Freire Charter School, a public charter school that has been unlocking the potential of some of Philadelphia’s most underserved youth since 1999, today dedicated Mapping Freire, a mural collaboration between Freire and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program with artist Marcus Balum. Composed of more than 6,000 photographs taken by Balum, Freire students, and the public, the mural’s design illustrates the complex relationships students have with their city, and how they navigate it.
Over the past year, Marcus Balum, the artist overseeing Mapping Freire, has spearheaded Freire’s innovative arts integration program. In his dual role as lead artist of the project and teaching artist for Freire students, he created a photography-based curriculum that draws on academic disciplines including English, geometry, and history to weave art-making into a school that currently lacks a formal arts program. The end result is a consistent narrative that ties together students’ academic subjects, using public art as an anchor and display of their creativity and critical thinking.
“Freire students come from all reaches of Philadelphia and their daily journeys are shared by millions of Philadelphians,” said Kelly Davenport, Head of Schools at Freire Charter School. “We are incredibly proud of our students for committing their talent and imagination, under the guidance of the City’s Mural Arts Program and artist Marcus Balum, to create a beautiful mural that showcases their lives and celebrates our city.”
Documenting their journeys in the city through photographs, Freire students adopted Balum’s unique artistic practice of collaging multiple vantage points of the same object. The end result is a stunning collaboration that demonstrates the diverse experiences of a city that they all call home.
“It has been such a privilege to create and develop a project that is a direct manifestation of students’ work both in and outside of the classroom,” said Marcus Balum. “This project is truly a testament to the power of art, being discovered within ourselves and then recognized in the world around us.”
The Mapping Freire mural project was funded by Seed the Dream Foundation and the City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services. The 6,000 photographs that make up the finished mural were printed at NextFab on metallic cloth and finished with acrylic gaze. The mural is on public display at 2110 Market Street in Center City.
Today’s dedication kicked-off with an introduction from Play on Philly!, and featured remarks from Marcus Balum, artist and project leader; Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program; Kelly Davenport, Head of School; and Freire Charter School High School students and teachers.
For a look back at the mural’s progress over the last year please visit the project’s Tumblr blog at mappingfreire.tumblr.com/.
About Freire Charter School
Since its inception in 1999, Freire Charter School has been unlocking the potential of some of Philadelphia’s most underserved youth. Freire’s unique marriage of rigorous academics, self-discovery, and creating programming – all in a safe and supportive environment – create a community where young people truly thrive.
Freire is consistently ranked as one of the top public schools in the City of Philadelphia and is the winner of local, state, and national awards for academic excellence. Exclusively college preparatory, Freire defies statistics and stereotypes in serving a student population that is over 80% low-income and then sending more than 90% of its students to college.
Freire proudly educates students in two Center City, Philadelphia, campuses, a high school at 2027 Chestnut Street and a middle school at 1026 Market Street. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit our website at freirecharterschool.org.
About the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
WE BELIEVE ART IGNITES CHANGE.
We create art with others to transform places, individuals, communities and institutions. Through this work, we establish new standards of excellence in the practice of public and contemporary art.
Our process empowers artists to be change agents, stimulates dialogue about critical issues, and builds bridges of connection and understanding.
Our work is created in service of a larger movement that values equity, fairness and progress across all of society.
We listen with empathetic ears to understand the aspirations of our partners and participants. And through beautiful collaborative art, we provide people with the inspiration and tools to seize their own future. www.muralarts.org