Vincentian artist explains his work

by | Aug 20, 2012 | Vincentian Family

Bro. Mark Elder, CM writes…. “Finally after 3 summer sessions, I finished a rather large public mural in Germantown of Philadelphia.

The color is bright and those of you who know Germantown…it’s by choice.  It’s called ‘St. Vincent’s Orchard’.  Please give a look at the pictures and the statement….. if you want to know what all the imagery is about.

Click on the above graphic to enlarge.


Title: St. Vincent’s Orchard

Artist:  Bro. Mark Elder, cm

Medium: mural at The DePaul Catholic School of Philadelphia PA

(acrylic and parachute cloth mounted on brick)

Dimensions:  40’ x 85’

Varnish:  Benjamin Moore acrylic seal, 8-12


St. Vincent’s Orchard is a community sponsored public art piece for the community of DePaul Catholic School in Germantown.  The neighbors of the school, faculty, students and parents not only took part in giving the artist input and content for the piece, but also joined in fabricating the piece as well.

The artist ran an open studio at the school for two summers starting in 2010.  The open studio encouraged the above community members to come in and help execute various elements of the content, or help develop the same. Over the period of two summers (2010-2011) there was a total of approximately 250 people that took part in fabricating content in the open studio for this mural.  It was the intent of the artist that the community own this mural, and this method of using an open workshop ensures just that.

The mural has design elements that absorbs the windows of the building, and uses the corner of the same building to its advantage.  At the corner of the building,  two trees are featured as portraits of two patron saints that are significant in the history of The DePaul Catholic School. On the west wall (left) is St. Martin De Porres.  His portrait represents the past of the school.  To the right is St. Vincent DePaul, representing the present and the future of the school.  Also in the orchard (starting on the left, west wall) is a portrait of St. Louise De Marillac, co-founder of the school’s current sponsor the Daughters of Charity.  (St. Vincent  being the other founder.)

The south wall features a Giotto inspired portrait of St. Francis of Assisi, a patron saint of one the past communities that participate in the school.  Collectively, the group of trees represent a particular grove of fruit trees. Thus an orchard,  the fruit being books of various disciplines.   It is these books that are the object of ‘picking’ by the student figures that climb the ladders that are really windows.

As the viewer gazes further to the left along the west wall, another design element comes into play.  The community wanted to somehow pay homage to the historic Underground Railroad of the pre-Civil War era.  Because it is a documented fact that the Underground Railroad did go through Germantown in its day.  This desire of the community was satisfied by incorporating quilt patterns that were arguably used by the same UGRR.

The spacing of these blocks both absorbs the windows in the middle of the west wall and establishes the rhythm of what makes up the sky.  These blocks also allowed for quotes from notable authors to take up this same format.  These quotes are a vital part of what makes up the sky near the corner of the building, and really displays what is valuable to the community.



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