by Sue Ann Rybak
After a decade of hoping and planning, Karen Boyd-Rohde’s dream of a mural being painted on the three-story, east-facing exterior wall of Bredenbeck’s Bakery and Ice Cream Shop at 8126 Germantown Ave. finally came to fruition on Saturday, Nov. 11.
“About 10 years ago, a survey was done that gave suggestions about how to improve the Hill, and one of the ideas was to put a mural on the side of my building,” Boyd-Rohde said. “I thought, ‘what a great idea.’”
So began Boyd-Rohde’s campaign to get a mural painted in Chestnut Hill.
The mural, entitled “Wissahickon Crossing,” was designed and painted by mural artist Ann Northrup. The mural, which depicts a scene at the confluence of the Cresheim and Wissahickon creeks and a view of Forbidden Drive hidden by trees, final design is taken from a pleine-aire watercolor painted directly on the the building’s facade. The $35,000 mural project was completely financed by individuals and businesses in Chestnut Hill.
Ann Northrup, the lead muralist, became emotional when she talked about working on the mural with her fellow artists and interacting with the Chestnut Hill community.
“I am really honored that I was chosen,” Northrup said. “In some ways, it’s fitting because I have always loved painting in the Wissahickon.”
Northrup said the landscape part of the mural was taken from a painting she did years ago. Northrup said she recently took photographs at the site and noticed the tree [in the mural] had a big red X on it.
“This mural is a commemoration of the history of that spot and of the tree that may or may not still be there,” Northrup said.
Northrup said she felt really blessed to be part of the Chestnut Hill Community.
She added that she loved working with the students and teachers from J.S. Jenks School and Springfield Chestnut Hill Academy to create a companion mural to the Bredenbeck’s Bakery mural art project.
“The art teachers were really great and took a lot of creative initiative from the beginning,” Northrup said.
Northrup said she enjoyed watching the students gain confidence in themselves and their artistic talent.
Jane Golden, executive director of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program, welcomed residents to the dedication and said it was a great day for the Chestnut Hill Community.
“I think it’s incredibly important to have art in our environment,” Golden said.
She added that what is wonderful about this project is that it didn’t just “parachute down from the sky.”
“It happened through a very intentional and deliberate community process,” Golden said. “I think there is a reason we love art. We want beauty in our lives, but beyond that we want meaning in our lives and that’s what we [the Mural Art program] hope our work does.”
Golden said the mural arts program wants its work to “resonate with people in a meaningful way.”
“Social practice means the journey to create art is as important as the object itself, and what happens afterwards has equal value,” Golden said. “ Hope is believing in spite of the evidence and watching the evidence change. Art can unite change and transformation – we see it everyday. This mural does not belong to us. It belongs to you, and let it live on as an icon and a continual source of inspiration.”
Seth Shapiro, president of the Chestnut Hill Business Improvement District (BID), talked about the “unifying role of art.” He said it was wonderful for Chestnut Hill to have its first mural, especially, he added, because both Germantown and Mt. Airy have many wonderful murals.
“One of the things we talk about a lot in the business community is what things make us unique, and one of them, we believe, is the mixture of greenery and architecture in the community,” he said.
Golden said she believed art was a catalyst for change.
“We are really interested in the nexus of public art, economic and community development,” she said.
Golden added that her organization was planning a Northwest mural arts tours. She said there will be a one-time guided trolley tour of more than 20 Mural Arts Program murals in Mt. Airy and Germantown, including historical facts about points of interest in the neighborhoods.
The tour will include Chestnut Hill’s first mural, “Wissahickon Crossing” by Ann Northrup. The Mural Arts Tour of Northwest Philadelphia will take place on Saturday, Nov. 24, from 10 a.m.to noon, leaving from the Trolley Car Diner, 7619 Germantown Ave. The price is $30/adults; $28/seniors; $20/children (12 and under.)
For tickets visit www.muralarts.org/tour or call 215-925-3633. To watch a video of the dedication visit https://chestnuthilllocal.com/2012/11/12/video-bredenbecks-mural-dedicated/