Jazz music meets live painting courtesy of Putty Dance Project

Putty Dance Project
Gabe Tiberino is a community-based muralist whose work resides across the city.

When the married jazz music-and-dance duo Lauren Putty White and Brent White – Putty Dance Project – join forces with WRTI-FM jazz programmer-host J. Michael Harrison at the Kimmel Cultural Campus on Dec. 29, they will welcome a third force to the party—live muralist Gabe Tiberino.

While Harrison spins jazz records before the Whites’ dance-and-jazz jam, Tiberino will proactively paint to the tone and feel of the live music. “I don’t know what I am going to paint yet,” says Tiberino from his studio. “Then again, I usually wait until the last minute. I’ll just vibe with what they’re doing on stage.”

Considering that so much of what Tiberino does is thought-out and detailed in advance as a community-based muralist whose work resides across the city, this improv will be a fascinating opportunity in which to freestyle.

“I have some reference points to give me ideas to start, but the freedom of this Putty Dance Project with J. Michael is cool – live painting is a fun thing to do. Besides, doing murals is often like live painting.”

Putty Dance Project

Born into Joseph Tiberino’s painting family dynasty of West Philadelphia fame and international renown, Gabe started showing in solo exhibitions at age 8. After he graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, his newfound alma mater bought his epic cityscape, “Tioga Street” for their permanent collection. Along with being part of the Mural Arts Program since 1998, Tiberino has become this city’s preeminent hip hop chronicler and essayist of daily family life for the good and the real, rather than the tragic.

“I do like to focus on the positive in my art, something that keeps spirits up, especially as my murals deal with history and are viewed regularly by the public,” said Tiberino. “Unlike Big Joe,” he laughs, referring to the elder Tiberino, “my work, even when abstract, touches on reality. There is some of society’s ills in there, but it’s not my focus. My murals are usually for certain communities and bringing their positivity to life.”

Working with Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program since he was 16-years-old, Tiberino believes that his longtime dialogue with the program and the city allows for a certain amount of freedom where his aesthetic and imagination is concerned. “I’m bringing their vision to life through my eyes,” he said.

Take for instance, one of his upcoming wraparound building murals for South West Philadelphia’s Christy Rec Center at 56th and Christian streets. Here, Tiberino has already created a series of colorful abstract designs and shapes to which he will soon add figures of children performing rec center-like activities and games. This is far different from another mural he is currently working on in the Mantua section, of Philadelphia 76er legend Wally Jones at 37th Street and Haverford Avenue.

Along with additional portrait commissions, developing city murals and this week’s live jazz painting, Tiberino is getting ready to celebrate the six-month birthday of his son, Asa.

What does having a newborn mean to Gabe, and the future of furthering the Tiberino dynasty?

“Having a son has totally changed my life,” he said. “I have a young man to raise. The newest Tiberino. I’m going to do my best to raise him right, and whatever path he takes, he’s going to learn some art first. As soon as he’s able, I’m going to get Asa on the art train, maybe help me do some artwork and help my paint murals just like I helped Big Joe paint murals.”