I was riding my bicycle on a towpath in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia and came across a perfectly placed and inspiring mural that made me stop. The mural is perfectly placed because it was created on a large, anemic retaining wall that otherwise provides a feeling of nothing. The mural is inspiring because it is of a tree in an area begging for more trees.
(All photos taken by Paul Sees the World – that is, taken by me).
I did a bit of research to find that the piece is called Concrete Tree and the artist is Paul Santoleri. From the website: “At its core, Concrete Tree speaks to the contradiction of nature as both fragile, and as an inexorable force.“
This is one of a number of large and flowing murals (some also with relief) in this area completed by Paul Santoleri and fellow artist Beth Clevenstine.
The Bike Trail
I was riding on a trail that follows the Schuylkill River in south-east Pennsylvania. Appropriately so, the trail is called the Schuylkill River Trail, and it runs for about 22 miles from downtown Philadelphia out past Valley Forge National Historic Park, then picks up any number of connecting trails.
The trail is mostly off-road and was created on old tow paths, former rail beds, and other right-of-ways near the river. Manayunk – the location of these murals – is the most urban section of the trail with its current retail center mixed with legacies of its former industrial past.
Coming from downtown center city, the trail passes the Philadelphia Museum of Art (you can run up the Rocky steps if biking is not enough exercise for you), past Boathouse Row and through Fairmount Park, then Manuyunk, then leaves Philadelphia heading to Valley Forge.
Bikes are available for rent at any number of locations on the trail.
I wish the United States appreciated street art like most other countries of the world do. In much of the United States, color is feared; mural arts are rejected; and HOAs fight diversity to sustain homogeneity.
Being on my bike makes me happy. Seeing this mural made me happier. And maybe having that wall go away one day and be replaced with real trees will make me happiest.