Celebrating Philadelphia’s Vibrant Ballroom Culture through Mural Art

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Exciting things are happening in Philadelphia’s vibrant LGBT community, specifically in the city’s wonderful Gayborhood. Just about two years ago, our beloved Jacen Bowman (@JacenBowman), the celebrity makeup artist who was born and raised in Philadelphia, pitched an idea of a lifetime to Mural Arts Philadelphia (@MuralArts).

As a beacon of self-acceptance and love, Jacen’s mission was to bring a mural to fruition—one that marks the vibrant 30-year Ballroom culture, a mirror of Philly’s past, present, and future. Thanks to the countless collaborators, including project manager Asa (@Asa_Hndrx), that dream is now getting painted!

The artist behind the mural’s design is none other than the award-winning Nilé Livingston (@NileLivingston). Hailing from a long line of Philadelphians, Nilé is known for her grand-scale artworks, her vibrant use of color, and elevating ordinary people to iconic statuses. She’s no stranger to creating murals that magnify the spirit of Philadelphia, turning the city into the Mural Capital of the World.

This amazing mural has been a labor of love, filled with the dedication of multiple artists, organizers, and supporters. Over the next few months, Streets Department, in collaboration with Mural Arts, Jacen, Nile, Asa, and others will be shedding light upon who and what the mural represents and the magic behind its creation.

To complement this exciting project, be sure to join us for the “Finally on 13th – Philly Ballroom Culture Collage Workshop” on July 22 from 4 PM to 6 PM at Vox Populi Gallery. This creative session is all about crafting collages to celebrate iconic figures from our Ballroom culture, guided by the gifted artist and bookmaker Doriana Diaz (@bydorianadiaz). An Afro-Latinx from uptown Philly, Doriana’s work expertly captures narratives that viewers can deeply resonate with, even if they’ve often been silent about them.

What’s more, save the date for the official mural dedication on July 29! It’s going to be a monumentous event where art meets pride, a celebration to mark the birth of a work that honors our vibrant history and future. This isn’t just a mural— it’s proof of the creativity, unity, and resilience of our magnificent LGBT community.

So, join us as we scribe this narrative on the walls of Philadelphia, a story of authentic self-love, community pride, and an undying celebration of our Ballroom culture.

Ballroom is an unavoidable cultural phenomenon today. You would have to be entirely oblivious to not encounter some aspect of Ballroom in at least one corner of our world. However, it is possible to broach noticeable aspects of the culture— language, dress, or gestures—and be unaware that it stems from this unique space. And that is where my investment as a visual artist has intervened. I want this mural to offer a face to a particular local history that may be largely unknown or obscured by Ballroom's recent mainstream posture. The mural honors cultural forbearers who established Philly's scene with little external fanfare and plenty of local need from a community countering numerous oppressive attacks. This mural is our attempt at giving Philadelphia ballroom figures their flowers, with a few special guests. Which include pioneer and founder Michael Gaston(RIP), the Iconic Fashionista Taniya Cartier ,The Face and Body Goddess Icon Kerri Mizrahi , The Queen of Philadelphia The Infamous Renee Karan(RIP)The Voice of Philadelphia Kevin Jz Prodigy , The Doctor and creator of many The Infamous Kelly Harper(RIP), The Mayor Alvernian Rafeek , The Father of all Fathers of Philadelphia Mann Prodigy,The Silent Assassin and Creator Icon Rafael Excellence, Our Fallen Angel The Sexy Legendary Stacey Blahnik (RIP),our Fallen Angel The Beautiful Amber Cartier(RIP), The Perfect Ten Icon Tonya Prada, The Face and The Body and The Realness of Icon Keisha Ebony, The Runway And Voice of LGTBIAQ Icon Jay Blahnik, The First 1k Big Boys Runway and Fashion Master Meechie Lanvin , and The Face of Philadelphia Icon Jacen Moncler and The Queen of sex The Icon Sinia B. Alaia
Jacen Bowman
FCM Hospitality Owner

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