Go See the Murals!


Philanthropy411, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Daniel Silverman, Communications Director at the James Irvine Foundation.

by Daniel Silverman

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a mural worth? How about 3,000 murals? You will thank me for only using a couple of hundred words to describe my afternoon of viewing just a few of the 3,000 murals that grace every neighborhood in Philadelphia. You will thank yourself if you find the time to take a walking tour of Philadelphia’s Center City Murals (or at least check out their Flickr gallery at muralarts.org).

My mural tour was courtesy of the afternoon off-site session organized by the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation. There were a number of compelling speakers, and the sites we visited covered a range of impressive projects, but I’ll focus my comments on the murals because I was just so moved and impressed. (If you want a good summary of the range of ways the arts are creating economic value in Philadelphia, check out this report from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance: http://www.philaculture.org/research/reports/prosperity-report).

Take even a short walk outside the hotel and you will start noticing the murals. They often cover whole sides of buildings, soaring from sidewalk to the sky, and they are not just bringing beauty and creativity to Philadelphia–economic impact, community engagement, arts education, and restorative justice are all part of the package. Our tour was mostly in the northern part of the city, in neighborhoods like Kensington and Fairhill; neighborhoods that are probably better known for high unemployment and low graduation rates, but are now becoming known for the scores of murals that dot the community.

These murals are the work of the Mural Arts Program run by Jane Golden, who joined us for the tour. While I was certainly impressed by the sheer magnificence of the murals, I was equally impressed by the way the program is interwoven with so many different aspects of each community. Jane described the extensive community engagement process that involves people from the neighborhood in the development and creation of every mural. She described the way the program works in and with city schools, providing over 1,600 underserved youth with arts education and youth development opportunities. And she described the qualitative and quantitative evidence that the mural projects bring economic value to neighborhoods that need it.

I fear that I’m proving with this post that a picture truly is worth more than any number of words, so I’ll stop typing and let the pictures do the talking  ‑ in this case, moving pictures. Here’s a great overview of the program:


You can find more videos by going to the Mural Arts Program channel on You Tube.

It’s hard to find the time to leave the hotel at these conferences. I’m so glad I did this time and I encourage all of you to get out and see the murals!

If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

Recent Posts

Follow Kris

Download a Sample Chapter of Delusional Altruism Now!

Just provide us with your name and email and receive this sample.

Download the Article Now!

Just provide us with your name and email and receive this article.