Are you an artist? Perhaps you like to take solitary, peaceful, and contemplative walks. Maybe you are a romantic hoping to bring your date to Main Street but want to avoid the crowds. Are you and your friends looking for a new and exciting way to bar-hop? Then "Mr. Seitz' Manayunk Canal Towpath Mosaic and Mural Bar Crawl" is just what you've been looking for!
If you are up for a little "pre-gaming" as the kids call it, I suggest you start at Mad River's Anchor Bar. Their outdoor seating overlooks the Schuylkill River and immerses you in the idyllic natural surroundings and gives you an opportunity to survey the river, the canal, and the towpath from an elevated vantage point. Once you've wet your whistle, head upriver to the Manayunk Brewing Company for the beginning of the tour!
Stop 1: "Untitled" by Rob Alford
Although I couldn't track down a title for this mural, a waitress recommended "Jazzily Suggestive." This bright yet restrained composition reflects the ability of jazz musicians to improvise yet maintain control of their instrument and the audience. Manayunk Brewing Company hosts weekly Jazz Brunches on Sunday mornings and 23rd Street Jazz sessions on Tuesday nights. There are several more paintings lining the walls of this establishment, as they are true patrons of the arts and music.
As you leave head out through the outdoor seating, make your way up the stairs to the back deck and follow the wooden walkway to the beginning of the towpath. The first intersection you hit is Lock Street, which can take you to Union Taco if you are already getting hungry and or thirsty.
Stop 2: "Manayunk Stoops: Heart and Home" by Diane Pieri
This series of whimsical blocks is scattered along the trail from Lock Street to Cotton Street. Each of the nine blocks are inspired by architectural forms found in the neighborhood including benches, stairwells, and stoops. They are covered in mosaic tile representing local wildlife as well as patterns inspired by Navajo textile motifs. You are welcome to sit and read, rest, pose, (or propose!) on this interactive artwork.
Keep walking a little further and you will find a secret stairwell that leads up to Bourbon Blue. Enjoy some wings, live music, and more libations before making your way back down for the rest of the tour. Keep walking past Cotton Street and stop at Canal View Park.
Stop 3: "Birds of Fairmount Park" by Josie Stamm
This large scale mosaic mural is the centerpiece of the tour. It is visible from the towpath as well as from Main Street and is nestled in an open area lined with benches, trees, and flowers. The central tree of this work appears to be growing directly out of the landscaping and adds to a sense of beauty and calm in the middle of a busy and sometimes congested city. It's companion "Animals of Fairmount Park" is just around the corner of the building. Both murals were created with the help of middle school students from the Gesu School.
Now you are directly across the street from Lucky's Last Chance and the newly-opened Sona Pub & Kitchen, and I wouldn't blame if you if you took a little detour. Once you are back on the towpath walk one block to the Green Lane bridge.
Stop 4: "Waters of Change" by Paul Santoleri
This sprawling mural is painted underneath and around the Green Lane Bridge. The bold graphic black and white line-work is reminiscent of the playful illustrations of children's coloring books as well as the loose free-hand of modern graffiti artists. Like many other entries in this list, this mural reflects the lush plant life and aquatic environment of its surrounding. It also captures the flourishing energy and creativity of city life. Santoleri has created several more murals along the towpath as far down as Fountain Street.
Once you pass under Green Lane you are leaving the hustle and bustle of Main Street and will be treated to an expanse of green. You will temporarily forget that you are still in Philadelphia. Just walk and breathe.
Stop 5: "Coinciding Currents" Beth Clevenstine Mural Arts
Before you get to Leverington Avenue (and fall off the face of Manyunk and land in "Upper Roxborough"), you will find a breathtaking mosaic depicting the life-force and energy of a river flowing through a city. To fully appreciate the beauty of this work you have to see it in the daylight. The intricately cut colored glass is pieced together to create the illusion of a glowing painting. It sparkles like the sunlight bouncing off the ripples of the canal. It's truly a hidden gem.
Now that your eyes have been filled with beauty and your belly has been filled with beer, you can catch the 61 bus back to the center of Manayunk or to Center City. However, if you are up for a nightcap, I suggest you head up Leverington, turn left onto Umbria and settle in at Paper Street Pub before calling a cab.
Rob is an educator, artist, and musician who lives in the Wissahickon neighborhood. Check out his artwork and listen to his band "The Outhouse".