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Philly Painting: Money follows art as Haas & Hahn transform Germantown Ave.

It's not your typical tourist destination, but a stretch of lower Germantown Avenue is now in the process of becoming world famous. This week, Mural Arts Program kicked off Philly Painting, led by Dutch artists Jeroen Haas and Dre Urhahn, AKA Haas & Hahn.

"The first part will go on from where we are standing now as far as you can see," said Urhahn, pointing north from the corner of Germantown Avenue and West Huntingdon Street. The One+Seven Variety Store, owned by Mrs. Tokhui Kelly, is the starting point for the massive 100,000 square foot project. The corner store at 2601 Germantown Avenue has been transformed with blocks of color Kelly chose from a palate of 50 options offered by the artists. "I chose bright colors," says Kelly. "Everybody pays attention. It helps this neighborhood look good."

Urhahn says he and Haas settled on the fifty color set by doing a photographic analysis of the city of Philadelphia, choosing hues most commonly seen on the streets. Each building owner has the option of selecting color combinations. "Some are not interested, and some think it's important. They might come back twenty times, while other shop owners tell us just to make something nice."

Located just steps away from the Village of Arts and Humanities, the Germantown corridor project has hired a paint crew of 21 local young people, but this summer, Elizabeth Grimaldi, director of the Village, says she'll be running a free summer camp to attract some of the 1800 kids in walking distance of the project.

Mayor Michael Nutter stopped by for Wednesday's kickoff, and highlighted $3.5 million in improvements to the Germantown Avenue corridor, funded mostly by the Department of Commerce and assisted by the Planning Commission. The project was among those funded by the Knight Arts Challenge.

"In reality," adds Urhahn, pointing to cracks in one store's facade, "these buildings need a lot of attention. But this project is the first step to more businesses coming in, and more money moving around."

Source: Dre Urhahn, Elizabeth Grimaldi, Mrs. Tokhui Kelly, Mayor Michael Nutter
Writer: Sue Spolan
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