Volunteering & Giving
December 15, 2015

Philadelphia dedicates mural signed by Pope Francis

A mural artist used a paint-by-numbers approach — and more than 2,700 volunteers  — to create Philadelphia’s latest public artwork, commemorating Pope Francis’ visit in September.

Now in its 31st year, Philadelphia’s popular civic arts program has a new landmark: a 4,239-square foot mural painted over 20 days by more than 2,700 people.

Titled “The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century,” the mural is at a school in North Philadelphia and commemorates Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in September and the 2015 World Meeting of Families Congress, which took place during the papal visit.

Mural artist Cesar Viveros created the design for St. Malachy School in North Philadelphia. The school is open to students of all faiths and incomes and provides K–8 education.

Painters who participated in the mural used a paint-by-numbers approach. The project is in the process of being certified by the Guinness Book of World Records for “most contributions to a painting by numbers.” The previous record was 2,339 painters.

Volunteers painted 5-foot by 5-foot squares of the strong and lightweight cloth — installed by Cesar onto the school walls with three coats of acrylic gel.

Pope Francis signs Philadelphia mural
Pope Francis signature on mural in Philadelphia
Cesar Viveros painting mural tribute to the pope in Philadelphia
Volunteers paint mural tribute to the pope in Philadelphia
Mural tribute to Pope Francis at St. Malachy School in Philadelphia
Pope Francis signs one of the mural sections during his visit to Philadelphia in September.
The result on the St. Malachy School walls.
Cesar applies the mural to the school walls in October – one of nearly 4,000 murals added to the city since 1984.
More than 2,700 volunteers help paint the mural titled, “The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st century.”
The mural after its dedication Nov. 30 in Philadelphia.

Jane Golden, executive director of the city’s Mural Arts Program, which commissioned the work, says Pope Francis personally signed the mural, adding, “The nature of the art and the inclusiveness of the process make it a once in a life-time endeavor. The mural will live on as a legacy of his visit as well as being a new landmark in the city, and a continual source of pride and inspiration.”

Wells Fargo funded the work with a $150,000 grant, and about 25 members of the company’s local Wells Fargo Volunteers chapters painted parts of the piece.

One of those painters — Greg Redden, Wells Fargo’s regional president for Philadelphia and Delaware ­— joined Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Philadelphia Bishop John McIntyre, Cesar, Jane, school officials, and others to dedicate the mural Nov. 30.

“Few events in history generated more excitement than the World Meeting of Families and the visit by Pope Francis,” Greg said at the dedication. “As we saw, the excitement transcended religious and cultural differences, and this mural played a huge role in bringing people together. This is what happens when thousands of people pull together to achieve a single goal. This mural is a lasting legacy of those who created it and now that it is complete, people of all ages will draw hope and inspiration from it.”

The mural is the latest of nearly 4,000 murals in the city’s civic arts program — established in 1984 and involving artists from around the world. The program aims to make art accessible to the community through hands-on opportunities and arts education.