Center City District Philadelphia curated a group of local, all-women-identifying artists to showcase their work through banner designs that were installed in the downtown area to greet Philadelphia’s population returning to center city post-lockdown reopening after the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this time in history, people avoided areas with dense populations to avoid catching the coronavirus. This project was part of the city’s “welcome back” initiative when cases started to decline and more people were vaccinated. These banners featured stunning visual renderings filled with bold colors and elements of nature or patterns that served as reminders of the lessons learned during lockdown: the taxing human footprint on nature, the inadvertent mercy that quarantine afforded our environment, and the ever-increasing need for the arts to bridge our differences and inspire a brighter future.
Our contribution to this uplifting initiative was a digital painting depicting the Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly gracefully resting on a milkweed leaf near a native flower, a species native to the region. The artwork aimed to provide viewers with a sense of respite from the challenges posed by self-quarantine, the coronavirus pandemic, capitalism, and racial injustices. Rather than distracting from these realities, the banner sought to encourage viewers to observe other simultaneous happenings and consider different ways of being in the world. These were moments that could recalibrate our collective sense of existence.
As many of us stayed at home during lockdown, nature, untethered from the daily human hustle and bustle, thrived and demonstrated its beauty in full bloom. This flourishing of nature was a subtle indication of the environment’s longing for restoration. Once-muddied docks cleared, revealing scenic views of unburdened fish in their habitat. Streets, once polluted with traffic, saw visits from animals less wary of human presence. Our nature illustration aimed to pay tribute to springtime and symbolize the inherent rejuvenation of our natural world when we adopt patterns considerate of its well-being.
The pandemic’s demands prompted us to recognize the far-reaching harm caused by human actions on our world but also provided an opportunity to change our habits and emerge with greater compassion, shaping a healthier environment moving forward. The butterfly, symbolizing happiness and good luck, was chosen to guide our city into a brighter future. The adage that when a butterfly crosses your path, it signifies leaving the past behind and embracing forthcoming changes felt particularly resonant during these times.
Crafting the banners for this unique project required a delicate balance between creativity and messaging. Each diverse artist brought their own style and perspective while ensuring that their work conveyed the overarching message of environmental stewardship and unity.
Nile Livingston, the founder of Creative Repute, worked on this project. Regular brainstorming sessions and open communication with the Center City District (CCD) allowed them to explore a variety of ideas and approaches.
Philadelphia prides itself on its diverse population and so they embraced cultural sensitivity and inclusivity in their designs. Understanding and further learning about the city’s rich history, was necessary to ensure the work resonated deeply with residents and visitors alike. The goal was to evoke a sense of connection and belonging for all.
Environmental consciousness was another critical aspect of their approach. The responses to the pandemic have revealed the far-reaching harm we as humans cause our world as well as an opportunity to change our habits and re-emerge with more compassion to shape a healthier environment moving forward. Through this project they aimed to create art that not only celebrated nature but also inspired viewers to reflect on their relationship with the environment.
Nearly 200 vibrant banners were installed over several weeks, gracing highly visible stretches of the central business district, including Market, Chestnut, and Walnut streets, east and west of Broad Street, East Market Street, the Washington Square area, Midtown Village (13th Street), Avenue of the Arts (South Broad Street), John F. Kennedy Boulevard, and around the perimeter of City Hall. These designs received enthusiastic approval from the city’s Art Commission, underscoring the profound impact of art in our urban landscape. This project brought together a diverse group of eight talented local artists, including Dora Cuenca, Molly Egan, Karina Puente, Angela Rio, Miriam Singer, Gerri Spilka, Gina Triplett, and Nile Livingston, in a collaborative celebration of art, nature, and community.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the visionary organizers behind this project, JoAnn Loviglio, Prema Katari Gupta, and Amy Genda, for championing the infusion of art into Center City’s vibrant core. To learn more about this initiative and explore these breathtaking banners, please visit centercityphila.org.