A ghostlike mural invoking images of the local past speaks to the quiet strength of history that fuels the future
Tacony is a neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia. But the community started as a company town after Henry Disston and two other men dug the foundation for the Disston Saw Works—which would become the largest saw manufacturing facility in the world—in 1872.
To tell a condensed history of this place on a wall inside the Tacony Library, artist Benjamin Volta first spent time in the archives at the Historical Society of Tacony and consulted with neighborhood residents and historians.
He then created a mural with ghostlike images and patterns from Tacony’s industrial history, many drawn from the Disston tool catalogue and the Disston Hand Book for Lumbermen. On this monochromatic installation, called Diligence, one figure is prominent. “The towering factory worker reminds me of my history teacher in junior high school who would dramatically stand on his desk and do everything he could to get us excited about the stories from the past,” says Volta.
“Diligence is about the process of looking to the past to fuel an inward process of anticipation and discovery,” says Volta. It was commissioned by the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy’s Percent for Art Program and the Free Library of Philadelphia.