During my random adventure this week, I met a Manayunk man [HAHA…you see what I did there?] with a table full of old records and captivating art set up in front of his home. Even though I don’t have an old school record player, the records immediately caught my eye. As I flipped through album covers of Donna Summers, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross and tons of others, the gentleman seated at the opposite end of the table observed my selections and excitement.
We eventually sparked an interesting conversation which led to me discovering that this 42-year-old gentleman, Anthony “Taj” Turner, was in the process of starting a small business called “Craig Arts” and had a hell of a reason for doing so…
SS: How did Craig Arts come about?
AT: I started in March of 2012 to showcase some of the art work of my deceased brother, Craig A. Turner. For years he draw and painted art, and created graphic designs for many companies and organizations, but was never able to show his own work before he passed on. He started at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (the organization responsible for painting the hundreds of murals all over the city of Philadelphia).
SS: Wow. I’m sorry for your loss. That’s very admirable of you to continue his legacy! May I ask when he passed on?
AT: He passed on October 1, 2011 of a massive heart attack. He died at 40-years-old. Our family has a history of high-blood pressure and heart disease; we die young.
SS: My goodness…I hope you’re taking good care of yourself!
AT: I need to do all that I can for mine before I go, but I’m healthy!
SS: Good! So what did he do at the Mural Arts Program?
AT: He was a portraitist for the Mural Arts Program; he would either design what murals would go up on the wall, or he sketched [picture on] the wall so that the painters could come add the colors– sometimes he would design the colors that would be used for a murals! Any one can go the Philadelphia Mural Arts web site and see his obituary.
SS: Clearly he was talented! Does the Mural Arts Program help out with Craig Arts at all, or is this your personal project as his brother?
AT: This is my personal project as his brother. He had no kids, no wife and not many friends. As far as family, there’s me and another brother left. I’ve been trying to contact people [at the Mural Arts Program], but if I don’t make some moves nobody will help me. I’ve got to keep the legacy for my kids. My mother has a park located at 13th and Girard named after her but that’s another story!
SS: Really? What’s the name of the park?
AT: Carrie Turner Memorial Park, between 12th and 13th, and Ogden St. near the Richard Allen projects. She was the one responsible for getting that whole neighborhood rebuilt before she died! Craig was born in the ghetto with autism and had a learning disability, but could always draw his but off!
AT: The process been hard! I’m in college so my time is limited. I put a table outside my house with his art work, just so people can see it. I call different organizations [for help] but they don’t call back. I need some one who can help me scan and correctly copy, and duplicate his work. I need help showcasing the work. All I need is for the public to come out and see his artwork–they’re home and office-friendly. I have big ideas for his designs much like he did.
SS: Why do you think he never got the chance to get his artwork out there?
AT: He spent all his time at work with the Mural Arts Program. Everyday, that’s all he did; when he came home, he would work on his own project but I think that the Mural Arts Program was the most important thing in his life. One time though, my uncle paid him $250.00 for a piece because it was so authentic. You’ve gotta remember, he was with these people for 24 years, back when it was the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. I honestly wish I could have gotten his work in the Manayunk Art Festival on June 23rd–that would have been great!
SS: He was extremely dedicated to MAP and PAGN. So, how much do you charge on average for his artwork?
AT: Syreeta, every piece of art work I have in these portfolios he left behind are all original pieces–hand drawn and then computerized. Right now I have it set up like a customer can look at them, then give me an offer starting at $25 and up because now if u purchase a piece, it’s an original with no duplicates. I have yet to get them appraised—I need help with that also. He even has designs that can be copy written for logos.
AT: Yes, they’re negotiable. To purchase a piece you can go to the Craig Arts Facebook page or e-mail me at Phillytaj@hotmail.com. I’m currently in school trying to learn how to create a web site for Craig Arts. They can also come to 4350 Cresson Street to see them on display every weekend (and sometimes during the week). Week days I’m out here after 3 p.m. and on the weekends I’m out around 11am.
SS: Okay, and by the way, what’s your major in school? What year are you?
AT: I’m working on my associate’s degree, majoring in Computer and Information Technology. I’m in my 3rd semester of an accelerated course at the Metropolitan Career Center located at Broad and Chestnut!
SS: I wish you all the best with everything!