Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joined the Philadelphia Mural Arts program to unveil a mural honoring Pope Francis’ visit to the City of Brotherly Love for the World Meeting of Families.
Monday morning’s event formally dedicated the mural at 1012 W Thompson Street.
The multigenerational portrait, titled "The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century" by lead artist Cesar Viveros, shows the pope with his arm around a youngster and surrounded by a diverse group of parents and children. Flowers and grapevines border the triptych, which spans more than 4,000 square feet over three sections on a school building.
Pope Francis painted the final stroke and signed the artwork during his visit in September.
The mural, was recognized by Guinness as setting the world record for “Most Contributions to a Painting-by-Numbers” artwork.
Community members and World Meeting participants painted portions of the image on cloth panels. Artists then used adhesive to assemble the mural on the three-story walls of the former William Harrison Elementary School in struggling north Philadelphia.
Harrison, which closed in 2012, is being refurbished to become the new home of St. Malachy School. The Roman Catholic elementary school now serves about 200 children in a smaller building about a block away.
The city's Mural Arts Program, which began as an anti-graffiti initiative 30 years ago, has created thousands of murals depicting a range of themes and faces, from neighborhood children and grandmothers to "Three Stooges" star Larry Fine and basketball great Julius Erving.
"They help us, as a city, tell our stories," Mural Arts executive director Jane Golden said. "They encourage us to never forget. They remind us of our heroes. The represent our struggles, they lift up our triumphs and aspirations. They give expression to our lives."
The murals have become a popular attraction, with guides leading about 18,000 tourists annually by foot and trolley.