Kensington Library Art Installation led by Pedro Ospina

Clay, Play, Read Community Mural

The design began with a deep look at what was already there, yet had gone unnoticed by most for many years. Across the beige brick facade, a seemingly random pattern of bricks protruded from the surface. Artist, Pedro Ospina noticed those bricks revealed a story in pictures of people enjoying the public library. The simplified brick figures shown reading and learning acted as the inspiration and foundation for the mural and can now be admired in vibrant colors.

As an artist, Pedro Ospina is passionate about community gatherings. Believing in the creative power of community, he invited neighbors living near the Kensington Library to share in the experience of creating ceramic tiles during five pop-ups, public workshops. The mural pieces, created by community members of all ages, symbolically reflect ideas central to Pedro’s personal artistic pursuits of learning and sharing. Across the 130-foot wall ceramic letters, creatures, and whimsical plants conjure notions of growth, transformation, freedom, and child-like wonder. The ceramic tiles culminate in a felt celebration of storytelling through the written word.  Stop by the mural, look deeply, and see what you can find!

Simplified brick design idea

 Cecil B. Moore Library Art Installation led by Jihan Thomas

Clay, Play, Read: African Griot Story Guardians

A story has a life cycle of living, telling, then remembering. According to artist,  Jihan Thomas, “This library is situated in a very historical avenue for African Americans. The stories and memories that I have heard from neighbors in the area are all of pride, legacy, and resistance. From the activism of Cecil B More, Sonia Sanchez, Reverend Leon Sullivan, Tammi Terrel, UNIA, the Philadelphia Black Panther Party, and Dox Thrash to all the other families that live in the area that contribute to the living history happening now." 

In order to encapsulate the importance of protecting the story of a community, Thomas hearkened back to the West African tradition of trusting and entrusting the oral historian to preserve its memories. The Griot, a symbolic guardian figure who represents historians, storytellers, praise singers, poets, and musicians represents, in this installation, the community members and their stories. During five pop-up workshops in the spring and summer of 2021, neighbors came together to make their own Griot figures. Just as stories are entrusted to the storyteller, Jihan was then entrusted with each Griot created by a community member as she decorated them with extra embellishments that honor their creator’s specific story. Through listening and collaboratively creating, Jihan reveals how knowledge, wisdom, and education are embodied in living people. Experience the Griots at the Cecil B. Moore Library and be inspired to tell and protect your own story.

View each Griot
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about the artists

Watch Jihan and Pedro on YouTube

Re-watch the recording of Lunch & Learn to hear from two local artists who are making a difference, Jihan Thomas and Pedro Ospina. They each worked with us on clay projects at two local libraries, and the people living in those neighborhoods joined in the clay making process. There's a special kind of passion and understanding that connects people and place. Hear Jihan and Pedro's stories and learn about their art.


lead support for these projects

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The William Penn Foundation

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The Free Library of Philadelphia