Animal themed street art “Local Critters” inspiring Philly neighborhoods

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KENSINGTON, PA -- The tens of thousands of painting and pieces of street art throughout Philadelphia make our city unique, especially when the artwork features Philly-themed subjects, and even local animals.

A local nonprofit organization called Visual Urban Renewal and Transformation, a.k.a. VURT Creative, has been organizing artists and donors to create unique “Local Critter” murals in different parts of the city.

On the south side of Liz Brown’s house on Hancock Street in Kensington is the massive, “Token Squirrel” painting. “I did not think he would paint a mural on my house. I asked, ‘Hey do you know anyone that would paint a mural for free?’ and he said, “I would!” explained Brown. The mural was designed and painted by Evan Lovett, who is the creative director and founder of VURT. Lovett says he came up with the idea to paint the seemingly omnipresent American Red Squirrel, which can be found in almost any neighborhood of the city. Lovett wanted to paint the squirrel holding a piece of candy, but says it was Brown’s idea to have the squirel holding the subway token, considering SEPTA’s Market-Frankford elevated train is just a few blocks away.

Lovett said, “In my youth, I definitely paint graffiti. It's nothing I’m ashamed of but I’m making up for it now." Evan and his team at VURT raise money for paint supplies and then find local artists to create murals for free in areas that can use a little bit of a pick-me-up. They just finished a “Welcome to Fishtown” mural last month.

The Token Squirrel is part of the “Local Critters”project. Lovett explained, “The homeowners asked us if we could help bring attention in a positive way to a neighborhood that has a lot of positive things going on but gets overlooked due to the negative aspects and stigma that this neighborhood might have…It’s a bunch of different depictions of animals that live within the urban environment that we either see all the time or we don't see at all.” A few blocks away in front of the Philadelphia Tattoo Collective, Lovett says their giant pigeon mural has become somewhat of a tourist destination in Kensington ever since it went up a year and a half ago.

“The juxtaposition of doing these animals really, really large when it's something that is usually small and overlooked; it's kind of a commentary that we wanted to play on.” With the success of the local critters project…the VURT team is now expanding their initiative to inspire younger artists in the communities where the street art is going up.

They’re starting to place VURT boxes in local businesses around Philadelphia and South Jersey to collect art supplies for schools in that neighborhood.

The VURT team plans on doing a deer-themed local critter mural next. They also have plans to paint murals with the theme focused around blue-collared city workers.

For more information on getting a mural painted in your neighborhood, contact the VURT team here.