Our Famous Neighbor

Philadelphia’s biotech-themed mural, sponsored by CSL Behring, shares a location with a work of art by Amy Sherald, a living example of scientific innovation.

Story
Untitled Philadelphia mural by Amy Sherald
Steve Weinik

Unveiling a biotech mural with Mural Arts Philadelphia ranks as one of the year’s highlights for CSL Behring, whose operational headquarters is in nearby King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The 8,000-square-foot mural honors Philadelphia’s scientific achievements and looks ahead to tomorrow’s discoveries.

The already good location, at 1108 Sansom Street, got even better when a new neighbor moved in. You can’t miss her, in her striking coat and hat, if you visit the “Promise of Biotech.” On an opposite wall, an untitled work by the American painter Amy Sherald commands the side of a building. A young woman, wearing a white coat patterned with black flowers, looks out upon Center City.

If you see something familiar in the large-scale painting, it could be you have seen this artist’s work before: Sherald received a flood of recognition after painting former First Lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait.

Sherald’s subjects look the viewer in the eye and her work “explores the ways people construct and perform their identities in response to political, social, and cultural expectations,” according to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This year, the artist had her first solo New York gallery show, which the New York Times called “magnificent” and “stirring.” She also recently received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts.

Mural Arts Philadelphia, responsible for thousands of murals in the city, called the addition of Sherald’s work “an extraordinary moment for Mural Arts and for Philadelphia.” Sherald herself, who lives in nearby Baltimore, is extraordinary for more than just her artistic talent: She’s the recipient of a heart transplant.

She keeps a photo of her donor on her coffee table, according to a 2016 feature in Baltimore magazine. Just after Thanksgiving, Sherald shared Instagram photos of her family with the mother and step-father of her heart donor. “I will never waste one moment of my life!” Sherald wrote. “Coming up on bonus year number 7!”

Want to view these new murals in person? Mural Arts Philadelphia offers various tours to see the city’s giant catalog of public art.