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New Mural Arts Project Inspired by the Talmud

July 19, 2007 By:
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The Mural Arts Program and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia are teaming up to beautify the walls of a South Philadelphia public school with a talmudic-inspired image that will be painted as part of a community event set to occur in the fall.

The 1,200-square-foot mural project is being funded by Federation and the City of Philadelphia, which provides a grant to the nonprofit Mural Arts Program to decorate city schools.

Federation spokesperson Lynn Edelman said that the John H. Taggart Elementary School at Porter and Fourth streets was chosen because of its proximity to the Stiffel Senior Center, as well as its location in the heart of a once largely Jewish neighborhood -- one that saw the flowering of an immigrant generation.

Barbara K. Smolen, a mural artist who teaches drawing and painting at Drexel University, unveiled her design at a recent community meeting at Stiffel. She explained that the design -- which depicts a series of free-floating hands, butterflies and plants, all rendered in bright colors -- was inspired by a talmudic quote.

Indeed, that passage -- "Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, 'Grow, grow' " -- will also run along the top of the 27-by-49-foot mural.

And in a nod to the school's diverse population, the word "grow" will appear in multiple languages, including Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese.

The application of most of the paint will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21 -- Federation's self-described Mitzvah Mania Day -- when volunteer projects will be taking place throughout the city. The Stiffel Center's art class will do some preliminary work prior to that date.

Smolen said that anyone who has an interest should take part, regardless of their art abilities.

Smolen, a member of Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El, emphasized that "if you can hold a pencil, you can draw. If you can hold a paintbrush, you can paint."

She said that when it comes to murals, the entire community -- whether or not it contributes directly -- essentially becomes part of the process.

Info? Call 215-832-0564.

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