PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Today marked a huge step forward for a running group with an artistic twist. The nonprofit, Mural Miles, unveiled their very first piece of public art.
"There's so many murals in Philadelphia. We walk by them all the time," said founder Craig Oppenheimer. "We don't really stop to know who the artist was and the backstory behind it."
Oppenheimer and a small group of friends decided to change that in March of 2021. They created routine running routes using murals as a road map.
"Every month, we go on a group run to various murals around Philadelphia," he said. "We stop to learn about the art. We also partner with brands or organizations to create new works of public art as well."
Their inaugural mural is titled, "Equilibrium," and it was created by artist Eric Okdeh. It was funded by members of Mural Miles in addition to Lily Development, a real estate firm which lended its building's exterior to the artwork. It is located at 638 Christian St. in South Philadelphia.
The piece depicts two local runners, Aaron Leon Nixon and Valentina Viana, in stride alongside birds and a dog.
"Running pretty much saved my life from like wanting to commit suicide at a point in my life where I was struggling with kind of like my sexual identity," said Aaron Leon Nixon.
Leon Nixon hopes that many passersby will be inspired by the image of him putting one foot in front of the other.
"When they see my photo, they can like hear my story," he said. "And just know that, even though there may be a cloud over you today, there's always sunshine across the street."
Mural Miles hopes this will be the first of many murals they will install in order to promote running and the arts in Philadelphia.
To learn more or to participate in their next run, visit their website.