In an election season that's been called mean and tawdry, someone needed to step forward and boldly say something nice.
Artists Kate Mellina and her husband Dave Christopher are channeling inner angels by displaying photos of people holding up signs imprinted with positive words such as, "Vote," "Relate," and "Inspire" in the 27 windows of the building they own on East Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street in South Philadelphia.
Each person photographed is a local artist, including: singer Bobby Rydell; poet Julia Lopez; architect Joel Spivak; jazz and R&B pianist Alfie Pollitt; journalist Claude Lewis; and Jennifer Childs, cofounder and artistic director of the 1812 Productions comedy theater company.
"We were getting so anxious over the divisiveness of this election," said Mellina, 63, an artist who creates art out of found objects. She is the sort of person who says things like, "Well, how groovy!"
But the Trump-Clinton tilt was becoming too much even for a sweet, tolerant person such as Mellina, and seemed to be infecting everything.
"We were starting to feel like it's a horrible world," Mellina said. "But then we'd go out on the street and it's really not. The horrible country began to feel really nice."
The couple wanted to express that good feeling through the photo display, which has been up about a month.
Christopher, 65, an executive at Merck & Co. in Montgomery County, took the photographs.
He'd been an avid shutterbug in Asbury Park, where the couple used to live and where Mellina served as a member of city council. Christopher would take picture of musicians in local clubs.
Lights illuminate the 18- by-27-inch, black-and-white photos in the windows of the three-story South Philadelphia building. They're displayed on translucent corrugated plastic.
The effect on the street is impressive, especially at night when smiling people suddenly appear to be peering onto the street, dispatching hopeful vibes.
"Friends saw my picture in the window and said, 'I didn't know you were famous,'" said Linda Lou Horn, 69, of Roxborough, who makes whimsical sculptural figures from found objects. "'How wonderful to see you!'"
Horn said she's been "torn and upset" about the election, its vitriol antithetical to her philosophy of discovering people's goodness.
"In the found objects I use in art, from stuff people throw away, I see something grander," she said. "As people, we are all a bit broken, but let's look for good things and bring ourselves together."
Aptly, Horn holds a sign displaying the word "Envision" in her photograph.
Mellina and Christopher are known for turning their building into public art. Three years ago, they displayed photos of their neighbors at Christmas, serving as a holiday card for the area.
Many more photos depicting Mellina and Christopher "flipping the election script" are on their blog, Unexpected Philadelphia (https://unexpectedphilablog.com/).
The couple will keep the photos on the building up until the weekend after Election Day next Tuesday.
It's a "real antistress story," Mellina said, adding her goal is to bring attention to "Philadelphians who are still committed to working together to make things better."