Partnering with local artists to create unique wall murals at Sonder’s The Heid building in Philadelphia

As a company with teams in every location we operate in, we’ve always prioritized creating an authentic atmosphere for our guests — with a focus on reflecting the unique characteristics of each city in our spaces.

When Sonder moved into the Heid Building in Philadelphia, a former hat factory that’s been converted into Loft-style apartments in the Callowhill neighborhood, the local team looked for opportunities to infuse the local culture. Looking to Philly’s Mural Arts Program for inspiration, which features more than 3,600 outdoor murals across the city, we knew we had the unique opportunity to add some colorful and inspiring artwork onto the blank white walls. 

We were thrilled to work with Sara McCorriston, owner of Paradigm Gallery, to help us identify nearby artists who could lend a local element to the design of the spaces. Artists include Hawk Krall, who painstakingly detailed Philadelphia neighborhoods across nine Sonder spaces, and Carla Weeks, whose geometric abstractions take inspiration from the surrounding architecture. We share some of their stories and inspiration below.

Dora Cuenca

Dora Cuenca

Dora Cuenca is a Costa Rican artist with Cuban roots currently based in New Jersey/Philadelphia. Her journey with motherhood and its many layers is deeply woven into her process and art itself. She creates to cultivate joy and empowerment. 

What was the inspiration behind your mural/s?

I’m always inspired by the feelings I want to evoke and the space in which the art will live. I took many pictures of the surrounding views and used them for inspiration to define the block shapes that serve as backgrounds for the continuous line (shown in the photo above). Since the main wall (also shown above) is pretty central to the whole living space, I wanted to create a sense of energy that makes you want to get out and explore. The continuous line takes you for a walk around the city, and at the end of a long day, it serves as a place to rest your eyes. The pink tones are calming and bring a positive energy to the space, while the yellow and blue give the wall a sense of vibrancy and the mustard line ties it all together.

Adam Crawford

Adam Crawford

Adam Crawford is a Philadelphia based artist. He is a graduate of both Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and UPenn. He has shown his artwork internationally. He paints every day and skates at least twice a week.

What was the inspiration behind your mural/s?

The project itself. The idea of all the different artists’ murals being represented in each room throughout the entire hotel was, in itself, very inspiring. I also really appreciated the concept of working in only black and white. As a painter that typically works in color I found this to be challenging, but also refreshing. It served personally to cultivate new and exciting ideas about shape, silhouette, and line weight. Forcing me down unfamiliar paths, this project ultimately taught me a valuable lesson about creative flexibility

Carla Weeks

Carla Weeks

Carla Weeks is a British-born artist and designer living in Philadelphia. Using pattern as a vehicle to articulate memory, Carla’s paintings, textiles, and murals are visual recordings informed by her interactions with both natural landscapes and the built environment. Distilling the color and form experienced in specific geographic locations, Carla aims to create 2-dimensional patterns that communicate a resonating sense of place. Carla holds a BA in Art History, and professional experience in Exhibition Design, Set Production, and Retail Display. Her formal and applied skills are both self-taught and lovingly collected from a sea of talented colleagues and friends.

What was the inspiration behind your mural/s?

My work is influenced by the built environment. The repeat patterns in these murals draw from a palette of shapes and colors I have been long collecting from local and foreign architecture.

Ryan Beck

Ryan Beck

Ryan Beck works in an abstract style that aims to link contemporary art sensibility with the studied traditions of fine art. Beck is interested in his work being a reflection of the shared human experience of sorting through layers of meaning in everyday life, and the exciting challenge of determining the process through which those layers have been created and maintained. Ryan Beck is a Philadelphia-based artist who has exhibited in reputable galleries and spaces around the country including Space 1026, Paradigm Gallery + Studio, and Urban Outfitters World Headquarters. He has also exhibited in international art fairs, including SELECT Miami Art Basel.

What was the inspiration behind your mural/s?

This project seemed unique from the early stages of conversation — both because of its location to the early guidelines, and artists attached to it.  [The neighborhood the Heid is in] holds a close place to my heart. I used to share an artist space a few blocks away …we have all remained close friends, and they are some of my favorite artists to this day.  The neighborhood has a time capsule feeling about it. There’s so much history there … even going back to the 1960s when director David Lynch used his time in that neighborhood as inspiration for the film Eraserhead. 

 As far as the murals went, the discussions were organic, the guidelines were open, and Sara from Paradigm encouraged me to have fun with murals and just make them mine. …Along with traditional house paint and acrylic paint, sponges were used to apply paint washes directly on the walls to re-create watercolor forms that I’ve produced on paper and canvas. Acrylic transfers were applied to 2 of the 3 floors, this was the first time I’ve executed the transfers on surfaces that weren’t lying flat.  This posed some challenges but also unearthed new ideas and an uncertainty to the direction of images themselves. The transfers simulate the layers and history of the building itself, along with the neighborhood. Colors and textures were added and removed, creating a unique language. They tell a story, and in some ways, are documenting the history. To use what was there and build off it, preserve it, and hopefully continue the narrative, was very invigorating. There was a closeness, where they felt more like paintings rather than murals.

Hawk Krall

Hawk Krall

Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based Artist and Illustrator with a focus on food and eclectic street scenes, whose work can be seen everywhere from murals to magazines, locally and all over the world. Recent projects include a mural at Troegs Brewing and a Scrapple-themed public art newsbox for the town of Souderton. You can also currently see his original food paintings on the second floor of Lucky’s Last Chance in Manayunk. See more at hawkkrall.net .

What was the inspiration behind your mural/s?

I’ve done quite a few of these Philly “neighborhood portraits” over the years, but mostly for gallery shows and illustration projects. The Heid / Sonder project seemed like a perfect way to continue this theme on a large scale. Almost like a visual guide to the city for guests; of neighborhoods near the building where they might notice a detail from the murals in real life; or further-afar parts of the city that might be new to them, but definitely have a lot to offer. Also…it was just an excuse to draw things I like, Philadelphia foods, buildings and landmarks I just hadn’t had the chance to put into an art piece so far. Sonder and Paradigm gave me completely free reign with these-pretty rare for projects like this-so what you’re seeing on the walls is just purely my self-indulgent vision of cannolis, Indian cheesesteaks, murals and signs around the city that I dig.

Leave a reply