Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode had a unique solution to the rampant graffiti that was decimating his city back in 1984: Give the vandals a positive way to channel their creativity.
The Anti-Graffiti Network was born. It hired muralist Jane Golden to reach out to those responsible for defacing Philadelphia’s buildings and alleyways and encourage them to decorate the urban landscape with organized murals instead. Golden successfully forged a relationship with the graffiti community and gave its members opportunities to take part in creating expansive murals that beautified their neighborhoods.
Since its inception, this grassroots program—now called the Mural Arts Program—has contributed to more than 3,000 murals adorning the city of Philadelphia. These murals created by at-risk youth convey Philadelphia’s history, character, and notable figures. Philadelphian citizens and neighborhoods submit many of the mural themes by way of an online request form. According to Rueters news agency, Golden said that only a half dozen of the murals have been defaced to date.
Today the program has expanded to local prisons and rehabilitation centers as well, furthering its mission to save lives with art. More than 300 inmates and 200 juveniles receive instruction from the Mural Arts Restorative Justice program every year. Inmates, ex-cons, and juvenile offenders are afforded the opportunity to learn new skills, repair any damage they may have imposed, and contribute to their communities. By way of art, the program gives a voice to many who otherwise feel at odds with the community.
The Mural Project is currently painting one of the largest murals in the country. Slated for completion this June, “How Philly Moves” will reach 75 feet tall and span a half-mile wide, greeting travelers as they arrive at the Philadelphia International Airport.
Visitors to Philadelphia have a variety of mural tours from which to choose, including walking tours, mobile-phone tours, bike tours, trolley tours, and themed tours. The Love Letter Train Tour takes tourists by 50 romantic murals, the Ale & Arts Adventure Tour serves as both a mural and a brewery tour, and the African American Iconic Images Collection Train Tour includes murals of such figures as Malcolm X, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Jackie Robinson.
To learn more about the Mural Arts Program, visit http://muralarts.org/.
Note: The information contained in this blog was taken directly from the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program website.
Mural painted on a wall on the south side of Philadelphia. Photo Christian Carollo.