Mural Arts Program eyes Wissinoming for possible project

Unrest in peace: More than 100 grave markers were toppled at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Frankford and Cheltenham avenues in February. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Mural advocates hope to draw inspiration from the vandalism perpetrated at a local Jewish cemetery in February.

Will Wissinoming become the next public gallery for the city’s Mural Arts Program?

The answer to that question has yet to be determined, but Mural Arts is teaming with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia and the city’s Human Relations Commission to float the idea to neighbors.

During the monthly meeting of the Wissinoming Civic Association on March 28, the Rev. Nicole Diroff, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, said that mural advocates hope to draw inspiration from the vandalism perpetrated at a local Jewish cemetery in February.

“We hope to inspire something that lasts longer than a walk,” Diroff said, referencing a unity march led by the civic association on March 12.

About 45 people took part in the walk around Mount Carmel Cemetery and Wissinoming Park, including elected officials, religious leaders from various faiths and officials of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, according to WCA President John Barnes.

“In light of something bad happening, something good happened,” Barnes said.

The Interfaith and Mural Arts partnership envisions a mural installation — or multiple installations — along with a community programming initiative with multi-faith, cross-cultural exchanges and collaborations.

“I think unity and respect have already emerged as powerful themes,” Diroff said.

A smaller mural is already in planning for the community center in Wissinoming Park. In the coming weeks and months, organizers hope to survey community groups for potential sites and subjects of additional murals. Other themes could include business advocacy, diversity, religious themes and neighborhood symbols, such as grapes. According to one meeting attendee, the name Wissinoming derives from a native American term denoting grapes.

“It’s important for Mural Arts to be able to show that we’re getting your input,” Diroff said. “I think by the end of the summer, we’d like to know if this is moving forward.”

“We want to feel the temperature and make sure the community is involved in the process,” said Veronica Szymanski, a city Human Relations representative.

Project manager Nick Gibbon is coordinating the effort for Mural Arts.

The Wissinoming Civic Association has been engaged in other activities.

On April 8, the group hosted a successful cleanup on Torresdale Avenue in conjunction with the citywide cleanup day. Volunteers tidied the avenue between Harbison Avenue and Robbins Street before meeting at Joe’s Steaks for complimentary lunch.

Also, the civic association would like to launch a community garden. It would be a place where members could grow flowers and produce. A location has not been chosen, but support is available from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Barnes said.

Visit the Wissinoming Civic Association’s Facebook page for events and contact information. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.