The ovarian cancer mural was created to raise
public awareness and hope. It is the
brainchild of the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundations founders -- Robin Cohen
and Adriana DAlessandro, who saw an opportunity through it, to save lives. Time and
awareness are crucial factors in diagnosing this disease, and they hope that this will get
people talking, inspire research, and encourage women to become more proactive about their
health. The mural has been a labor of love by many people and several organizations. After
3 years of searching and toiling through red tape, the wall was found. The Propper
Brothers Furniture store has donated the south wall of their historic building in
beautiful Manayunk, known for its river, bridges and lively
The artist, Ann Northrup, from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, is a perfect match because her heart is as great as her talent. The first step in her design process was a meeting with the ovarian cancer survivors in the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation. The mural would be designed as a response to them. The survivors spoke eloquently about dealing with the diagnosis and the stages they went through, from panic to shock to taking action. They expressed feeling alone in a crowed room , but said that a weight was lifted from their hearts when they were with people who wore the same red badge of courage. The survivors described a sense of climbing a ladder into the unknown. Every aspect of their lives had changed profoundly in a way that would not change back. They spoke of doctors who could give very few answers, even in terms of survival statistics. They all expressed a desire to tell their stories, in the hopes that through increased knowledge and research, no other woman would ever have to go through what they had suffered.
The artist was excited about working with us,
because of the opportunity to tell an important, emotional story, a story that might have
the power to change peoples lives for the better.
The design began as a small, semi-abstract landscape. It was a color study,
with a swirl of radiant light in the center, and rich,
somber color, punctuated with flashes of brilliance, around the edges. Last summer, while painting in
Once the design process was a little further
along, we gave feedback to Ann that she had been too successful at creating a dark and
somber emotional space, and that she needed to have more positive notes of hope. So she
lightened and softened the sky, and invited the group of survivors from the Sandy Rollman
Ovarian Cancer Foundation to meet her near the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a photo
session. She planned to get them dancing and see if she could get some lively shots. Ann
had brought the wrong batteries for her CD player and was forced to sing the dance tunes
herself! From these photos came the
three graces in the lowest center part of the mural. After the dancing, Ann
decided on a field trip to the waterworks mansion, to get some cliff-shots. Three of the
women climbed the cliff, and then had to help each other get down. This image, which
perfectly represents the way the survivors support each other, is on the far left side of
the painting. The title of the mural
Another resonant image, in the upper central part of the mural, came from a wonderful young man who is the Director of Operations at the Mural Arts Program. His mother had been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and he took a picture of her with her grand-daughter, planting a flowering Impatience. Ann felt that planting Impatience, a water-loving plant, in this dry and inhospitable landscape is a strong statement about the optimism and persistence that helps people everywhere continue in times of struggle. Hope is very important, but she was clear that this should not be like a greeting card, in which everything negative is invisible. It is about hope in the face of struggle.
Our scaffolding went up July 18th. It took 2 weeks to prep the wall and grid it. In the beginning several people commented astutely that it was like a giant paint-by-number set, with each square numbered and lettered. This system helps to transfer the composition accurately. The mural is painted in a very classical way. The drawing was done on a terra-cotta toned ground, and was developed through glazing and underpainting, focusing on the form and composition before the detail. Ann has been assisted in the painting by four very fine artists: Gabe Tiberino, Petre Oravetz, Susan Simmons, and Kitty Hankins.
On September 10, 2005, members of the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation and their families volunteered their time and assisted our wonderful artist . It was a magical day for all. The mural was dedicated on Thursday, September 22, 2005.
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