Mural of the man 'born and raised' in West Philadelphia debuts

Will Smith finally honored with Philly mural

Cherri Gregg
June 05, 2018 - 11:13 pm
London-based artist Richard Wilson was inspired to create a 60-foot mural of Will Smith.

Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio

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WEST PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — London-based artist Richard Wilson had never been to Philadelphia before, but he was always drawn to "chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool."

"Will was in the back of my head to do in Philly," said Wilson, who is obsessed with graffiti and spray painting murals.

The artist was inspired to create a 60-foot mural of Will Smith — one of Philadelphia's most famous people, who did not have a mural until now — based on Smith's Instagram stories and Kihinde Wiley's portrait of Barack Obama.

Wilson, who is also self-funding the project, said he was compelled to find the six-story wall outside of Global Leadership Academy Charter School on West Girard Avenue.  

He got permission from the property owner to use a crane to scale the wall and use spray paint to create a towering image of the former "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star, Wiley-style.  

Smith is portrayed in a suit, no tie and is sitting in a chair wearing classic Air Jordan sneakers and surrounded by flowers. 

"If you're a kid coming from around here, you can see this every day and you can understand that this global leader and international superstar — he came from right here," added Wilson, "and that he is you."

Global Leadership Academy art teacher Lynette James helped paint leaves on the mural. She said she was that kid that Wilson described.

"I went to Overbrook High School as well," she said of Smith's alma mater, "so Will has always been my role model, whether it was academics, arts — you name it."

Wilson said Smith's "people" know about the mural, and he is working with the school to get Smith to visit this fall.