Rush Forward: Mural Arts Philadelphia unveils “This Deep Desire”, a new mural by Danny Simmons and Gabe Tiberino at North Marvine Street.
“This Deep Desire”, a new mural by Danny Simmons and Gabe Tiberino, drew dozens of denizens and art lovers during a mid-morning mid-week Mural Arts Philadelphia (MAP) mural dedication on Olney Avenue. The Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble performed to an appreciative audience as neighbors, passersby, and bus passengers gazed at the latest unveiling public art by Simmons, an abstract expressionist painter and co-founder of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. Simmons, who designed the work along with noted Philly-based muralist Tiberino, emphasizes African Americans connecting to Africa as a motherland.
“This piece is inspired by the singular longing for ancestral roots denied to so many Black Americans. Danny has spent his career advocating for Black artists and creating space for Black art to thrive, “explained Jane Golden, MAP’s founder and executive director. “[Art] taps into our imagination, and it lets us think about what is possible. Our elected officials, they’re talking about violence, come here, look at the art, look at the dancers, hear the music, and understand that art is part of the solution. It is not something that should be marginalized or kept behind the doors of galleries and museums. That is archaic, and for far too long, that has happened. Art is like oxygen, and Danny Simmons knows that it is for all of us. It is a matter of equity. I am proud to be in a city with over 4000 works of public art that are in every neighborhood of the city. Let’s hear it for Philadelphia!”
Simmons’ first Philly mural, “Kuba Kingdom”, also done in tandem with Tiberino, hangs about a mile south on a wall across the street from Rush Arts Philadelphia and RAPGallery II, a community-driven art space focused on community revitalization, providing arts-based opportunities for local youth as well as local artists and curators.
“This originally came from one of Danny’s paintings, and then I just painted it real big,” Tiberino said as the audience laughed in response. The muralist also credited members of The Guild, MAP’s paid internship for returning citizens.
Simmons, who has been on a prolific creative streak during the pandemic, greets the gathered with smiles, pausing for selfies while offering encouraging words. As he approaches the podium, applause erupts, and a voice hollers, “We love you, Danny!” Camera phones are focused on the artist as he stands before the colorful mural that frames him. To his left are his words painted in large block letters: “Art changes lives, it opens a child’s imagination to infinite possibilities.”
“We wanted to bring art to a neighborhood that didn’t have any art galleries,” says Simmons, reference both the mural and Rush Arts. “We want to bring art programs to children in the neighborhood and around Philadelphia. That’s why we bought it here. We didn’t bring it here for anybody but you, and so we have a lot of people working dedicatedly to make sure that we have the greatest art shows, the best teachers and the best experiences for our community. And we’re purposely looking forward to expanding our reach to places to put art where there is none. So I want to say we’re going to ‘rush’ forward. We’re going to do what we do and we going to keep doing it because art changes lives. It opens imaginations. It saved my life. And it will save many more.”