"Being an artist, I was not going to let him lose his eyes": How Al Saved a Kitten's Sight, by Peter Crimmins
Al Gury: Community Member
The moment he arrived in Philadelphia, in 1972, Al Gury took it upon himself to help make the city a better place.
Al Gury has worked as a homeless outreach volunteer through Old St. Joseph's Church, Philadelphia’s oldest Catholic community.
He has also volunteered his time, and was a guest teacher, working with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the nation's largest public art program. In 1984, Mural Arts was established as part of the Philadelphia anti-graffiti network. Today it engages communities in 50–100 public art and art education projects each year.
One of Al's most unique contributions to his home town was his gift of a painting of "Old Alice" to Philadelphia's historic Christ Church.
Giving History a Face
Al created a painting of "Alice of Dunks Ferry" for Philadelphia's historic Christ Church in 2009.
"Alice had no last name," Al told the Episcopal News Service. "I thought that she should at least have a face by which we could remember her."
The daughter of slaves and the church's longest-lived parishioner, Alice spent her 116-year life gathering stories about the city and its people, and became known in her time as an oral historian. But unlike the founding fathers, there was no likeness of her.
After years of field trips to the church with his painting students, Al decided it was important to rectify that situation, and in 2009 he provided the church with his vision of what such a proud Philadelphian might have looked like.
But more than anything else, Al has dedicated himself to helping PAWS, the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society. Al works especially with sick animals, providing nursing care.
The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society
Philadelphia’s largest no-kill shelter, PAWS finds loving homes for thousands of animals each year, and is working to make Philadelphia a no-kill city where every healthy and treatable pet is guaranteed a home.
Over the past 10 years he has also fostered over 800 kittens and cats, keeping them for a few months until they can be adopted out. According to a recent profile on NPR Affiliate WHYY, "It's said that you cannot arrive as an artist in Philadelphia until you have one of Al Gury's cats."
In 2015, Al was named PAWS's first "Volunteer of the Year" and the organization formally rededicated its kitten maternity ward in his name.