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    Artist Eurhi Jones Makes Philly Greener, One Mural at a Time

    When I visited muralist Eurhi Jones at her temporary studio in Fairmount Park’s Sweetbriar Mansion, she stopped on her way up the front steps to gasp: there was a moth on the porch, its stark white wings covered with black circles, bold and perfectly spaced.

    “Oh my god!” she said, crouching down take pictures with her phone. Leave it to a painter to see art in a common household bug.

    For Jones, this fascination with nature — which she’s had for as long she can remember — is behind the themes she weaves into her art. Walking around Philly, you may have noticed one of her many brightly colored murals, filled with water, flora, and fauna.

    Your Hands Shimmering on the Legs of Rain (Collaboration with Michael Reali)

    But those pieces aren’t just pretty: each serves to advance an environmental cause. After attending a life-changing symposium by the Pachamama Alliance around five years ago, Jones realized she wanted to use her art for the greater good. And considering her lifelong love affair with wildlife, it makes sense that environmentalism would be her political cause of choice.

    “I was already doing murals, and realized I have to be an activist,” Jones said. “Then I don’t think, what’s a nice thing for this community or what do I want to paint? I think, what can make an impact? I already have this forum here, so I should make a bigger statement if I can figure out how.”

    Born in Swarthmore to a mother from Korea and father from Scranton, Jones always had a creative spirit. That led her to study ceramics and painting at Wesleyan College in Connecticut and earn her MFA in from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It was at the Academy that she met her now-husband, who introduced her to the medium of murals.

    “Turned out I had an aptitude for it,” Jones said. “Even though it’s a lot of physical labor and I am a very small female. Maybe I have a Napoleon complex, secretly.”

    Working with Water: Using Murals as Education

    Right now, she’s working on a project for the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), and the Philadelphia Horticultural Society (PHS) called Water Gives Life. The mural will be erected near the Convention Center, and its marriage of flower and water imagery highlights PWD’s involvement with horticulture. (Familiar with rain gardens)? It also, Jones said, aims to spread PWD’s message that the city’s water is safe to drink — no need to pick up a pack of plastic water bottles from the store.

    PWD is perhaps Jones’ most frequent collaborator, especially as it employs public art to promote Clean City, Green Waters, its ambitious plan to cut down on the stormwater pollution entering the city’s sewer system by 85 percent by 2036 through green tools. For example, in 2015, Jones designed Waterways, a series of adhesive vinyl prints on sidewalks and bridges, to educate passersby about PWD’s stormwater management facility on Venice Island.

    Venice Island Waterways


    Jones also works to keep her production process sustainable, devising methods to filter her paint water before dumping it down the drain and recycle old paint buckets. And of course, her day-to-day life is filled with green decisions, from taking long hikes with her two teenage daughters instead of taking them shopping.

    Painting with a Purpose: Art Leading to Action

    A true activist, Jones understands that community engagement is the key to change. That’s why murals are the perfect medium: not only are they most public form of art, they’re also the ideal way to get others involved in the process. Her projects often include days when she invites community members, especially students and other young people, to color in her designs, paint-by-number style.

    Even outside environmentalism, Jones has used her art to organize and make a statement. For the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, she organized a group of young women and helped them create custom signs, each with their own personalized touches.

    Recently, Jones has been looking toward building a network of like-minded creates. She runs a monthly women’s group, in which they read about and discuss environmental activism, but hopes to specifically unite artists with a mission similar to hers.

    “It’s not natural for me to shout from the rooftops,” Jones says of her newfound leadership role. “I’d rather quietly paint, but I guess I’m trying to step it up for myself and my kids.” 

    Check out more of Jones’s work at her website! 

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    Brianna Baker

    About Brianna Baker

    Brianna is a senior journalism major Temple University. While studying abroad in Fall 2017, she interned at WHERE Rome magazine, and has also worked for Baltimore STYLE, QWERTY Philly, and student publications like Templar, The Temple News and 14th Street. In addition to writing, she loves re-watching her favorite sitcoms, going to concerts, and doing yoga (when she’s not feeling too lazy).

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