Mural Arts Philadelphia

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Mural Arts Philadelphia is a non-profit organization that supports the creation of public murals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1986 as Mural Arts Program, the organization was renamed in 2016.[1] Having ushered more than 3,000 murals into being, it calls itself "the nation’s largest public art program".[2] As of 2022, the organization says it runs 50 to 100 public art projects each year; it also works to maintain existing murals.

The program was founded under the direction of the local artist Jane Golden, as part of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, with to facilitate collaboration between professional artists and prosecuted graffiti writers to create new murals in the city. The program, which employs more than 300 artists at least part-time, is one of the largest employers of artists in Philadelphia.[citation needed] The program also hires more than 100 prosecuted graffiti writers every year and involves them in the creation of murals around Philadelphia. In 2006, the program employed 36 former graffiti artists as staff members on permanent payroll.[3]

It also works with community groups to educate and children in the arts and involve them in the creation of the murals;[4] in 2006, it involved more than 300 children a year.[3]

The Mural Arts Program is responsible for the creation of the largest mural in Philadelphia, at 600 feet (180 m) in length. Titled History of Immigration, it displays settlers of different ethnicities who settled in Philadelphia over time.

The program has been criticized for supporting the criminalization of graffiti and for hiring non-Philadelphia artists.[5]


In 1984, artist Jane Golden approached Tim Spencer, who was head of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, about adding a program named "Umbrella". Spencer had initially envisioned a program that would rehabilitate graffiti artists and lead them towards other art forms. In the end, Golden's proposal won.[6] In 1986, Mural Arts Project, led by Golden,[6][4] was founded as a division of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network.[3][7]

In 1991, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation awarded the Innovation in American Government Award to Philadelphia for the success of the Mural Arts Project.[7][8][9]

At some point,[when?] the Philadelphia Recreation Department absorbed the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network and elevated the Mural Arts Program to a separate entity.[3][7] The Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates was founded as a nonprofit corporation to raise funds for the Mural Arts Program.[10]

In 1995, the Mural Arts Program commissioned Philadelphia artist Diane Keller to paint a multistory mural of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo[11] at Ninth and Montrose Streets, near the city's Italian Market.[12] Though some in the city's Italian-American community took pride in the depiction of Rizzo, the mural was frequently defaced in protest of his rough treatment of the city’s Black and gay communities. In 2010, the MAP had Keller repaint the mural at a cost of $20,000.[13] After the mural was again defaced during the George Floyd protests, the Mural Arts Program issued a statement ("We know that the removal of this mural does not erase painful memories and are deeply apologetic for the amount of grief it has caused”) and painted over it in the early hours of June 7, 2020.[14]

Since 2001 the Mural Arts Program has been headquartered in the former home and studio of the painter Thomas Eakins at 1727-29 Mount Vernon Street in the Spring Garden section of Philadelphia.

During the 2001–2004 Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, the Mural Arts Program painted more than 600 murals around Philadelphia.[15]

In 2004, the murals painted by the program were on average the height of a three-story row house and 35 feet (11 m) wide. The average cost of each mural was $10,000–$15,000, including artists' commissions and supplies.[16]

In February 2006, the city of Watertown, New York, asked Jane Golden to speak in hopes of creating a similar program in their community.[17] In 2007, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited the Donald Gensler[18] mural Reading: A Journey, at 40th and Penns Grove Streets. The visit was intended to demonstrate how the murals have inspired regeneration in the West Philadelphia neighborhood. Prince Charles was interested in creating a similar project in London.[19]

In 2014 the Mural Arts Program celebrated its 30th anniversary with the book "Philadelphia Mural Arts @30"[20] and an exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

In 2016, the organization was renamed Mural Arts Philadelphia.

In 2017, the program worked with Monument Lab to produce several works of public art in Philadelphia.[21][22]


  • 1984: Several graffiti taggers were given the option to either go to jail or take part in a new city beautification initiative. Since then, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has overseen the creation of more than 3,800 pieces of art painted on sides of buildings. Of these art pieces painted on buildings, 2,000 are still viewable by the public, making this collection the "World’s Largest Outdoor Art Gallery."
  • 1998: Mural artist Meg Saligman created Common Threads[23] at Broad and Spring Garden streets. The work comments on the shared history of humanity through the juxtaposition of classical sculptural forms with those of local high school students.[24]
  • 1999: Artist Josh Sarantitis created Colors of Light at 12th and Vine Streets, facing the Vine Street Expressway. Commissioned in partnership with the Asian Arts Initiative, the mural represents the local Asian American community, including Asian Arts Initiative founder Gayle Isa and a poem by Jeffrey Loo. In 2017, the mural was completely covered by the construction of XS House, a 7-unit apartment building built on the adjoining 11' x 93' lot to the north.[25][26][27]
  • 2016: The Atlas of Tomorrow: A Device for Philosophical Reflection (533 South Juniper Street, Philadelphia) is a piece by Candy Chang, an artist whose pieces often have a participatory element to them. In this kinetic mural, viewers are invited to spin a numeric dial. Where the dial lands directs the viewer to read and reflect on one of 64 unique stories.[28]
  • 2018: Artist Joshua Mays and DJ King Britt worked with Mural Arts Philadelphia to create Dreams, Diaspora and Destiny, an "augmented reality" mural that included music and a mobile app. The piece is at 5300 Landsdowne Ave.[29]
  • June 2019: Baltimore artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn along with curator Ryan Strand Greenberg created Folding the Prism, a mural that highlights the textile history of the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia. The piece is located at 12th and Spring Gardens Streets.[30]
  • November 2020: artists Paul Santoleri and Abdul Karim Awad created "Light of the Northeast", a mural that features the Statue of Liberty. The mural is located at 6826 Bustleton Avenue in Philadelphia.[31]  
Atlas of Tomorrow is a mural by artist Candy Chang, which has a kinetic component in which the viewer can spin the wheel.
The mural, commissioned by the Mural Arts Program, includes a kinetic wheel at sidewalk level, which directs the viewer to a unique story based on where it lands.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hilario, Kenneth (September 23, 2016). "Mural Arts rebrands with new name, visual identity". Philadelphia Business Journal. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  2. ^ "About". Mural Arts Philadelphia. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  3. ^ a b c d "Mural Arts Program: About Us". Mural Arts Program. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
  4. ^ a b "Jane Golden, Robin Rice, Natalie Pompilio: More Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell". Temple University. Archived from the original on November 9, 2006. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
  5. ^ Idris, Razan. "Hey Mural Arts, graffiti is art, too. It always was". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  6. ^ a b "Philadelphia Weekly Online: Hit the Wall". Philadelphia Weekly Online. October 18, 2006. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c "Philadelphia Department of Recreation: Cultural Programs: Mural Arts". Philadelphia Department of Recreation. Retrieved November 14, 2006.[dead link]
  8. ^ "Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network (PAGN)". United States Department of Agriculture: National Agriculture Library. Archived from the original on August 27, 2006. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
  9. ^ "Government Innovators Network: Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network". John F. Kennedy School of Government. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
  10. ^ "Mural Arts Program: About Us: Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates". Mural Arts Program. Archived from the original on October 14, 2006. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
  11. ^ "Mural depicting controversial onetime police commissioner, and later mayor, Frank Rizzo in the south Philadelphia neighborhood, home to a large Italian-American community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rizzo was a "tough on crime" official accused of brutal tactics, and this mural, as well as a nearby statue of him, is often defaced". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  12. ^ Kostelni, Natalie (May 17, 2010). "After 7 decades in the family, Rizzo mural building is sold". Philadelphia Business Journal. Archived from the original on October 26, 2022. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  13. ^ Clark, Vernon. "The Frank Rizzo mural is getting a freshening-up". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  14. ^ Maialetti, David; Adelman, Jacob; Graham, Kristen A. (June 7, 2020). "'My eyes feel at peace now'". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on October 26, 2022. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  15. ^ "Philadelphia Neighborhood Transformation Initiative 2004 Report" (PDF). City of Philadelphia. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2006. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
  16. ^ "Philadelphia in color". Temple News. October 10, 2004. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013.
  17. ^ "Press Release". Watertown Downtown Development. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
  18. ^ "donald gensler murals".
  19. ^ Maykuth, Andrew; Stoiber, Julie (January 13, 2007). "Royal plan to see murals while here". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  20. ^ Jane Golden and David Updike (eds.), Philadelphia Mural Arts @30 (Temple University Press, 2014),
  21. ^ "How to Make a Monument". Americans for the Arts. 2018-08-14. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  22. ^ "Monument Lab". Mural Arts Philadelphia. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  23. ^ Rapaport-Stein, Carly. "Common Threads". Mural Arts Philadelphia.
  24. ^ Saligman, Meg. "Common Threads". Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  25. ^ Kochman, Laura. "Gateway to Chinatown: Colors of Light". Mural Arts Philadelphia.
  26. ^ Reyes, Juliana Feliciano. "14 murals in Philly that speak to the Asian experience".
  27. ^ "XS House / ISA". ArchDaily. January 13, 2020.
  28. ^ "Atlas of Tomorrow, 2014–16". Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Retrieved 2021-02-25.
  29. ^ McDonald, Natalie Hope (1 October 2018). "King Britt ushers in the next big thing in public art: augmented reality murals". Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  30. ^ "A Pop of Color on Public Spaces". ArchDaily. 2019-06-29. Retrieved 2021-02-25.
  31. ^ Krum, Logan (2020-11-25). "New Oxford Circle mural incites liberty, unity". Northeast Times. Retrieved 2021-02-26.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°57′55″N 75°10′01″W / 39.96531°N 75.16695°W / 39.96531; -75.16695