By Rébecca Kleinberger, Diana Robinson, Alexandra Rieger, Sizi Chen.
One of the highlights of our June visit was diving deep into the South Philly neighborhood home and canvas to mural artist and South Philly native, Michelle Angela Ortiz. Together, we strolled alongside the Italian Market, learning the stories of the various vendors and seeing the art inspired by each vendor. Michelle Angela gave us an in-depth view of the role of murals in local Philly communities and talked about the controversy of the Frank Rizzo mural and its status as the most vandalized mural in Philly. We also had the pleasure of meeting her family who have lived on the same colorful street for two generations now and have been celebrated for throwing the best block party in town. Through this exploration, we learned more about the strong affiliations Philadelphians feel to their unique neighborhoods within the city. During our visit, Michelle Angela shared stories and murals about her family’s history, welcomed us into her parent’s home (just across the way from her own), and revealed her hopes and fears for the future during a walk through the neighborhood accompanied by her husband and young son. As the sun set over the marketplace awnings, she invited us to her home to see her wonderful garden, a true urban oasis brimming with fragrant buds flavorful herbs, sprouts and vegetables. Here amidst stars, humming neighborhood lights and garden flowers, Michelle described how the legacy of her family and neighborhood has inspired her artistic journey.