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Welcome to an exhibit installation about Violet Oakley and Mural Art in my Philadelphia.
Violet Oakley was more than just an artist portraying her creative vision to the masses through a canvas or mural. She brought education, values, and a strong will to break boundaries.
When Covid-19 rates have dropped and you can go inside PHS, you'll find my two-panel reflection on Oakley's contributions as an artist--published in oversized volumes on display in the middle of the reading room--and how her contributions can be learned from inside and outside cultural institutions elsewhere in Philadelphia.
The two wall panels I created based on my research and travels around my city can be seen fully below. Both feature Oakley's art and my interpretation.
Oakley’s art is surrounded by many religious and political themes, many stemming from the beliefs of people like William Penn, Oakley's own background in Quakerism, and Quakerism's embrace of pacifism.
In Philadelphia there is a wide range of murals, illustrations, and other mediums that embody those beliefs of equality for all, integrity, community, and simplicity--on buildings around but also on walls inside buildings, such as the walls of First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, which I viewed first-hand last winter.
My second panel shows me checking out those Germantown frescos, and also sharing images of three murals from around Philadelphia that bring me peace, hope, and a renewed sense of community each time I pass them by. My display case includes archival information documenting Oakley's creation of the frescos.
Before the pandemic I was simply going to school, taking care of my family, working and enjoying my social life as any other young college student would, but obviously now, during and what some are calling “after” COVID-19, it’s completely different. During and After this pandemic was and will continue to be a hard adjustment to returning to a normal lifestyle.
Public art doesn't change any of that. But it does remind us that we all strive for unity, order, and beauty even as we seek individual expression. Art breathes and exhales the creativity of the human mind so perfectly, even when we interact with it through mundane tasks within our daily lives. Whether it’s a social media post, a statue, a painting, or simply a sketch on a piece of call-slip paper.
Collection Materials on Display
Scrapbook, First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, mid-20th century. This scrapbook contains clippings documenting the congregation's history, including Philadelphia newspaper articles about Violet Oakley's creation of the murals for the church's Jennings Hall.
Holy Bible belonging to an early pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, circa 1785. This historic Bible contains the examples of religious law and moral authority that Penn and Oakley responded to as Quakers--and that Presbyterians also use for guidance.
Postcards (2), First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, Record Group 425.
The Holy Experiment, Violet Oakley.
The Law Triumphant, Violet Oakley.