by Jasmine Bullock
London based artist Richard Wilson has taken a simple desire to paint a beloved actor (Will Smith) and created a vivid symbol of inspiration for students to see every day. Recently, his dream became a reality due largely to the support of the Mural Arts program. (Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program and is dedicated to the belief that art ignites positive change.
It seeks to transform public spaces and individual lives). This program enabled Wilson to share his love for art and his appreciation for Philadelphia native Will Smith by creating a representation of the actor on the wall of a warehouse adjacent to the Global Leadership Academy (GLA) Charter School (located at 46th Street and Girard Avenue).
When Richard Wilson began work on the Will Smith mural, school was still in session. Student excitement was evident. For example, rising 5th grader Destin Phillips described watching the muralist work as inspirational. He expressed his interest in the entertainment industry; being able to see a successful entertainer on the walls near his school has made his goal to be an actor seem more realistic.
Parents and guardians of students were also thrilled with knowing that a representation of a Philadelphia legend would grace the property where their young scholars come to be nurtured. Student grandmother and former educator Lynette Jenkins knows that the Will Smith mural will help GLA scholars and other area students to understand that although the children like them are from the inner city and attend public schools, they are still capable of finding individual success. Ms. Jenkins is also hopeful that the mural will inspire classroom conversations about the correlation between hard work and success and interest in stories about the success of other Philadelphia natives, not only in the entertainment industry but also in other career paths. The mural serves as an inspiration to not only the students of GLA but also the immediate neighborhood. To date, there are a total of 10 murals in the area and the number is continually growing. From Ed Bradley on Belmont avenue to Reading a Journey on Pennsgrove Street, color and beauty surround Parkside streets. With the recent addition of the Parkside Edge, the residents of the Parkside community have the opportunity to explore and enjoy both the arts in the neighborhood and the natural beauty of the park.
While inspiring the youth of GLA, the Will Smith mural joins a growing set of murals in Parkside helping to beautify the neighborhood and encourage the growth of arts in the community. The many artistic inspirations include:
- Wall of Rugs: The Global language of Textiles (4398, US 30)
- History of Parkside, Leidy School (4850 Parkside Avenue)
- Black Family Reunion (4850Parkside Avenue)
- Will Smith (4545 W. Girard Avenue)
- Reading a Journey (3969 Pennsgrove Avenue)
- On the Block (3956 Pennsgrove Street)
- Animal Kaleidoscope (123 W. Girard Avenue)
- In Nature Nothing Exists Alone (Zoological Drive)