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The art of Frankford

Artist Cesar Viveros will produce murals along Frankford Avenue. He completed this mural titled My Life My Path My Destiny, at Lehigh Avenue and Tulip Street, in 2005 and has produced more than 25 murals in Philadelphia in 14 years. JENNY SWIGODA / TIMES

Cesar Viveros knows how to embrace the heart of a community in his murals. Next spring, he’ll paint Frankford’s writing on the walls.

Sometime next spring, muralist Cesar Viveros will put Frankford’s story on the walls along the neighborhood’s business corridor.

But before Viveros paints one stroke or draws a single image, he’s going to do a lot of listening.

Viveros, who works for the city’s Mural Arts Program, will attend just about every community meeting in September to meet and talk to Frankford residents. He will create murals along or near Frankford Avenue, and he wants to hear stories about the neighborhood from the people who live there.

In the fall, said Mural Arts project manager Netanel Portier, community meetings will be conducted at which neighbors can tell those stories and, later, some private meetings with Viveros will be scheduled.

“We need to petition the neighborhood … and get everybody on board. Cesar wants to hear personal stories,” she said.

He wants to hear about memories, she said, but also about hopes and dreams. He’ll use those images to create “a cohesive series of public artworks.”

Some of these will be large and some smaller, she said. They’ll be situated on Frankford Avenue or just off the avenue. Some of the murals might be visible from the El, she said. Viveros said he has been riding the El to get an idea how murals might be seen from commuters’ perspectives.

The intention of all this work is to get the feel of Frankford in the artwork.

“We are taking a lot of time to do this research,” Viveros said. “The more people we approach, the more chances we have of getting more information.”

Portier said a lot of other effort will go into making Mural Arts’ plan into the durable and memorable images that will become part of Frankford Avenue’s streetscape.

Viveros can’t just pick any wall.

“We first need authorizations,” Portier said. “Then, we evaluate what state the walls are in so we can budget for prep work.”

Mural Arts is reaching out to building owners right now. Exactly how many murals will be created won’t be decided until it can be determined what walls will be used.

Community meetings will be in October, but no exact dates or locations have been set yet, Portier said. After those meetings and others that will be scheduled later, Viveros will begin designing the murals.

Since work is conceived as a series of murals, Portier expects designs will be complex. Viveros then will submit those designs to Mural Arts. Those will be reviewed during the winter.

“Then, he is ready to go,” Portier said.

A lot of work will be done in a studio, she said, and neighborhood people will be invited to participate.

“We’ll have paint days with the community,” she said.

“We paint murals on non-woven cloth that is then adhered to the walls,” she added. “We call it ‘parachute cloth.’ We’ve been using it for years. It is adhered to the wall with a gel medium … and the painter will paint over it again.”

The work is then coated to protect it from the elements.

Some painting will be done directly on walls, Portier said.

“It might be a mix of both,” she said.

Because so much of the painting can be done on cloth — and inside — the work can be done without regard to the weather.

But the weather will be a factor, determining when the artwork can be put on the walls.

“We’re looking for spring,” Portier said, “but it might be summer. It depends on the weather.”

Scheduling will be complicated because there will be a number of sites, she said.

Viveros, 42, is from Vera Cruz, Mexico. He has been with Mural Arts since 1997, so there are lots of examples of his work throughout the city.

One of the largest is at Aramingo and Lehigh avenues. He has others along Lehigh Avenue, on Broad Street and in South Philadelphia. One of his walls is on the 200 block of W. Girard Ave. That’s near his home, so he gets to see it all the time.

Viveros currently has a studio on the 2200 block of E. Lehigh Ave., but he expects to move it to Frankford when he begins his work on the neighborhood’s murals.

“We’re going to do it right there,” he said. “We’re going to be there.” ••

Contact John Loftus at 215–354–3110 or at jloftus@bsmphilly.com

On the wall . . .

Since 1984, the Mural Arts Program has created more than 3,500 murals and works of public art. Several are in Frankford. Walk through the neighborhood and murals can be found off Frankford Avenue. Some examples can be found on Hedge, Tackawanna, Unity and Griscom streets.

The Mural Arts Program engages more than 100 communities each year in the transformation of neighborhoods through the mural-making process, while award-winning, free art education programs serve children throughout the city.

The Mural Arts Program also serves adult offenders in local prisons and rehabilitation centers.

Each year, almost 10,000 residents and visitors tour the Mural Arts Program’s outdoor art gallery.

For more information, call 215–685–0750 or visit www.muralarts.org

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