Philadelphia Mural Arts Program to Go National

The popular Philadelphia Mural Arts Program will expand its public arts initiative to three Midwestern American cities. The program, begun by artist Jane Golden in 1984 as a city-wide anti-graffiti strategy, has created over 3,000 works of public art in the city and draws tourists from across the globe. Many of the murals address figures or events of significance to the neighborhoods in which they are installed; local civic leaders, athletes, musicians, and artists have all been honored in past murals. Others highlight community and family bonds and hometown pride.

Executive Director Golden announced in an article on that the program would soon be expanded to three cities: Akron, Memphis, and Detroit. The new Mural Arts organizations will be trained by the Mural Arts Institute, a consulting organization that will launch this year. The goal is to create self-sustaining programs in the new cities while still generating revenue for Philadelphia. Their first symposium on collaborative public art will be held this fall. Local organizations will collaborate with Mural Arts Program representatives on their initial projects in impoverished neighborhoods of each city.

Mural Arts has previously collaborated with Atlanta-based organization WonderRoot to create murals in the Georgia capital. The initial partnership has spurred a new interest in citywide public arts programs in the city. The new institute-based training, with an endowment of $100,000, aims to act as a catalyst for local efforts rather than a direct collaboration.

Lucy Davis is the Digital Media Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities. She studies public history at Rutgers University, Camden.

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