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Newly Painted Food Trucks Credit: Amrit Malothra

Winter brought new jackets to Koja and Rami’s this season.

Four food trucks around Philadelphia have been decorated as part of the Lunch Truck Project by ArtWorks!, an after-school arts program for Philadelphia youth run by the Mural Arts Program. A fifth mural is in progress.

The trucks now sport brightly colored vinyl wrappings to help distinguish them from the brick and mortar cityscape.

“The trucks sort of blend into the background because they have been there so long,” said project coordinator Sherman Fleming.

She added that the designs draw attention to the history of food trucks and raise awareness about their businesses,

“It’s innovative,” said Emily Squires, assistant director of ArtWorks. She said the project encourages people to appreciate food trucks as symbols of culture and immigration.

The program also encourages students to think about how art can be used as a tool for entrepreneurs and independent business owners, Squires said.

The project began early last summer when artist and designer Shira Walinsky started contacting lunch truck owners, said Fleming.

Walinsky then brought the idea to ArtWorks!, and the project became a vehicle for students to discuss cultural representations through food and art, according to Fleming.

The chosen food trucks represent a diverse range of cuisines and backgrounds.

“All the stories are different,” Fleming said. “Each family believes in sustaining themselves and working for themselves.”

For example, Rami’s truck opened when owner Sami Dakko immigrated to Philadelphia from Lebanon. After earning enough money to purchase a truck, he began his business, which has sustained his family for more than 20 years, said Fleming.

Each truck’s art is unique to the stories of its owners. Rami’s features a Lebanese flag. Tom McClusker, who owns a food truck on Drexel University’s campus, incorporated his interest in Day of the Dead, telling Shira to “go wild,” said Squires.

“Trucks themselves are a good metaphor to celebrate immigration since they literally move around the city,” Walinsky wrote in an e-mail.

The design process involved collaboration between the artist, students and food truck owners.

After many drafts and approval from the truck owners, Plug Digital, a New York-based vinyl production company, wrapped the trucks with the designs over three days in early January.

Heat was applied to transfer vinyl, a weather-hardy medium, onto each truck’s surface. Each truck cost about $2,000 ­— paid by the Mural Arts Program — to design and wrap.

Last summer, the program also wrapped 12 recycling trucks, and it hopes to continue the project with 12 more this year.

Owners so far are pleased with the results. McClusker noted that customers are more likely to stay and chat, and has noticed an uptick in business, said Fleming.

Soo Le, owner of Koja, said customers have described the result as “beautiful,” “colorful” and “amazing.”

“They like it,” Dakko agreed. He said customers stop by to ask about the designs and compliment them.

Students, both as residents and clients, take notice.

Engineering senior Luisa Herrmann, who passes by Koja while traveling to and from her apartment in Hamilton Court, said the truck looks “prettier” and “interesting.”

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