WHILE CITY Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez brought pizzazz to Frankford Avenue by delivering eye-popping makeovers to a dozen storefronts, she also got the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program to paint eight magnificent murals that portray neighborhood pride, history and diversity all along the bustling business corridor.
Cesar Viveros spent more than two years on the mural project, patiently interviewing more than 100 residents about their love of the neighborhood before committing some of their faces and all of their passion to his larger-than-life, vibrantly colored wall paintings.
"Everything we did was based on what made them proud about living in Frankford and about what they want other people to know when they come here," said Viveros, 44.
"For example, some of them told me, 'Make sure people know that this avenue was once called the King's Highway and that the Continental Army marched on it during the Revolutionary War."
Viveros portrays that march in his historical murals at the southern gateway to Frankford Avenue, across from Womrath Park near Adams Avenue.
He includes Native Americans and African-Americans as part of the Revolutionary War effort, after learning about their participation from local historians.
"The murals give voice to the people of Frankford," Viveros said. "They are not just decorative. They are about the people who live here and what they have to say."
The murals honor Frankford's famous people, from the great jazz drummer Butch Ballard to Frankford High football coach Al Angelo, but everyday Frankfordians get their moment in the sun, too.
One sunny morning, Viveros stood watching a racially diverse group of kids playing together in Womrath Park.
He immortalized the joyful sight in an all-faiths mural on a wall at St. Mark's Church, where a black girl and a white girl now play forever in the sunlight while a diverse group of Frankford neighbors watch over them.
The mural is more than an idealized vision of the future. It's real. It's now. It's Frankford. Viveros' murals clearly show that he connected emotionally with Frankford residents.
"They opened their doors for me to come in and interact with them," he said. "We shared meals. They trusted me. I tried to empower the people of Frankford through the murals, which have become an important part of my life and, I hope, part of their lives, as well."