For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Contacts: Carrie Leibrand, Communications Specialist,

Randy Giancaterino, Communications Director,


Welcoming Philadelphia’s First Public Sculpture Depicting an Individual African American Girl
New statue unveiled at Smith Playground as part of the 60th Anniversary of Philadelphia’s Percent for Art Programs

PHILADELPHIA – Today, the City of Philadelphia celebrated the unveiling of MVP, Philadelphia’s first freestanding statue depicting an individual African-American girl, as the official kickoff of the City of Philadelphia’s 60th Anniversary of the Percent for Art Programs. The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy event was in partnership with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and  the Office of the City Representative.

Speakers included Brian Abernathy, Managing Director; Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner; Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer; and Brian McCutcheon, Artist. Also in attendance were Connor Barwin, Founder and Board President of Make The World Better Foundation; Mr. Ron, “The Mayor of Smith Playground”; Michael Mychak, Smith Playground Recreation Leader; Smith Playground summer campers, project partner organizations, artists, and many more.

“Philadelphia’s youth are the MVPs of our city,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “The installation of MVP is an overdue public celebration of the incredible determination and achievement of every young Philadelphian.”

MVP by Brian McCutcheon is located at Smith Playground in South Philadelphia at 2100 South 24th Street. The original artwork was commissioned through the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy’s Percent for Art Program in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, and the Make the World Better Foundation.

MVP celebrates those who have historically been underrepresented in Philadelphia’s public art collection – people of color, women, and our youth,” said Margot Berg, Public Art Director. “As Philadelphia’s collection of public art continues to grow through the Percent for Art Program and other initiatives, the City remains committed to commissioning artworks that reflect our city’s diverse communities and histories.”

The figurative bronze statue depicts a young, African American female basketball player. She has just taken possession of the ball and is poised in a decisive moment which will dictate what happens next. MVP represents the power and potential of young girls, exemplifying the pursuit of success through dedication and hard work.

MVP is inspired by the trailblazing Philadelphia athlete Ora Washington (1898-1971). Ms. Washington was a legendary Philadelphian who excelled in basketball and tennis. She played for the Philadelphia Tribunes basketball team from 1931 to 1943 and was inducted into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. A multitalented athlete, she was also the American Tennis Association’s National Women’s Tennis Champion every year from 1925 to 1937. Ms. Washington’s achievements in the face of racial oppression and its systemic obstacles to equal opportunity embody the narrative of determination triumphing over injustice.

“Philadelphia inspired the development of my professional practice as an artist,” said Brian McCutcheon. “Drawing from my experiences living in South Philadelphia, it’s been an honor create this monument to the youth of the Smith Playground community. The figurative statue and dedication to Ora Washington represent the resilience of Philadelphian youth throughout the city.”

This Percent for Art opportunity was announced nationally to artists and artist teams as an open Call to Artists in December 2017. Of 52 applicants, four finalists were selected to present proposals. The selection panel included: Cavin Jones, Artist; Ife Nii Owoo, Artist; Jennie Shanker, Artist and Professor, Tyler University. The Advisory Panel included representatives from: The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Make the World Better, and a conservator from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The selection panel unanimously voted in favor of McCutcheon’s proposal.

“The children and teens that come to Smith Playground everyday can see and be inspired by this powerful sculpture that looks like someone in their community,” said Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer. “My hope is, like the Rocky statue, MVP will become a local destination where people will come, replicate the pose, take photos, or selfies and if only for a moment feel like a MVP – a most valuable player.”

The unveiling of MVP kicked off a series of programs presented by the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority as part of the 60th Anniversary of Philadelphia’s Percent for Art Programs, the first in the nation. MVP is the newest of the “Percent for Art 60″, a selection of 60 public artworks commissioned through the Percent for Art Programs. The “Percent for Art 60″ are in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia and represents 60 years of public art created in a diversity of mediums, subject matter, scale and intent. In addition to the unveiling of MVP, the “Percent for Art 60” celebratory programs include:

  • Public Art Trivia on the jumbo digital screen at Commerce Square made possible with the support of Brandywine Realty Trust.
  • An Interactive Map to take self-guided tours of Philadelphia’s public art throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
  • A social media Scavenger Hunt with cool prizes for the winner.
  • An exhibition opening on September 19 at the Center for Architecture + Design.
  • And a Panel Discussion with public artists on November 7.

To learn more about how to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Philadelphia’s Percent for Art Programs, visit or

About the Artist
Brian McCutcheon is an Indianapolis-based artist and founder of Ignition Arts, LLC, which specializes in large-scale public art commissions. Living for a decade in South Philadelphia, McCutcheon considers Philadelphia a fundamental influence on his work. He has been the recipient of a number of grants, awards, and artist residencies, including a 2010-11 Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant and a summer 2009 residency at Sculpture Space in Utica, New York. Over the past decade, his work has been featured in a wide range of exhibitions on a national and international scale.

About the Percent for Art Program
Enacted in 1959, the City’s Percent for Art ordinance requires that one percent of the total dollar amount of any construction project that includes City funds be devoted to the commissioning of site-specific public art. The intent of the Percent for Art Ordinance is to enhance the City’s public environment by incorporating exceptional site-specific works of art.

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art Program works with developers building on land purchased from or acquired by the PRA to commission original works of public art across the city.  The PRA’s Public art can be found in such diverse developments as high-rise commercial and residential towers, universities, parks and hotels. 

About the Public Art Program
The Public Art Program of the City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is the steward of over 1,000 works of public art throughout nearly every neighborhood in the city. Our collection is vast and varied – including traditional war memorials and monuments, as well contemporary works. Philadelphia’s long-standing commitment to public art continues today and is evident in the age of our collection, our pioneering Percent for Art Program, and our ongoing preservation efforts through the Conservation and Collection Management of public art.

About City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy
The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) supports and promotes arts, culture and the creative industries; develops partnerships that ensure culture and creativity are essential components of Philadelphia’s community revitalization, education, and economic development strategies; and links Philadelphians to cultural resources and opportunities. For more information about the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, visit and follow @CreativePHL on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.