The Value of Family
When it comes to telling the NorthEast Treatment Centers’ story, the handwriting – or rather the picture – is literally on the wall.
A nearly block-long mural, made of paint on cloth, stained glass, and Venetian glass tiles, blankets the façade of NET’s administrative headquarters at 5th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia. Spanning the mural is a George Bernard Shaw quote: “Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to this country and to mankind is to bring up a family.”
The mural, titled “The Value of Family,” highlights NET’s social and child-care services, which provide clients with the strength and stability of a family. Portrayed in the mural is the late Pat Henry, a much-beloved NET employee, who, along with her fiancé and teenage daughter, met tragic deaths several years ago. Also memorialized on the wall for her support and involvement with NET is Dolores De Francesco, the late wife of NET President and CEO Terence McSherry.
Philadelphia artist Eric Okdeh was selected to lead the mural team. For Okdeh, the appeal of mural making lies in the collaborative process, making him the perfect choice for NET’s project, which was designed to provide participants with a sense of inclusion and accomplishment.
Many NET clients, including some youth from the In-Home Detention Program, did the actual painting on parachute cloth, which was broken down into more manageable 5-by-7-foot sections. “When they saw their work become part of something much bigger, they were proud and amazed,” McSherry recalled.
The NET mural is one of the highlights of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s Center City Trolley Tour, according to Jane Golden, founding director. Philadelphia’s more than 3,000 murals “make our city unique,” Golden said. “Murals exist at the meeting point of our political, social and aesthetic worlds. They transform buildings and encourage those who create them and those who view them.”
Which is just what NET envisioned when it commissioned its mural. “I think our mural will be here for a very long time, and I hope that many of the contributing artists will bring their grandchildren here to see it,” McSherry said.