I know I cannot name all the different reasons people choose to pick up a spray paint can and “tag” public spaces, but graffiti is a fixture in most cities. In Philly graffiti is certainly represented, but we’re lucky that more prevalent is another type of art.
I know you’ve seen them- on your way into the city on the El from 69th Street, or walking down Market Street, or even on the trashcans on South Street and in Old City.
So what’s all this art about? I’ll tell you. Under the name of the “Anti-Graffiti Network” the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program was born in 1984. It operated its original name until 1996 when it was renamed by Mayor Ed Rendell to what it is called today. The first few years were very formative years for the organization- specifically because it was during this time they acquired Jane Golden. Now if you know the Mural Arts Program, you know Jane is synonymous with the organization, absolutely integral to developing it to where is it today.
Although you can see the products of the program throughout the city in the form of beautiful murals, the truth is that their work runs deeper than paint. Mural Arts works to reach at-risk youth and adults, bring communities together, and help people tell their stories. For example, their “Big Picture” program works with students age 10-14, teaching them about community, social responsibility, and art skills. Some of the kids in this program helped design murals on city trash and recycling trucks.
I encourage you to notice the murals; they’re there on your way to work, the gym, school, or wherever you’re going. Then look up the one you see online, get the backstory, and you can impress the next person you walk by the mural with.
Photo credits: http://www.changethethought.com/a-love-letter-for-you/, myself, and http://www.greenphillyblog.com/2011/05/13/photo-friday-philadelphias-pretty-litter-critters-bigbelly-trash-compactors/ (respectively).