South Philly mural honors The Roots
Painting a mural of The Roots, in a parking lot and on the rear of the World Communications Charter School building, poses challenges.
Brick and stucco textures. Cars. Weather.
“That’s a little interesting,” deadpanned artist Ernel Martinez. “You paint like right next to it, and you definitely want to look in, and you have some, say, odors, coming out.”
The mural was a first-time collaboration for Amber Art & Design, which features Martinez, Charles Barbin, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Willis “Nomo” Humphrey, and Keir Johnston as artists.
The city’s Mural Arts Program will unveil the artwork Friday with members of the band slated to appear. It’s meant to honor the Grammy-award winning group, and tells the band’s story—especially that of founding members and Philly-natives Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter. The two met as students at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
Barbin said imagery from the band’s live performance inspired most of the artwork.
The artists offered the group several preliminary designs, “But The Roots are artists, too,” Humphrey said. “So they gave us concepts, then said just take it from there and do what you feel.”
The mural, which is located behind the school’s South Broad Street home, was painted first on Parachute Fabric in a studio, and then pasted in pieces to the 60-feet-by-65-feet wall like wallpaper. The artists then paint back over it.
Gel sticks the fabric to the wall, “So when the gel dries, it actually pulls the sheet tight to the wall,” Barbin said. “It can even help a decrepit building hold it together for a few more years.”
Fazlalizadeh said one of the reasons she wanted to come to Philly was because of The Roots and the city’s music scene.
“I’ve been in Philly for nine years, felt like I kind of grew up here,” said Fazlalizadeh, who moved to here from Oklahoma when she was 17. “So it’s a very special project.”