Where to Find Cool Public Art in Philadelphia
Thousands of sculptures, murals and more make Philly one massive outdoor gallery...
Home to one of the largest collections in the country, Philadelphia is a premier destination for public art.
The city has thousands of artworks thanks to organizations like the Association for Public Art , celebrating 150 years in 2022, and Mural Arts Philadelphia , the nation’s largest public art program.
Stunning sculptures sit outside of museums and in parks, while captivating murals brighten the facades of skyscrapers in Center City and walls in quieter neighborhoods.
And new works are commissioned and added to the city’s collection all the time, joining well-established pieces by accomplished artists like Robert Indiana , Amy Sherald and Auguste Rodin in Philly’s giant outdoor art gallery.
Read on for our guide to some of the most essential public art in Philadelphia, plus destinations for public art in the city and tours not to miss.
An iconic symbol synonymous with Philadelphia and one of its best-known landmarks, the LOVE sculpture first came to Philly in 1976 when pop artist Robert Indiana loaned the piece to the city for the U.S. bicentennial celebration. After spending two years in John F. Kennedy Plaza, better known now as LOVE Park , the sculpture moved briefly to New York before a local businessman bought it and donated it to the City of Brotherly Love. Another LOVE statue sits on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus at Locust Walk. (Indiana created many versions of the artwork, which can be found across the United States and in different countries.)
Rocky Balboa — the fictional boxer and triumphant underdog from Philly portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky and Creed movies — was immortalized in bronze by artist A. Thomas Schomberg in 1980 for a scene filmed in the city for the franchise’s third film. After the filming was completed, Stallone donated the statue to the City of Philadelphia. Since 2006, the statue has been located at the bottom of the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art , where there is a near-constant stream of people waiting in line to get their pictures taken with the “Italian Stallion.”
Renowned pop artist Keith Haring originally created 1987’s We the Youth — a bright and joyous public mural featuring the artists’ signature dancing figures — in collaboration with a group of high school students from New York and Philadelphia as well as three local artists. Located on the side of a rowhome at 22nd and Ellsworth streets in South Philadelphia, the mural was restored by Mural Arts Philadelphia with support from the Keith Haring Foundation in 2013. We the Youth is the only collaborative public mural by the artist remaining intact and on its original site.
Where: 22nd & Ellsworth streets
A collection of 50 murals make up A Love Letter for You , a series by artist and West Philly native Steve Powers that illustrates expressions of love from one person to another, from an artist to his hometown, and from residents to a neighborhood. The murals — made up of phrases like “If you were here I’d be home now” and “Co-sign on our lifetime” — are scattered from 45th Street to 63rd Street along the Market Street corridor in West Philly and are best experienced from the Market/Frankford elevated train. Pro tip: Stop at 46th Street Station to check out Barbara Bullock’s stainless steel El Dancers installation along the way.
Artist Amy Sherald — known for painting the official portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama — challenges ideas about identity and the public gaze with her work, which often depicts everyday moments within the lives of Black people. With the untitled six-story-high mural portrait in Center City of Najee S., a young Black woman living in Philadelphia and participant in Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Art Education program, Sherald pointedly asks: “Who is allowed to be comfortable in public spaces? Who is represented in art? How can one woman’s portrait begin to shift that experience for others?”
Where: 1108 Sansom Street
This clever installation — located outside of The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish Histor y — is all about perspective. From one side, you see “YO,” a familiar Philly greeting, interjection and anchor of the iconic Rocky quote . From the other side, you see “OY,” as in “Oy vey,” a ubiquitous Yiddish phrase expressing dismay or grief. Sure to be a popular photo op for tourists and locals alike, the installation may become permanent. For now, it’s on display through at least May 2023.
Philadelphia’s first augmented reality mural debuted in October 2018 in West Philadelphia’s Conestoga neighborhood. DJ King Britt and muralist Joshua Mays worked with students from Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Art Education program to review historical archives, record audio and interpret Afro-diasporic images of transcendence to create a “monumental time portal” honoring ancestral legacies and imagining utopian futures. Using the MuralArtsAR app , visitors can hear and see community interviews as they walk alongside the art.
Where: 53rd & Media streets
Sanctuary City, Sanctuary Neighborhood
Chilean artist and activist Ian Pierce and local artist Betsy Casañas collaborated on Sanctuary City, Sanctuary Neighborhood , a 3,000-square-foot mural in North Philadelphia that highlights the strength and resilience of immigrant communities. The piece — commissioned by Mural Arts Philadelphia in partnership with the Providence Center and La Puerta Abierta — is filled with powerful imagery, including an Afro-Caribbean woman making an opening in the southern border wall and approximately 400 other figures that illustrate aspects of immigrant journeys to the border. Located on the side of the Providence Center, the former home of Taller Puertorriqueño’s education center, Sanctuary City, Sanctuary Neighborhood is a follow-up to Pierce’s Families Belong Together mural in Fairhill, which explores Philadelphia’s identity as a sanctuary city.
The Silent Watcher , created by Faith XLVII for Mural Arts Philadelphia, occupies 11,000-square-feet on the side of a building at 3911 Market Street and acts as a visual gateway to University City . Geometric lines, gold accents and a distinct color gradient draw viewers’ eyes up toward the image of a woman perched 19 stories above the sidewalk, looking out over the east side of an affordable housing complex for seniors in West Philly. The mural sets out to inspire hope for the future as well as calm, steadfast strength in the present moment. The artwork is even visible at nighttime, thanks to a series of lights.
Where: 3911 Market Street
Located one block away from two of the city’s most famous cheesesteak joints ( Pat’s and Geno’s ), The Electric Street is a permanent mural and light installation on the 1300 block of Percy Street, a small hidden alleyway in South Philly. The neon green, pink, blue and yellow LED lights brighten the unassuming street in the dark and accent the bright geometric lines and shapes of the painted mural. The creators — mural artist David Guinn and lighting designer Drew Billiau — have plans for the project to span the entire block. Bonus: Just down the alley, find a special mural commissioned for a marriage proposal between two caretakers of Percy Street.
Inspired by conversations with inmates, formerly incarcerated people part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s re-entry program and others involved in restorative justice projects, The Stamp of Incarceration: James Anderson raises awareness about criminal justice. The mural by Shepard Fairey — known for his Andre the Giant Has a Posse campaign and the Barack Obama Hope poster — is visible from the city’s Rail Park , the elevated stretch of public greenspace where the Reading Railroad once ran in the Callowhill neighborhood .
Where: 1131 Callowhill Street
British artist Richard Wilson painted this 65-foot-tall mural of Will Smith — the legendary actor, musician and philanthropist famously born and raised in West Philadelphia — on the wall of the Global Leadership Academy Charter School at 4601 West Girard Avenue. Wilson wanted to place the mural — which is heavily influenced by artist Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of former President Barack Obama — in a spot where kids in West Philadelphia could see it and be inspired.
Where: 4601 W. Girard Avenue
Head to one of Philly’s most iconic cheesesteak spots and look up to find this piece of art honoring Kevin Hart. The North Philadelphia native and Max’s Steaks fan has become a celebrated comedic actor since his days hanging out on Germantown Avenue. The mural, by Willis “Nomo” Humphrey , was dedicated on July 6, 2017 — Hart’s birthday and the official Kevin Hart Day in Philadelphia.
Silently perched along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway , Auguste Rodin’s iconic sculpture The Thinker greets passersby outside the Rodin Museum . The artist originally conceived a smaller version of the sculpture to sit atop his monumental bronze portal titled The Gates of Hell, also part of the museum’s collection. The figure was intended to represent Italian poet Dante Alighieri pondering The Divine Comedy , his epic story of Paradise and Inferno. Note: The Rodin Museum is temporarily closed to the public as of April 2021, but The Thinker is always on view.
The China Gate , created by artist Sabrina Soong, functions as a symbolic entrance to Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood. Intricately adorned with dragon motifs, ornamental roof tiles and animal sculptures, the bright portal follows the traditional architectural style of the Qing Dynasty. The public art piece was created in part with engineers and artisans from China using tiles from Philadelphia’s sister city, Tianjin, and is a stone’s throw from some of the neighborhood’s best restaurants.
Where: 10th & Arch streets
A very Philly take on a very famous Picasso, PhilaGuernica turns a depiction of war into one of inspiration and hope. The work is part of Mural Arts’ Rendering Justice project and was designed with help from the organization’s class at a recovery facility to show a positive message about Philadelphia’s youth culture.
Where: 1311 Callowhill St
Since 1964, the bronze sculpture Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs by Jewish sculptor and painter Nathan Rapoport has been located at the tip of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. A gift from the Association of Jewish New Americans to the City of Philadelphia, the moving piece of public art became part of the larger Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza in 2018. The redesigned public space is dedicated to both honoring the memory of the millions of Jews who were killed during the Holocaust and educating the public about the atrocities.
Clothespin , a 45-foot-tall sleek and whimsical steel sculpture by Claes Oldenburg, was installed in 1976 across the street from City Hall. Oldenburg linked his design for the piece to Constantin Brancusi’s well-known sculpture The Kiss in the Philadelphia Museum of Art . Many agree that the shape of Clothespin resembles two lovers entwining.
Where: 15th & Market streets
The center of Logan Square belongs to a popular fountain sculpture by Alexander Stirling Calder, son of Alexander Milne Calder, who created the sculptures on City Hall . Designed with architect Wilson Eyre, Swann Memorial Fountain memorializes Dr. Wilson Cary Swann, founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society. Adapting the tradition of “river god” sculpture, Calder created large Native American figures to symbolize the area’s major local waterways: the Delaware River (a man), the Schuylkill River (a woman) and Wissahickon Creek (a girl).
To mark the historic visit by Pope Francis to the United States and Philadelphia in September 2015, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Association for Public Art teamed up to install Robert Indiana’s tremendous sculpture AMOR atop the museum’s steps on the east terrace overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. In December 2016, the six-foot-tall sculpture — “amor” translates to “love” in both Spanish and Latin — was moved and permanently installed at Sister Cities Park , just a short walk from LOVE Park . Visitors interested in learning more about AMOR can download an audio program from the Association for Public Art — available in English and Spanish — that helps to interpret the piece and includes rare archival recordings of Indiana, who died in 2018.
In a city of more than 1,500 public statues, this memorial to a 19th-century civil rights crusader is Center City ’s first statue of a specific African American. Octavius Catto, South Carolinian by birth and Philadelphian by choice, led efforts to desegregate the city’s streetcars, fought for equal voting rights, worked as an intellectual and teacher, and was also a star baseball player. On October 10, 1871, the first election day after the 15th Amendment guaranteed African Americans the right to vote in Pennsylvania, he was shot and killed on South Street. Sculptor Branly Cadet created the 12-foot-tall bronze memorial, A Quest for Parity: The Octavius V. Catto Memorial , which features Catto in a powerful stance, walking toward a granite representation of a mid-19th-century ballot box.
In July 2019, the city of Philadelphia unveiled its first public, freestanding sculpture of an African American girl. The sculpture — created by artist Brian McCutcheon — depicts a young basketball player and takes inspiration from Ora Washington, the legendary Philadelphia basketball and tennis player.
Neon-like LED lights illuminate the I-676 underpass on North Sixth Street connecting Old City with neighborhoods to the north in Electric Philadelphia , which was completed in late 2020. Artists David Guinn and Drew Billiau created the work, supported by Mural Arts Philadelphia, Historic Philadelphia, Inc. and Visit Philadelphia. When the lights aren’t on, passersby can see an image of Philadelphia’s past for an overall feel of the city’s evolution throughout modern history.
Where: Sixth & Wood streets
Destinations for Public Art
Philly’s famed South Street has reinvented itself over time, but the works of Isaiah Zagar have been a constant since the 1960s. Maybe best known for Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens , located — you guessed it — on South Street, the mosaic artist has added colorful pieces of artwork around the city. But South Street and its adjacent blocks and alleyways remain the hub of his work. Look for his work outside a flooring business on Bainbridge Street , the tiny 600 block of Schell Street and inside Eye’s Gallery , which Zagar owns with his wife Julia.
The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation strives to activate the spaces and attractions situated along the Delaware River with innovative public art installations and performance art events with its Waterfront Arts Program . While a lot of the installations and events — like 2019’s Ghost Ship and the month-long Festival of the People in 2018 — are temporary, visitors can see permanent works like Jody Pinto’s 16-foot Land Buoy sculpture at Washington Avenue Pier. Bonus: Art at Cherry Street Pier is available all year round thanks to pop-up markets and artists-in-residence who keep their studios open for demonstrations and sales.
Some of Philadelphia’s most iconic statues and sculptures — as well as unsung and gorgeous works of public art — line the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the public spaces close to it. Some highlights include the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors , Iroquois , Joan of Arc and Washington Monument . For a self-guided tour, check out the Association for Public Art’s guide to the Parkway .
In addition to the shops and entertainment spaces, Fashion District Philadelphia is home to the largest free public art display in a retail establishment in Pennsylvania. The curated collection on display throughout the mall includes contemporary murals, 3D sculptures, digital photography and more by local, national and international artists and design studios. Highlights include The Greening by artist Eileen Neff, Liberty and Freedom by sculptor Michael Murphy and Goniochome by the design studio SOFTlab. Bonus: While at the mall, guests can explore 14 different installations — like attending a virtual-reality dinner party with unexpected guests and painting walls with your movements — at Wonderspaces , an immersive art experience.
Art lovers can take a stroll through Fairmount Park to view astounding sculptures and beautiful architecture. Guests marvel at the towering Smith Memorial Arch in West Fairmount Park, which features nine busts, three figures and the Whispering Bench that carries softly spoken messages along its curved wall. The tall Playing Angels sculpture is a must-see along Kelly Drive, as is the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial just south of the Girard Avenue Bridge. Guests can also head to the Horticulture Center to check out Sundial , a sculpture created by Alexander Stirling Calder — the son of the sculptor who created the William Penn statue above City Hall .
The northern end of Philly’s Callowhill neighborhood — dubbed the Spring Arts District — is home to Mural Arts Philadelphia’s first outdoor rotating art gallery . The stunning work of Philly’s artists is on display throughout the entire area. The Spring Arts mural (shown above) — created by Glossblack at 10th and Buttonwood streets — welcomes art lovers to the area, then visitors can stroll around the neighborhood to discover multiple other works. Jessie and Katey’s giant Folding The Prism at 12th & Spring Garden streets and the untitled work by Charles Burwell are among the permanent murals in the collection.
Located about 3.5 miles south of Center City, the South Philadelphia Sports Complex is home to more than just the stadiums where the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and 76ers play. Some pretty awesome public art inhabits the area, too, memorializing beloved Philly athletes like boxing champion Joe Frazier and basketball legends Julius Erving and Wilt Chamberlain .
More than just a way to get from A to B, SEPTA — Greater Philadelphia’s public transportation service — is a place where people can find art to brighten their commutes. Permanent installations that are part of the Art in Transit program turn every ride into a mini art crawl. Some of the newest additions include the historical murals of Portal to Discovery at 5th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line, three North Philadelphia Regional Rail underpasses part of The Viaduct and Junction / Time Line 23 along the underpass of the Wayne Junction Regional Rail stop.