#155 In Philadelphia, art saves lives

Mural South Street

South Street mural, photo by lil'bear via Flickr Creative Commons

Blighted urban landscapes are depressing. I’ve lived in Rochester, New York, and Oakland, California, so have witnessed them firsthand. Traveling in Australian cities I was saddened by miles of graffiti.

Philadelphia has found an answer. Since it began in 1984 as part of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, the Mural Arts Program has grown into the largest public art program in the U.S.

Every year 1,500 at-risk youth sign up for intensive art education programs that turn their creative energies away from the furtiveness of graffiti and into the public arena of murals. Along the way they learn “transferable life and job skills such as taking personal responsibility, teamwork, and creative problem-solving.”

Inmates get involved too, receiving a stipend “to create murals for schools and community centers throughout Philadelphia. Mural Arts also offers opportunities for individuals recently released from prison through its re-entry program.”

The murals are stunning. They tell stories, and the stories infuse the neighbourhoods with a sense of place and importance.

From the beginning, the driving force behind the Mural Arts Program has been Jane Golden. Her personal and professional mantra says it all: Art Saves Lives.

Philadelphians are saving lives and saving neighbourhoods with their Mural Arts Program. You can see the pride on the faces of the people in this video.

And for lots more inspiration, check out the Mural Arts Philadelphia YouTube channel.


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