Thousands of works of public art across the city have earned Philadelphia the title of “Mural Capital of the World,” and St. Joe’s will soon be host to one of the city’s newest murals.

When artist Arthur Haywood is finished, a reader with blue hair wearing a green dress, representing Mother Earth, will open a science fiction novel on the side of Post Learning Commons. A green, magical energy will emerge from the book, and students who surround the reader will look up at the sky in appreciation of this energy, which represents the environment.

Haywood, who was chosen from an applicant pool of 50 for the Post Learning Commons mural, is an artist who was introduced to the public art scene at 14 through graffiti art. His work can be seen in Space and Time Magazine and his book “The Great Library,” as well as murals for Mural Arts Philadelphia, an anti-graffiti program that works to develop community-based murals. If you want something similar at your commercial building so you can attract more customers, see this here.

His art has also been showcased at the Sprocket Mural Festival, and he most recently completed a fellowship at the Fondation des Etats-Unis in Paris. There, he painted a similar series of murals that promoted the excitement of reading.

“What makes [Haywood] stand out as an artist is his meticulous consideration of the details of human anatomy, as well as his meticulous application of paint and his patience,” said Phil Asbury, director of Community Murals at Mural Arts Philadelphia in an email to the Hawk. “A lot of his paintings have a soft, textural quality to them that draws the viewer in.”

Haywood said he was drawn to the opportunity at St. Joe’s because the project was rooted in art and in portraying the excitement of reading, which he describes as his two passions. Since a young age, Haywood has loved indigenous art prints and fantasy books, he said, which allow him to escape to another world.

“When I read these books I feel transported into another world of these stories,” Haywood said. “And I want to share that vision of the world, these stories, with other people to excite them about reading.”
Haywood understands the connection between literacy and opportunity. “Some people who are not able to read end up dropping out of school because of some difficulties, including schoolwork,” Haywood said. “I feel like there’s so many amazing books out there that people can be encouraged to continue reading.”

As of 2019, nearly one quarter of adults ages 16 and older lacked basic literacy skills. Haywood said he believes in the chain reaction that being exposed to reading can have on a person later in life. 

“Being literate, as well as developing the comprehension skills, vocabulary and all these other essential factors to studying and also school, can lead to more opportunities later on in life, too,” Haywood said. “Showing the world stories visually encourages people, who may not even already be reading a lot, to want to pick up a book and dive into a fantasy story.”

In true St. Joe’s fashion, a red-tailed Hawk will be seen soaring in the top right-hand corner of the mural. 

“The image of the Hawk is not only representative of St. Joe’s, but representative of how we can soar as individuals,” said James O’Sullivan, Ph.D., assistant professor of social ethics and project lead for the initiative, in a Jan. 24 webinar to discuss the mural with the St. Joe’s community. 

Completed by Haywood off-site, uploaded to Photoshop and printed onto aluminum panels, the mural is set to be adhered to the building and unveiled later this month. 

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Written by Allison Kite