Artist De’von Downes puts finishing touches on 'A Chance for Hope' in Love Park

Mural Arts’ “To The Polls” exhibit is back on the lawn of LOVE Park for its third rendition, displaying six freestanding murals that are encouraging spectators to vote.

The murals, which are still in the process of being painted, use striking text and images in a variety of mediums to inspire passersby to head to the polls. According to Conrad Benner, project curator and the mind behind art blog Streets Dept, the public creation of these murals is essential to the exhibit’s mission.

“The artists could do these murals probably in four days. But sometimes it takes them 10 days, because they’re having so many conversations with people walking by,” Benner said. “It’s a gift to the City of Philadelphia.”

Many more people have stopped by to see the artists at work versus the exhibit’s previous rendition in 2020, Benner noted, asking questions or taking photos of the art-making process.

Philly artist Donna Grace Kroh‘s piece, “Create Our Future,” highlights the importance of community conversation. She took photos of various community members and asked what they wanted to see in their future. The mural will feature their portraits alongside their answers.

She hopes the work inspires observers to head to the polls — and motivates the mural subjects to do the same. “I’m trying to engage them more so they can go out and vote [as well],” Kroh said.

Artist Donna Grace Kroh works on ‘Create Our Future’ in Love Park Credit: Kira Wang / Billy Penn

Artist De’von Downes‘ piece was also inspired by personal connections. Titled “A Chance for Hope,” it emphasizes that people should vote to shape better futures for young people.

“It’s really important to me that I do things and help out in my community so that [future generations] don’t have to worry about the things that I had to worry about,” Downes said. “They can have a chance to learn, to laugh, to love, to be.”

For Benner, “To The Polls” generates so much attention because of its medium. “Art has a really powerful way of making people feel things. And I think that it’s human nature that we act when we feel,” he said.

Philly artist and activist J.C. Zerbe attempted to elicit these powerful emotions through his mural, which features a young boy wearing a construction hat in front of City Hall. Above the boy’s head in a thought bubble, Zerbe’s mural reads, “Vote to Build a Better Philly!”

“I think it’s important to vote for what you believe in and stand up for the communities that maybe have it harder,” Zerbe said.

Artist J.C. Zerbe works on his ‘To The Polls’ mural in Love Park Credit: Kira Wang / Billy Penn

“To The Polls” is open through Nov. 4, four days before Election Day, because there is a holiday market slated for the park that weekend, Benner said. But the temporary nature of the exhibit makes it even more impactful, he added. “I think them being temporary makes them get to people’s hearts a little bit quicker.”

The exhibit is also a social media attraction, with people taking pictures in front of the murals and spreading the message of civic engagement.

“If you make an effort to go to a park, you can take photos of these murals,” Benner said, “and you can showcase — to the world, your loved ones, your family, your friend — that you are a voter.”