SOON, THE 17th Police District headquarters will get much more than a fresh coat of paint.
Three of its walls at 20th and Federal streets will be adorned with a sweeping mural that was given the go-ahead by South Philly and Point Breeze residents. It was also titled "The Breeze," for its free-flowing, yet visually connected, design.
"The Breeze" is one of two murals being created through "Cops & Kids: Turning the Corner," a collaboration between youth and police officers brought together by the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia and the Adolescent Violence Reduction Partnership.
Those groups hope that the art projects will change misperceptions kids have about the cops who patrol their neighborhoods - and vice versa.
Muralist Cesar Viveros will oversee the painting and is helping with the designs for the South Philly mural - as well as for another mural that will go up at the Feltonville Boys & Girls Club, atop the 25th Police District building, at 3901 Whitaker Ave. "I do it for them," Viveros said. "It makes me feel good that they like it and accepted it."
"The Breeze" includes many compelling elements, such as a group picture of the residents of the community, a huge shield on the front of the police station and a yellow ribbon that will flow through each wall and contain words of reflection and encouragement.
The design was developed after a series of meetings that included community members, officers, young people from the Adolescent Violence Reduction Partnership and participants from the Mural Arts Program. Viveros then took their ideas and created a design that captured the collective vision of the community and officers.
Finally, Viveros presented his design to the members of the 17th District community, which endorsed the design in last week's meeting.
"The mural's design is excellent. I felt special - my picture is in it," said longtime South Philly resident and community activist Kevin Hannah, who is also a member of the South Philly Police District Advisory Council. "It will beautify the district, and the community will welcome it with open arms."
Perhaps the most compelling design element is a tasteful memorial to Paris Williams Sr., a 17th District officer and member of the Civil Affairs Unit who collapsed and died in June 2005. Williams suffered a heart attack while on patrol during a biotechnology conference at the Convention Center.
The image depicts Williams in a window, looking out at the neighborhood. His daughter, Yavonda, who is now 35, rests her head on his shoulder.
"Cesar did an excellent job in pulling in neighborhood symbols and putting the youths in the mural," said Anne Harrison, one of the organizers for this project. "Everyone is excited to start painting. The mural is part of the community; it's their mural and they should feel a part of it."