(Continued from Part 2.)
During a slow moment on the Love Letters tour, while the couples snuggle each other casually, I ask Barbara to talk more about the effect of the murals. A nurse by training, she tells me that she sees them as having a public health impact—images of hearts helping people’s hearts—and improving people’s attitudes. “I’ve seen the neighborhood change for the better,” she contends, “but I can’t put my finger on it.” No one else asks a question. The murals, she adds later, are not loved by everyone. Some people don’t want them in their neighborhood, though she doesn’t know why. Others have critiqued MAP for their process and expense.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of any public tour is the possibility for unexpected interactions and how these are or are not incorporated coherently into the tour itself.  On a tour that’s called Love Letters, such interactions seem particularly noteworthy, and our tour guide tells us that sometimes train riders will add their own thoughts to her explanations. For us, there are three moments. The first is at the start, when I’m sitting next to an older man who is not part of the tour. While we’re still underground, I snap a photo of the dark train window, hoping to catch the reflections of the pair ahead of me. He tells me that I’m not going to be able to see anything unless I put the camera up to the glass. “Oh, I’m just trying something artsy,” I respond lamely. He greets this with silence.
The second moment occurs when we get off the train and onto the busy platform. A bedraggled woman asks us, “Where are you coming from?” Barbara briskly responds that we’re together on a mural tour, which perhaps the woman doesn’t hear, as she repeats, “Where you all coming from?” adding, “You’re all so clean and dry.”
Finally, towards the end of the tour, after having seen more than a dozen murals and snapping twice as many photos, we’re on our way back. A man, wearing dirty clothes and with matted hair, walks silently up the aisle where our group has taken many of the seats. Although we’ve been focusing assiduous attention on signs all afternoon, we (including me) ignore his homemade one: “Homeless. Hungry. Please help.”
These three moments show interlocking areas of concern. In my first somewhat embarrassing encounter, it became clear that those of us in the group were outsiders, even those who, like me, live in the city. With our cameras and our interest in seeing the city aesthetically, we were using a tourist gaze that marked us with a certain amount of cultural capital. The second encounter deepened this sense of difference. Immediately, the woman saw us as distinct from herself and the other riders, although in terms of race we were as diverse as the people on the platform. Instead, she identified our difference in our comportment. Like the man on the subway, she saw us as outsiders by our bodily performance—clean and dry, even though it was a hot summer day, in addition to the stickers we wore to designate being part of the group and the several expensive DSLRs that we carried. While this woman attempted to interact with us, no one that I saw, except for our tour leader, reacted. When the homeless man stood near us on the train, he was also greeted by silence. Was he from the neighborhood that we were riding through? I don’t know, but his presence was discomfiting to me as it highlighted the limitations of this tour. With so little interest in the world below the murals, the possibilities for real engagement with the city, from its landscape to its people, was absent.
Of course, for this group that wasn’t their goal. I chatted with the couples, but most weren’t interested in talking. Instead, they wanted to be alone together in public, taking part in a cultural activity that wouldn’t ask much of them. As the train sped into the underground darkness, Barbara turned to each of us and asked whether we thought that the fictional young man who had painted all the murals had succeeded in winning back his girl’s love. Definitely, said some. Others wondered a little more about whether the signs would mean any change in his behavior. Finally, with this fictional tale, the couples began to break out of their dyads and talk to the others in the group, but only for moments—we were pulling into the station. Barbara smiled to herself, seeming to know that what they would remember about the tour would be this: a beautiful day, some art, and a love story where they got to write the ending.
Which is, honestly, what I’ll probably remember too, when I point out these murals to visiting friends. Perhaps that’s what’s most frustrating—the murals are beautiful and provocative, but there is not will enough to dig deeper or to use their popularity for larger ends. As Philadelphia has become known as the City of Murals, it’s clear that this kind of public art serves a purpose outside of MAP’s mission to “create art that tranforms public spaces and individual lives.” These 3000 murals add value to a city that has struggled against negative images of it as “killadelphia,” making it bright, lively, and visitor ready. What would a partnership look like between MAP and a public history class or organization that created a Love Letter mural tour using both the train and the streets, that talked about the history of urban transportation as access to and drain on neighborhoods and the history of graphic design? Can we envision a tour that raised the question of who these love letters are being written to, whether we can collectively imagine a real city of brotherly love, and what role art would play in that utopian space?
~ Mary Rizzo
 Recently, I had a conversation with a Philadelphia nonprofit employee who offered that some neigbhorhoods feel that having a mural identifies them as poor and in need of renewal.
 Some critiques of murals are more political and aggressive, as with the recent defacing of a mural of former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo.
 For an excellent example, see Cathy Stanton, The Lowell Experiment, in her description of tours of Lowell’s industrial neighborhoods.
 John Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies. (NY: Sage Publications, 1990).
 Certainly this is not the case for many public history tours, which can be used for more critically engaged purposes. See Rebecca Amato and Jeffrey T. Manuel, “Using Radical Public History Tours to Reframe Urban Crime,” Radical History Review. Spring 2012, 212-224.