Murals have become an iconic part of Philadelphia’s urban landscape thanks to the organization Mural Arts.
It was founded in 1984 when the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network was created to combat the graffiti crisis in the city.
“I was hired to reach out to graffiti writers, in order to redirect their energies toward constructive public art projects,” says Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts. “In addition to correcting the problem of graffiti, this collaborative mural-making process proved to be a powerful tool for generating dialogue, building relationships, empowering communities and sparking economic revitalization.”
By 1996, Mural Arts became its own agency, and soon after, a nonprofit arm was established to raise additional funds — Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates — making it, in the words of Golden, “a unique public/private partnership.”
Its mission is to use public art to create change in the Philadelphia community.
“The organization creates art with others to transform places, individuals, communities and institutions,” Golden says. “Mural Arts’ process empowers artists to be change agents, stimulates dialogue about critical issues, and builds bridges of connection and understanding.”
At the current time, Mural Arts is behind 4,000 different murals in Philadelphia.
Some renowned artists like Shepard Fairey have created murals in the city (check out his Lotus Diamond on Frankford Avenue) and some murals feature famous artists, like John Coltrane’s mural in North Philly (located at 29th and Diamond).
So how can you get involved with Mural Arts as a volunteer? Aside from taking part in community paint days, volunteering at events is also a big help.
This Thursday, June 7, for instance, Mural Arts hosts its 14th annual Wall Ball event at the Fillmore, raising funds for collaborative art projects and art education initiatives in Philadelphia. Honorees for this year include David Pudlin, president & CEO of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller and board chair for Mural Arts as well as Joan Reilly, chief operating officer of Mural Arts.
There are also mural tours all summer long, where you can get up close and personal with Philadelphia’s murals and hear the stories behind them.
So why are murals so important to Philadelphia? Golden says it’s all about progress.
“Our work is created in service of a larger movement that values equity, fairness, and progress across all of society. Our staff and artists listen with empathetic ears to understand the aspirations of our partners and participants. And, through beautiful collaborative art, we provide people with the inspiration and tools to seize their own future.”
For more information on Mural Arts, visit: muralarts.org.