Moore faculty member and muralist David Guinn’s artwork can be seen all over Philadelphia and as far away as Jordan.
Guinn, a Moore faculty member and artist based in Philadelphia, has painted over 30 large scale public murals since 1998 throughout the city, as well as in New York City, Washington, DC. and Montreal, Canada.
His work has been noted in books, newspapers, magazines and on television and radio, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Spin magazine. His smaller scale paintings have been shown in galleries and museums, including The Fabric Workshop and Museum, the Woodmere Art Museum and The Galleries at Moore.
Guinn is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the prestigious Knight Arts Challenge 2013, an Independence Foundation Fellowship and a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Fellowship in the Arts.
Guinn has been an adjunct professor in Fine Arts at Moore since 2011. In the past, he has taught Mural Painting and Advanced Painting. He has also taught at Philadelphia Mural Arts and been a guest lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia University, the University of the Arts and Johnson State College in Vermont. In 2012, Guinn founded Freewall, an outdoor space at 1214 Sansom Street in Philadelphia, dedicated to promoting innovative mural art.
A graduate of Columbia University, Guinn was originally trained as an architect, mainly in pursuit of a more practical career path. But shortly after graduating in 1994, he moved back to Philadelphia and saw what the Mural Arts Program was doing – and that changed his career path. “I was excited and saw it [mural painting] as an intersection of painting and architecture where you could work in a public space and work at an architectural scale, but have some of the structure and accountability of a traditional job.” Guinn said. “It also had this creative freedom that painting gives you.”
Guinn sought out opportunities for work, connecting with a friend who did faux finishing and interior murals in people’s homes. The friend was commissioned to create a mural through the Mural Arts Program and asked Guinn to assist.
“Through him, I met Jane Golden [Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program] and I said, ‘this is really what I want to do’,” he said. “I liked the public nature and there was even more freedom to have a more personal voice in the Mural Arts Program.”
Guinn got his start as an assistant with several different artists. But he got his big break when an artist dropped out of a mural project at 10th and Bainbridge, a high-profile commission. Golden asked him to take over the project.
“She knew that the subject matter that I was interested in - architectural, cityscapes, would fit at this site,” he said. “And because that project was a success and had a lot of visibility, they continued to offer me more projects.”
Guinn recently completed a mural on the side of a house at 4th and Manton Streets next to the Manton Street Community Garden. The mural was dedicated on November 15, 2014. He is also painting a mural on fabric in his studio to be installed in the Spring on the wall above the Shake Shack on 20th and Sansom Streets. This year, he even painted a mural in Amman, Jordan.
“There was a mural festival there where they invited eight international muralists and Jordanian artists,” Guinn said. “The festival was two weeks and painting was eight days. The best part was they had Jordanian college students work on the mural with me and there was a great cultural exchange.”
Guinn said the murals that best suit him are those done by a small group of people, where you can get close enough to appreciate the details but also see the big picture from a distance. The largest mural he ever painted was about 200 feet long and 30 feet high. About 1,000 square feet is a typical mural. Depending on the project, it can take two weeks to two months to complete a mural.
“My murals usually have some type of landscape reference , but I’m going for creating a space for the passerby to enter in their mind and find a restful, contemplative space, somewhere they can go into and explore,” he said.
Guinn said he is lucky to be able to make a living doing what he loves, while teaching on the side.
“There’s something really thrilling about making this big painting outside,” he said. “It’s pretty social and you meet a lot of people. You’re always at a new place. You never know what’s going to happen on any given day. It’s exciting when you get into the zone and you’re seeing this big artwork come together. It can also be stressful in the beginning because you’re performing on some level, working outside, and you have to pull it off. It’s exhilarating but terrifying.”
Of all of his projects, Guinn said he’s most proud of the mural he created in 2010 on Locust Street between 11th and 12th Streets in a community garden called Sartain Garden, near where he grew up.
“The theme of the spirit of community gardening came together really well,” he said. “It was an advancement in my technique and I was able to bring in the feeling- the movement and spontaneity- of the watercolor paintings I was making in the studio, into my mural work. It was an exciting time."
Guinn said he is continually excited by the growing number of muralists in Philadelphia, a city with more public murals than anywhere in the world. He often involves students and former students in the work as assistants on mural projects, from preparing the wall with primer and a grid to drawing and painting, to helping organize community events.
“It makes the city more beautiful and vibrant,” he said.
For a list of murals by David Guinn visit here