Art Mural Project

In the Spring of 2010, Temple University, Independence At Studio of Philadelphia, and Inglis House, three institutions generally as much as at odds with each other as they are committed to working with people with disabilities were able to set down their ideological battle axes to cooperate in an art mural project. The occasion for the project was the location of this year's Society for Disabilities Studies national conference at Temple University, whose theme was  Disability in the Geo-Political Imagination.  Inglis House provided the bulk of the participants, Independence Art Studio the artistic direction and Temple the eventual venue.

The creation of the mural took face in several phases. Part 1 of the project was kicked off at Inglis Inglis House and lead by muralist and tapestry expert Kathryn Pannepacker. The project participants were residents of Inglis House, all of whom were in wheelchairs together with a few members of the Inglis adult day care program. Pannepacker brainstormed with the group to come up with vocabulary that related to the conferences theme and then had the mural artists transform the vocabulary into symbols, both black and white and color, which were produced over several weeks using a variety of media. After each session, the artists would place their work in the center, with each person describing his or her work and looking at which individual pieces seemed to work well together. At the same time that this was occurring, Temple University instructor, representing the school's Institute on Disability Carol Marfisi worked with a sub-group of resident artists in the Inglis House Poetry Workshop to come up with phrases and pieces of poetry that reflected their own experiences relative to the conference theme.

Artist and tapestry maker Kathryn Pannepacker instructs Inglis House residents

Three artists bent overwork with assistants moving in between them in an art room.
Jacquesline Scott, Ken LePlac and Denise March get started on the Art Mural Project at Inglis House

Designs in black and white spread across a table.
Artists spread their work on the table to discuss it.

Phase two of the mural took place at the Independence Art Studio adjacent to Liberty Resources in center city Philadelphia. This portion of the mural work was overseen by studio artist Steve Johnson who instructed the participants in techniques for creating realistic paintings that reflected their experiences as people with disabilities in the larger worlds. As with the first phase, these sessions took place once a week for a month.

Busy Market St. in Philadlephia with wheelchair artists in the sidewalk traffic.
Inglis House Artists gather outside the Independence Art Studio on Market St. in Philadelphia

Three participating arts work at long tables in the Independence Art Studio.
A group of Inglis House residents work on the art mural project at Independence Art Studio.

When the first two phases were completed, Pannepacker and Johnson combined the canvas pieces from their sessions into the mural which took the form of a triptych with colorful central piece flanked by two smaller black and white dominated pieces. The participants then gathered again at Independence Art Studio to integrated text into the borders of the canvas from the work produced in Marfisi's poetry sessions.  Imagining Disability  emerged as the title of the mural.

large papers with words on the wall, surrounded by group participants A mural is on the table in front of them
Temple instructor Carol Marfisi (center) and group add poetry to the mural as studio artist Steve Johnson looks on.

As planned, the mural was unveiled on June 5 as part of the poster session at the Society for Disability Studies conference at Temple. Representatives from each of the agencies that participated described their part in the project, with Inglis House artist Will Parker speaking for the mural artists. Posters of the finished mural were also made available. Ultimately, the mural will find its home at the resident art gallery at Inglis House. In summing up the entire project, Marfisi commented,  This group has been very dedicated to the project. They've worked diligently, and creatively.  They also worked cooperatively, and that in itself is a major accomplishment.

Artist Bob Woltanski paints contrasting black and white designs.
Artist Bob Woltanski paints contrasting black and white designs.

Will Parker painting with mouthstick surrounded by onlookers.
Artist Will Parker domonstrates how he paints with a mouthstick.