It will take just four and a half months for Philadelphia artist Ann Northrup to cover the three-story, east-facing exterior wall of Bredenbeck’s Bakery & Ice Cream Parlor in a mural painting. But the project, which is part of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, took roughly 10 years of campaigning by Bredenbeck’s owner Karen Boyd Rohde before it came to fruition.
The mural in progress, photo by Matt Griffin.
“I’m very active with the business association here in Chestnut Hill, Boyd Rohde says. “Ten years ago, we did a walk through the neighborhood and talked about ways to improve it. I had this great wall on the side of my building and thought it would be awesome to put a mural on it. But I didn’t have the extra money to have it done.” A few years later, a representative from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program contacted Boyd Rohde, asking her to gather 2,000 signatures from customers in support of the project.
“It all started with a community effort with everybody in order for the mural association to come in,” Boyd Rohde says. “I wouldn’t have gone forward if we hadn’t thought this was what the Chestnut Hill neighborhood wanted, especially as a business owner.”
The community has rallied behind the project, so far helping Bredenbeck’s raise $31,000 of the $35,000 needed to complete the mural.
“At first I thought, how many bake sales am I going to have to do? But the community came forth–other businesses came through and people who live in the community who are interested in the arts–donating $1 to $2 in our jar at the bakery up to the $1,000s. It’s been great. The customers come in and say it is wonderful. It’s all been so positive.”
The finished mural, which will be unveiled at a dedication ceremony the first weekend in November, will depict the beloved Wissihickon Creek at Chestnut Hill’s Fairmont Park, chosen because it has year-round appeal to residents, Boyd Rohde adds. Passing residents frequently stop their cars to get a look at the mural’s progress and ask the artist questions. And the bakery has been keeping customers up to date with photos on Facebook and renderings of the finished product in the bakery.
“It was something that didn’t happen overnight,” Boyd Rohde says. “It’s one of the things you put out there when you’re thinking long term in business. It was a process. I kept on holding my breath and hoping it would be as welcomed and believed in as I felt about it.
“The biggest thing with me is I’m always trying to think outside the box. I think running a single retail bakery today is doing that. You want to be constantly changing, keeping your eyes open, learning and thinking about what would be good not just for me but for the community as a whole.”