We've all seen the LOVE sculpture in LOVE Park, it's one of Philly's claims to fame, behind cheese steaks and Rocky. You may even have gotten your wedding or engagement photos taken in front of it. But why is it there and why is it so famous? [Short answer: skateboarding, long answer: the hippie free love movement of the 1960's]. I actually didn't know much about it until I started researching the sculpture and park for a new project (sneak peak at the end of this email!). Here's 3 of the more surprising things I've learned....
1) The LOVE Sculpture is not unique.
This was the biggest shocker for me, because I assumed if all these tourists flocked to the LOVE park to take pictures with the sculpture, it was the only one in the world. Nope. It's not even the only LOVE sculpture in Philly. There are over 50 other LOVE sculptures in different cities and languages, including another one just a few miles away, on the University of Penn campus. The design was first created by artist, Robert Indiana, in 1964 and was reproduced in a few different formats before becoming a sculpture in the 1970s. It came to Philly for the first time in 1976 for the bicentennial.
the LOVE Sculpture on PENN Campus, where there is never a line - Photo credit: Brianwc :: Wikipedia Commons
2) The LOVE Sculpture was painted the wrong color for years.
The LOVE Sculpture is red, green and blue, right? Well, actually those colors were red, green & PURPLE. After the sculpture had been on display for a few years, the sun faded the purple to a blue, and the City of Philadelphia started re-painting the sculpture blue whenever they needed to do restorations. Someone finally alerted them to the mistake and the sculpture was returned to its original colors in 2018. Oops.
Look closely......actually just take my word for it, this LOVE sculpture is painted the wrong color. Also, it's on its old, trapezoidal base which was replaced in the 2018 renovation.
3) A big part of LOVE Park's fame comes from people who weren't allowed to be there.
While the LOVE sculpture has always been popular, part of the reason Philly's LOVE Park became a famous tourist spot has to do with skateboarding. Love Park has a complicated skateboarding history, and skateboarding has been officially banned there since 2002, but in the good years, it attracted thousands of people from all over the world, including both amateur and professionals eager to skate on its large slabs of granite. The park's popularity was a major factor in the city hosting the X Games in 2001. Sadly, a revamp of the park in 2016-2018 removed all the features that once made it famous in the skateboarding world, forever crushing countless unfulfilled teenage skateboarding dreams.