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Socially Distanced Space Pads

September 16, 2020

Mural arts story blog 07

Seven SEPTA bus loops are a whole lot brighter - and smarter - thanks to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Mural Arts!

A new partnership between Mural Arts Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health has engaged local artists in a campaign to help protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With support from the Partnership for Health Cities—a joint initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies, World Health Organization and the global health organization Vital Strategies—seventeen Philadelphia artists have each designed their own sets of striking posters and “space pads,” or temporary vinyl floor tiles placed at six-foot intervals.

The city has deployed these in high-traffic locations to remind residents about social distancing protocols and other health guidelines in public places. 

SEPTA benefited from this partnership too. Space pads were installed at these seven (7) SEPTA bus loops:

33rd & Dauphin 

23rd & Venango 

61st & Pine

Cheltenham & Ogontz 

63rd & Malvern 

Torresdale & Cottman

Wissahickon Transportation Center 

The brightly colored tiles are a mix of abstract patterns, affirmations like “we got this” and health guidelines like “wash your hands” and “stand six feet apart.”

Where one’s eyes may glaze over looking at conventional signs with arrows and warnings, the artwork in this project represents a more fun, more creative way to encourage people to stay safe.

The signs and pads have also been placed at food distribution lines, grocery stores, bodegas, pharmacies and public spaces across the city—in total, over 700 space pads and 250 posters have been placed at over 70 sites in neighborhoods, and in seven languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin, French Arabic, Russian and Vietnamese.

In many cases, the artists responsible for these vibrant designs hail from the neighborhoods where their work has been placed. Compensated for their contributions has been central to the project, in line with Mural Arts’ vision of a Depression-era Works Progress Administration for artists during this difficult time.

The artwork produced for the project stems from their creators’ interesting personal stories. For example, Symone Salib, a Cuban/Egyptian portraitist and street artist, wields vibrant acrylic colors to share the stores of people—especially people of color—in ways that connect and resonate with others. Shira Walinsky uses art to explore the web of personalities and histories that make up a city; networks of families, neighbors, immigrants and teachers are represented in her murals.

As the city moves ahead with reopening, this project will continue to convey important public messages about wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing through art.

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