Mural Arts Philadelphia & Parkway Corporation dedicate Declaration mural by artists Reginald Dwayne Betts & Titus Kaphar

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Mural Arts Philadelphia & Parkway Corporation dedicate Declaration mural by artists Reginald Dwayne Betts & Titus Kaphar
Kaley Doram, impacted by the justice system, and whose face is depicted in the mural with redacted text from the Declaration of Independence, she is a descendant of John Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration. Image courtesy: Kaley Doram, Mural Arts Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Mural Arts Philadelphia, alongside Parkway Corporation, dedicated the mural Declaration now located at 15th and Race Streets in Philadelphia. In a celebration of Mural Arts Month presented by Chase, Mural Arts Philadelphia kicked off the special mural dedication with a poetry reading by Poet & Activist Ursula Rucker followed by a program with Mural Arts Philadelphia Executive Director Jane Golden; Alison Stohr, Chief of Staff for Councilperson Kendra Brooks, At-Large; City of Philadelphia Controller Rebecca Rhynhart; Robert Zuritsky, President & CEO, Parkway Corporation; Anna Z. Boni, Executive VP and Chief Administrative Officer, Parkway Corporation; Chandra Williams, Community Manager of Chase, presenting sponsor of Mural Arts Month; Reginald Dwayne Betts, Lead Artist, Mural Arts Philadelphia; Chill Moody, musician; as well as Kaley Doram, Mural Arts Guild Alumna, who is featured in the mural.

Declaration mural
Conceived by writer/attorney Reginald Dwayne Betts and artist/filmmaker Titus Kaphar as part of Mural Arts’ Reimagining Re-Entry Fellowship, Declaration is a thought-provoking mural inviting meaningful conversation by featuring redacted text from The Declaration of Independence - both a revolutionary document and evidence of many contradictions in the history of the United States. The redaction of this document featured in the mural reveals the truths and contradictions as seen by current American citizens, many of whom are people of color. For example, while the Declaration states that “all men are created equal,” the Three-fifths Compromise determined enslaved African Americans would be counted as 3/5 of the number of white inhabitants of each state for the purposes of representation in Congress. This ratio has been guiding the United States for nearly 250 years and has begun to be critiqued more closely in light of the recent civil upheaval brought about by the deaths of Black men and women by police brutality.

Project & Mural Arts Philadelphia Guild Program
Featured in the mural is the face of Mural Arts Philadelphia Guild Program alumna Kaley Doram. For this project, the artists worked with participants of the Mural Arts Guild Program, a paid apprenticeship that gives justice-impacted young people the opportunity to develop marketable job skills and reconnect with their community, as well as men from Mural Arts’ mural-making program at SCI Phoenix. Mural Arts photographer Steve Weinik then took photos of the participants, and the artists juxtaposed some of their faces with sections of redacted texts, exhibiting the works in 2020 at the Rendering Justice exhibition with Mural Arts Philadelphia and the African American Museum of Philadelphia in 2020. One of those images - now the Declaration mural - was enlarged, printed on squares of parachute cloth totaling 80’ by 60’. This mural is now in a highly visible location that also, fittingly, faces Philadelphia Family Court.

“Declaration is profound in both its ideation and execution,” said Jane Golden, Founder and Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia. “We are so honored to work with Reginald Dwayne Betts and Titus Kaphar on a mural that once again proves that creativity and innovation can not only spark thought-provoking conversations but ultimately can spark positive societal change.”

This is the first mural for Kaphar and Betts, nationally renowned, in-demand artists whose work often features those traditionally marginalized or ignored in traditional western art.

• A lawyer and author, Reginald Dwayne Betts was recently named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow for his exceptional creativity in his work and the promise to do more. His memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison (Avery/Penguin, 2009), was awarded the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction. His books of poetry are Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James, 2010), Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015), and Felon (W.W. Norton, 2019). Betts is a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, 2011 Radcliffe Fellow, 2012 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow, 2017 Right of Return USA Fellow, and a 2018 Art for Justice Fellow. In 2012, President Obama appointed Betts to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. He is a graduate of Prince George’s Community College, the University of Maryland, the MFA Program at Warren Wilson College, and President Obama appointed Betts Ph.D. student at Yale Law School.

• An artist whose paintings, sculptures, and installations examine the history of representation, Titus Kaphar’s practice seeks to dislodge history from its status as the “past” in order to unearth its contemporary relevance. In doing so, Kaphar reveals something of what has been lost and investigates the power of a rewritten history, transforming styles and mediums with formal innovations to emphasize the physicality and dimensionality of the canvas and materials themselves. Kaphar was born in 1976 in Kalamazoo, MI, and lives and works in New Haven, CT. He received an MFA from the Yale School of Art and is a distinguished recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including a 2014 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship, a 2015 CreativeCapital grant, a 2016 Robert R. Rauschenberg Artist as Activist grant, a 2018 Art for Justice Fund grant and the 2018 Rappaport Prize. In late 2014, Kaphar’s painting Yet Another Fight for Remembrance, which he created in response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting of Michael Brown, was featured in TIME magazine’s “Person of the Year” edition. Kaphar’s work has been included in solo exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA PS1 and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, and other prestigious institutions. His work is also included in several collections, including the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AK; the 21C Museum Collection; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, FL.

Assisting Mural Arts Philadelphia with the funding of this project were funders: Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, City of Philadelphia, the National Endowment for the Arts, Parkway Corporation, the Estate of Pearl M. Carpel, Julia & David Fleischner, the Zuritsky Family, and an Anonymous donor.

“Declaration is a truly thought-provoking piece that prompts the viewer to reflect on our society and the experiences of others,” Robert Zuritsky, President & CEO of Parkway said. “For more than nine decades, Parkway has been a major developer within the City of Philadelphia from partnering in office developments like Liberty Place and leading current construction of the Morgan Lewis Tower, to residential projects like 1706 Rittenhouse and Hanover North Broad, to medical facilities such as Walnut Towers as well as hospitality destinations like the Home2 Suites and Motto Hotel. We’re just as proud to have supported numerous public art pieces as part of our commitment to beautify the city.”

The Declaration mural dedication was one of many events hosted during Mural Arts Month presented by Chase, a month-long celebration in October of all the ways Mural Arts Philadelphia uses art to transform public spaces and individual lives. The activity-filled month featured mural dedications, panel discussions, community events, film screenings, exhibitions, running and walking mural tours, and more. In the Mural Arts Month theme “Resilience” - a nod to both a recognition and celebration of the people and art that makes Philadelphia the “Mural Capital of the World” - Declaration showcases the participatory public art that beautifies, advocacy that inspires, and educational programming and employment opportunities that empower.

“I am so proud that Chase is committed to my community. Being born and raised in Philly, I love that we have partnered with Mural Arts, who is working to beautify our local neighborhoods, with art for all to enjoy,” said Chandra Williams, Community Manager, Chase.

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