Pandemic 'a series of firsts' for acclaimed Hill muralist

Posted 8/19/20

Chestnut Hill artist Talia Greene was selected to create a huge mural, “Charting a Path to Resistance,” for The Philadelphia City Archives, which contain countless thousands of city records …

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Pandemic 'a series of firsts' for acclaimed Hill muralist

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Chestnut Hill artist Talia Greene was selected to create a huge mural, “Charting a Path to Resistance,” for The Philadelphia City Archives, which contain countless thousands of city records dating back more than 300 years. The Archives are now housed in a new $10 million headquarters at 548 Spring Garden St.

by Len Lear

Artist Talia Greene, 44, a Chestnut Hill resident for 15 years, made news last year when she was selected to create a huge mural, “Charting a Path to Resistance,” for The Philadelphia City Archives, which contain countless thousands of city records dating back more than 300 years, including the William Penn City Charter from 1701. The Archives had just moved from the old Philadelphia Bulletin building at 30th and Market Streets to its new $10 million headquarters at 548 Spring Garden St. in Northern Liberties.

“With this project,” Greene told us, “it has been really gratifying to connect my interests in history, community and art on a deeper level.”

But how has the pandemic affected the work of this acclaimed artist? “The pandemic hasn’t really affected my personal artwork, but it has affected the other aspects of what I do as an artist,” Greene told us recently. “All of my teaching had to be transitioned to online instruction this Spring, of course. Also, I am a member of the artist-run gallery Grizzly Grizzly, and we have had to postpone all of our on-site exhibitions, as well as many of our off-site projects. We are currently wrestling with how to maintain the vibrant community in the 319 building on 11th Street until we can all reopen.”

In April, the artist-run gallery published a digital tabloid (grizzlygrizzly.com/book) that brings together essays on recent shows, artwork from artists whose shows had to be postponed, as well as artwork and writing from artists in the community on how they have been impacted by the pandemic. Their next issue, coming out in August, will feature artists writing about social justice issues in their work and writing.

“This pandemic has been such a period of firsts,” said Greene. “I never thought that I would be conducting so much of my life and job via a screen. Teaching art and design remotely has been an interesting opportunity to examine what is really effective and important about teaching. When what you thought was the most fundamental aspect of a class is taken away, it forces you to examine what is essential and what isn’t.”

Greene has also received grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Independence Foundation and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, among others. She has created site-specific installations at Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City, Ebenezer-Maxwell Mansion in Germantown, Glen Foerd Historic Mansion on the Delaware, The Print Center in center city, et al.

Born in Oakland, CA, Greene received her BA from Wesleyan University and her MFA from Mills College in Oakland. She is currently an assistant adjunct professor at the University of the Arts (since 2006) in center city. She met her husband when she was in graduate school at Mills and he was at Stanford getting a PhD in Philosophy.

“We both graduated at the same time, and then we moved together to the east coast. We spent two years in Baltimore and then moved to Philly for his job at the University of Delaware,” said Talia, whose name means "dew from heaven” in Hebrew.

“We spent a long time looking for a place to buy before we purchased our home in Chestnut Hill. Initially we focused on West Philly, but it was difficult to find a house that didn’t need a lot of work. When our realtor took us up to Chestnut Hill, we found some of the things we liked about West Philly — big trees, beautiful architecture and the ability to walk to shops and accessibility to public transportation. The proximity to the Wissahickon and the ability to have a garden were also big selling points.”

When asked what she is missing most right now in the country, Greene replied, “I am definitely missing leadership with integrity. I don’t expect our leaders to be perfect or to be able to miraculously solve all of our big problems overnight. But at the very minimum, having a President who I believe actually cared about the well-being of individual citizens and who I believe genuinely assumed the office of the Presidency to make a difference in people’s lives rather than to stoke his own ego and enrich his own family, that is definitely what I am missing most right now.” 

For more information, visit www.taliagreene.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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