The inspired artwork of Bailey White, titled "Hollywood Exit,” at the Rejuvenation Place, 401 E. Broadway in Bismarck, gives us hope that other murals might be in our future.

I never really gave a lot of thought to building murals until I visited Philadelphia a couple of years ago.

Murals give the City of Brotherly Love a unique and distinctive flavor.

What began as a simple 45-mile bicycle ride around Philadelphia, in order to see the major college and university campuses, became a much more meaningful experience as we explored the inner city and discovered the Philadelphia Mural Project.

There are over 3,500 murals covering whole walls, many multistory in height. The program's creation was an effort to bring racially divided neighborhoods together in a common effort and to control graffiti.

But as the program spread from neighborhood to neighborhood the art reflects the unique sentiments and values of the neighborhood.

In one area facing walls separated by a garden depict an elderly African-American woman stitching a quilt, and on the opposite wall three grandchildren holding the same quilt. The neighborhood association president in a New York Times interview said the idea of “Holding Grandmother’s Quilt” was to show a traditional craft of the black community being passed down through the generations.

“The Peace Wall” mural depicts a dozen overlapping hands of various ethnicities. There are dozens that reflect a peace or coming together message. Other murals simply celebrate a bygone era or a cultural icon. Among my favorites are a western scene with horses tied up at hitching posts, a young couple dancing in the street serenaded by an elderly man playing a cello, a fall scene of trees turning yellow and red, and of course, Dr. J, who was one of the most prolific basketball players of my youth.

The widest mural is “History of Immigration” at 600 feet in length. It contains many historical figures of the civil rights movement.

The tallest mural is “Common Threads,” which rises eight stories at the corner of Broad and Spring Garden.

And then there is the “Love Letter” wall by Stephen Powers that reads:

“Knocked on your door

"Legs Tired Back sore

"Migraine — For Sure

"No More I Swore

"You Smile — I’m Cured.”

Philadelphians believe that preserving the past is not just “a” value, but that it “has” value. In other words, it does not just reflect the degree of importance of the thing, rather, it helps direct their future course of action.

So as we consider our own downtown, its past and its future, perhaps thoughtful art, murals, might be a way to tie them together.

Gary Adkisson is publisher of the Bismarck Tribune.

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