Jan 17, 2023 - News

New mural in SEPTA's Suburban Station aims to uplift Philadelphians

A bird holding a strip of paper that says "making art helps me breathe" is featured prominently in artist Lisa Kelley's new mural inside Philadelphia's Suburban Station.

Birds helped inspire Kensington artist Lisa Kelley's new mural at SEPTA's Suburban Station. Photo courtesy of Steve Weinik

When artist Lisa Kelley needs to clear her mind, she walks to a park and listens to the chirps of bluebirds, wrens and chickadees flying overhead.

Driving the news: The three birds are the inspiration behind Kelley's first-ever mural inside SEPTA's Suburban Station. The piece, "my art gives me a voice," is being dedicated today by Mural Arts.

  • Kelley said birds, with messages of hope dangling from their beaks, help uplift her spirit, and she hopes they do the same for people walking by the sprawling, 120-foot mural.

The inspiration: The piece, meant to conjure feelings of healing and growth, is a bold and colorful splash of suns, flowers, geometric shapes and mandalas, which are seen as a source of spiritual transformation.

  • The collection of designs are taken from printmaking workshops that Kelley led for participants of Philadelphia Mural Arts' Color Me Back, a same-day work program helping people needing money and social services.

What they're saying: Kelley — who grew up in Kensington and watched classmates, friends and her foster son struggle with addiction — sees art as a way of restoring hope in her community. She believes it can help people heal from trauma while reconnecting with their inner child.

  • "People have said, 'it helps me forget for a little bit about what's going on in my life.' Almost like you're a kid again," Kelley said.

What's next: Kelley is ironing out details with Mural Arts to collaborate on another piece with students at a Kensington school.

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