Three local artists chosen by Questlove to create billboards for 'Summer of Soul'

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Local artists selected to create billboards for 'Summer of Soul'
Questlove is showing Philadelphia artists some love, allowing three of them the chance to design billboards for his documentary "Summer of Soul."

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- West Philadelphia native Questlove is making his directorial debut with "Summer of Soul," which hits theaters and Hulu on Friday

To promote this passion project, he's also showing Philly artists some love, allowing three of them the chance to design billboards for the documentary that are now on display in Fishtown.

Questlove wanted to do something special, only here in his hometown, to spread the word about his first film.

His "Summer of Soul" features never-before-seen footage of the Harlem Cultural Festival. He's spent months working with a team to restore old reel of the star-studded peace gathering in 1969 for the celebration it deserves.

Questlove worked with the city's Mural Arts program to find three local artists to create mural-sized billboards.

In the summer of 1969, while Woodstock grabbed all of the headlines in upstate New York, the Harlem Cultural Festival was happening in New York City.

Right now, the spotlight at Front and Laurel streets belongs to Port Richmond art studio owner Ernel Martinez.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to not only highlight the history of music, as we have a great music tradition in Philadelphia, but to see the power of music being expressed through art. Doing this project was great and it's kind of a 'Part Two' collaboration with Questlove for me," said Martinez.

Back in 2013, Martinez was part of the team that created a mural of The Roots in South Philadelphia.

For this project, he says he wanted to capture the energy of those Harlem concerts.

South Philadelphia artist Symone Salib also created her own version. Ironically, her goal for 2021 was to create a billboard.

Three months later, Questlove reached out and asked her to do it.

He celebrated their fateful collaboration on social media.

"He wrote, 'A Philadelphia artist had a dream to see their art on a billboard. I too had a dream that one day my art could be on a billboard. So we manifested each other's dreams,'" Salib gushes while reading his Instagram post aloud.

"I was like, 'What are the chances?' Oh, my gosh, the universe and the stars have aligned!"

The third billboard goes up next week, with the work of local artist Arthur Haywood.