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Walls Once Defaced Now Celebrate a City

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, June 16, 2011

In 1984, Jane Golden, an artist who was then directing the Los Angeles Public Arts Foundation, read about the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. Intrigued by the creative potential in graffiti, she joined the network and began art projects that gave young vandals and freelance decorators opportunities to channel their talent into mural making.

Common Threads, an eight story tribute to human spirit through the ages

Under Golden's leadership, the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia has produced more than 3,000 outdoor and indoor murals that have injected beauty and color into struggling neighborhoods. In addition to rich visual appeal, the murals have tapped the abilities of thousands of city residents who have worked together to plan, research, design, and paint scenes that celebrate the city's history, culture and vitality. As the Mural Arts website explains, Golden has a professional mantra of three words: Art Saves Lives. The traditional collaborative processes of mural making, the site says, create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives.


The hands of the Peace Garden, and a tribute to past and present urban horsemen

In addition to contributing beauty and neighborhood identity, the program fosters civic engagement, personal responsibility, community commitment, teamwork, and problem solving. Art dedicated to restorative justice helps residents, including former offenders, wrestle with issues of crime, violence and restitution.

A mural tribute to Rosa Parks (video), created in several pieces and assembled by imprisoned artists, now overlooks a SEPTA bus terminal, a significant location because of the decades-long struggle to desegregate transportation. An unusual mural with triptych design downtown at Broad and Vine Streets honors "The Evolving Future of Nursing." It combines paint and LED lights, which gives the picture different images for the day and night shifts, and features words and images of hundreds of nurses who work in the city.

The Evolving Future of Nursing

A larger-than-life painting of an elderly woman sewing a colorful quilt (video) covers a formerly vacant wall of a building a few doors from where the quilter, Ruth Jones, has lived for years. Another nearby mural shows three children holding her quilt.


Grandmother's Quilt, and three children hold the quilt

Golden tells how the mural "Reaching for Your Star" (video) came about after she and colleagues went door to door talking to neighbors and looking for walls suited to art. The creative works have won international praise for Philadelphia as the City of Murals. The city offers several physical tours as well as online tours. Enjoy the Iconic Images Collection and browse these wonderful artworks at the Mural Explorer site.

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