphia, will start a conversation and bring change around the environment.

“Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it makes us want to be a better person,” she said. “All of these things happen from a work of art.”

To learn more about Philadelphia wall artsthe Overbrook Environmental Education Centeror National geographicvisit their websites.

Dan Buchmann and Amanda Brady of Action News contributed to this report.

MORE MURALS UNVEILED

The West Philadelphia mural was one of many unveiled on Friday! Here is an overview of the others:

Chicago: New public art project celebrates Earth Day by bringing natural beauty to urban space

San Francisco: New SF Mural Unveiled as Part of ‘Nat Geo Planet Possible’ Highlighting Nature’s Restorative Power

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