Arcadia Public Art Project, “Panther Pride Unleashed,” at Cheltenham High School

By Ryan Hiemenz | April 19, 2024
Amir Campbell cutting the ribbon to his mural.

The Arcadia Public Art Project (APAP) and Philadelphia-based painter, Amir “Amiracle” Campbell, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 18 for Campbell’s “Panther Pride Unleashed,” a mural housed in the main entrance of Cheltenham High School.

As the 2021-23 resident artist for APAP, Campbell spent two years collaborating with select Arcadia students both on the concept of the piece and then the underpainting of the mural. Those students were Ryan Erdman ’25, Emily Feldman ’25, Antonio Feliciano ’23, Heidi Herbawi ’24, Emily Lickey ’23, Marq Lych ’23, Taylor Nurko ’24, ReyNa Riggins ’23, Deanna Shaller ’23, and Shane Stauffer ’24

Herbawi, who is a Scientific Illustration major, managed Arcadia Public Art’s social media, website design, and merchandise alongside the work done on the mural itself.

“The experience was both incredibly exciting and a bit daunting,” she explained. “There is way more paperwork that goes into working in a high school than I ever realized, from TB testing to police background checks and fingerprinting. However, since I was put in a leadership position, it was a really nice experience being able to propose my ideas and take the reins on our on-campus project.”

The mural depicts a panther breaking through a blue brick wall, with other smaller details like pawprints and graffiti designs surrounding it. The color scheme is in line with Cheltenham High School’s blue and gold.

“I wanted it to portray a commitment to unity and oneness and breaking down barriers,” said Campbell. “The panther embodies the student as they navigate everything they face in their lives. While also being their mascot, it is also a symbol of power and strength. Breaking through the bricks represents their power to break through and push forward towards whatever the future holds.”

The "Panther Pride Unleashed" mural.

“Sometimes you can say more with something simple,” he said while explaining the concept of the piece. “That’s what this is. It’s simple, but things like the identities and diversity in the student body are subtly woven into the mural.”

Now in its seventh year, APAP invites a professional artist to work with a cohort of student apprentices as they create community-focused public art projects in the Glenside area. Their goal is to connect with the diverse communities of the area to contribute to a more interconnected and equitable community.

Cheltenham School District Superintendent Dr. Brian Scriven conveyed his gratitude to those involved during the event.

“We have this awesome partnership with Arcadia University that really tries to galvanize us as a touch point of being the school district that sits right next to the university, and this mural is one of the fruits of this partnership,” he said. “Let’s do more of this. I’m all in and I hope you are too.”

Following the ribbon-cutting, APAP held a light reception for attendees to spend time in the space, speak with Campbell, and enjoy his artwork.

“Work like this are passion projects,” added Herbawi. “I came to school with the objective of helping others, always. When I was a Biology major, I wanted to have that direct, hands-on participation in helping people. Now, as a scientific and medical illustrator, I’m still helping, just in a less direct manner. One of my friends who is finishing medical school now said once that ‘his work will keep people alive, but my work, individuals in the arts, are the reason people want to be alive.'”