This ceramic mural, created in 1975, depicts historically significant and prominent Black Americans and was conceived and constructed by artist John Costanza along with students and teachers at Philadelphia’s University City High School. It was originally funded under Philadelphia’s “Percent for Art” program and lived on the interior walls of the school for more than forty years. Aside from its artistic merits, the mural served as an educational project: the students studied Black History in the arts & sciences and incorporated their findings into the design of the mural. As part of the students' own legacy, their bodies and faces were cast and embedded into the mural and float in and around the inscribed names of significant Black Americans.

Artist Costanza recalls that the school community was eager to collaborate with him on the design, which was created with the help of eight art classes who had historical figure research written into the curriculum—the students carved linoleum tiles and volunteered to have their faces incorporated into the design. For Joseph Dennis, a 1979 alum, the mural comes to mind whenever he thinks of University City and he was pleased to hear of its preservation saying, “It gives you some kind of satisfaction to know that at least a part of our school is being saved.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2014)

In 2017, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art program sought a new home for this mural, considering its creator, John Costanza, was formerly Professor & Chair of the Ceramics Department (1968-1983) at Moore. The individual tiles had been sitting in storage for over a year after the seven-acre University City High School campus was purchased by a partnership between Drexel University and Wexford Science & Technology and demolished in 2016 to make room for a dynamic mixed-use residential, retail, laboratory, and public open space development. An important piece of the City's history, the mural's preservation recognizes our changing urban landscape and provides space to memorialize UCHS and its students, faculty, and alumni. The project was completed in 2021 and made possible through support from Wexford Science & Technology, LLC.

VISITORS ARE WELCOME

As part of Moore's permanent collection, the mural is on view and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 11 am – 5 pm. Click here to learn more about visiting campus

WATCH A 3 MINUTE VIDEO ABOUT THE PROJECT

On July 28, 2021, Moore hosted the official unveiling of the mural and invited the artist, John Costanza, along with close friends and family to celebrate. NBC 10 reporter Rosemary Murphy covered the event and produced this news clip that aired in the Philadelphia region that evening. The mural's relocation was made possible by Wexford Science & Technology, along with help from the City's Percent for Art program.

PROMINENT NAMES FEATURED

The mural features more than 75 names celebrating activists, actors, artists, athletes, comedians, community leaders, musicians, political leaders and writers, to name a few.

Henry Aaron, Louis Armstrong, Arthur Ashe, Harry Belafonte, Mary McLeod Bethune, Kwame Brathwaite, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, Aretha Franklin, Joe Frazier, Marcus Garvey, Dorothy Height, Langston Hughes, Barbara Jordan, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, Leontyne Price, Jackie Robinson, Gail Saunders, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Phillis Wheatley, Booker T. Washington, Barry White and Stevie Wonder. 

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