Public Art – The Atlas of Tomorrow, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What does it take to make our communities vibrant, healthy, and strong? We must address all of the influences that contribute to our well-being, including stress, experiences of trauma, availability of support, access to quality health care, educational and economic opportunities, and our environment. The Porch Light Program of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) situates art and human connection at the heart of wellness and healing in Philadelphia. By working closely with individuals experiencing mental health, substance use, and intellectual disAbility related challenges, friends and family members, service providers, the broader community, and city government, we create participatory public art that explores a wide range of challenging health-related issues. The making of these murals creates opportunities for personal and communal healing, communicates thought-provoking messages of hope, recovery, resilience, and self-determination, increases awareness of the variety of experiences that contribute to our well-being, and brings beauty to where we live, work, and play. Throughout these diverse projects, a common theme has emerged – the importance of having a safe and inviting space to come home to. The Porch Light Program symbolizes our intention to create safe havens throughout the city where people can find comfort through others and overcome the most challenging elements of their environment.

The Atlas of Tomorrow is an interactive tool that promotes mental wellness as a critical component of thriving communities. Inspired by the I Ching, individuals are invited to consider a situation in their lives where they seek clarity, and then spin the dial to select one of 64 fable-like stories along the wall for poetic guidance. The stores and artwork evoke a surreal inner world, a “town in your head,” full of characters that can help us examine our struggles, behaviors, and opportunities for growth. Designed with the idea of art as a form of meditation, the artwork was finger painted by Candy Chang and over one hundred members of the Philadelphia community.

Welcome to The Atlas of Tomorrow

A Device for Philosophical Reflection

Introduction

We tell ourselves strange stories. Stores like I am not good enough or I will never be understood. We hear these words in the private chatter, the hum in our heads that tells us who we are. But sometimes we catch a glimpse of who we might become. Perhaps it’s a rogue thought in the shower. A shiver of deja vu on the sidewalk. But for a moment our mental weather clears and the world makes some kind of sense. They call this synchronicity, when our insides meet the outside in a meaningful way. You might call it gut sense or intuition, but you know when it happens. It’s encoded in the hairs on your neck, the flutter in your nerves, and it’s been within you all along, a deep prehistoric knowledge that occasionally breaks to the surface before disappearing beneath the next wave of chatter.

The machine on this wall was built to make these moments happen more often for you. Here you’ll find sixty-four stories inspired by the ancient I Ching that reach back to cold nights of campfires and stars, long before the written word. The I Ching examines the inevitability of change. For thousands of years it has provided counsel and reassurance to those of us who struggle with challenging relationships, difficulties with work, unhappy emotions, and forks in the road. These stories remind us that our problems are not unique and that wisdom endures, if we are willing to listen.