Kensington: Local Artist Renews Mural

Diane Keller, 64, carefully mixed paint in order to match the colors she laid down 13 years ago.
Scaffolding covered the side of 2144 E. Arizona St.

A longtime Philadelphia artist is working to both restore and add to a Kensington mural first completed over a decade ago.

Located on the side a residential building at 2144 E. Arizona St., Tropical Landscape was originally completed by Diane Keller, 64, in 1999. Since its initial completion, the mural has suffered typical abuse and weathering common to murals and is in need of repair.
“It’s about the same as doing it from the beginning except you’ve got a little bit of under paint. Really, it’s painting the whole thing over again,” Keller said. Far from simply painting over top of something, restoring a mural requires significant skill and labor. “It requires a lot of skill in mixing and matching color,” Keller said. Because the muralist is essentially touching up the entire piece, the colors must be hand-mixed and match exactly in order for the restorations to blend into the original painting.
Diane Keller, 64, carefully mixed paint in order to match the colors she laid down 13 years ago.

Seen from her scaffolding, the difference between Kensington of 1999 and present day is drastic, Keller said. The mural stands adjacent to Frankford Avenue, which is now bustling with activity from the numerous businesses and restaurants that exist there. In 1999, when the mural was originally painted, there was none of that. “It was pretty run-down,” said Keller. “It was not anything like the activity on the street [today].”

As a self-employed artist, Keller has painted nearly a dozen murals in the city since 1994. Prior to mural painting, Keller taught undergraduate art at the University of Pennsylvania, Moore College and the Academy of Fine Arts.

Though she is still dabbling in mural painting, Keller now considers herself to be primarily a studio painter. She is unsure whether or not the restoration of Tropical Landscape will be her last project. “It’s just hard labor,” she said.

The original mural, as well as its restoration, is sponsored in part by the Mural Arts Program.

Keller’s hands and clothes were spattered with paint.

The Mural Arts Program was started in 1984 as part of an effort to combat the graffiti that was plaguing the city.

Today, Philadelphia is known as “The City of Murals” with over 3,000 murals citywide.

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