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[Mark Makela/The Daily Pennsylvanian] Work from the Artists in Residence program is displayed in the windows of the vacant United Bank Building at 40th and Chestnut streets.

Four artists from the Philadelphia region are spending some time at Penn this semester trying to add beauty and vibrancy to the local environment.

As part of the Artist-in-Residence program, the artists receive space from the University in exchange for their involvement in local community service projects, according to program director Edward Epstein.

In conjunction with the changing face of 40th Street -- which has seen the addition of a supermarket and several restaurants since 2000 -- the artists' work is now housed in the windows of the United Bank Building at 40th and Chestnut streets.

The Artist-in-Residence program is just one element of the "critical mass of cultural activities going on around 40th Street," Epstein said, adding that this influx of arts and culture is only "starting to gel."

Epstein, who first arrived in Philadelphia two years ago, said he noticed that there was a group of people concerned with the art scene around the 40th Street area.

He developed the idea for the Artist-in-Residence program in 2003, hoping that it would address the growing need for studio space in West Philadelphia. Other goals include making 40th Street the center of a vibrant arts community and fostering artists' careers.

Among the program's artists are two recent graduates of Penn's School of Design, muralist and painter Grace Jung and mixed-media artist Jeremy Vaughn.

All the artists live in or near West Philadelphia or have a connection to the region in some way.

Both Jung and Vaughn are teaching art to children in the community while also working in the studio space -- which is located at 4007 Chestnut St. -- that has been afforded to them.

Jung, through the Police Athletic League, is giving basic art lessons to youth of the Alexander Wilson Elementary School at 46th Street and Woodland Avenue.

She and her students will be embarking on an interior mural project at the center at the end of March.

"All the kids gravitate toward her," said Penn Police officer Cassandra Parks-DeVaughn, who is a director of the Tucker Police Athletic League Center where Jung is working.

Parks-DeVaughn added that children who used to doodle "now see that they can really draw," which has opened up their eyes to a whole new possible path in their future.

After graduating from Penn-Design in 2000, Jung worked with the city's Mural Arts Program in North and South Philadelphia. She spent two years in Korea and returned to Philadelphia in May 2004.

Vaughn, who is working with the University's Community Arts Partnership, will soon begin teaching at Bryant Elementary School in West Philadelphia. He is working with seventh grade students on a comic book project combining illustration, narrative and themes the students have learned in the classroom.

"Art itself can revitalize a community," Vaughn said, adding that it also has the power to bring different communities together.

Both artists are thrilled to be a part of the program.

"Artists are supposed to play a larger role in the community and not just be locked up in the studio," Vaughn said.

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