How can you prevent graffiti on city buildings and infrastructure but still promote a passion for art and inspiration amidst a landscape of grey walls, abandoned lots, and low rent housing projects? Why, start a Mural Arts Program, of course. Founded in 1984, the Philly Mural Arts Program serves many significant purposes in the city: it combats crime, brings communities together, provides vivid and colorful aesthetics, supports local artists (over 300 per year!), maintains community activism and encourages grassroots initiatives. Further, it acts as a restoration catalyst in the city's ongoing effort at urban beautification.
Murals can be found all over random walls- both inside and out- in Philadelphia, occupying areas as large as 100 sq feet or eight full stories. Over 2,800 various establishments in Philly, ranging from schools to recreation centers and museums to medical buildings, are adorned with murals of various themes that are selected by community committee members, neighborhood residents, and sponsors alike. On average, these murals take between one and three months to create in their entirety. The Mural Arts Program also promotes arts education and the involvement of over 2,000 young inhabitants of surrounding neighborhoods -- which significantly makes up for the lack of art programs in the city's public schools.
Philly's murals are fantastically detailed and inject the city with fresh, glowing colors and brilliant, stimulating imagery. There are frescos dedicated to music, faith, African culture, enlightenment, education, social justice, peace, and tributes to influential people. A gigantic multi-story grandmother knits a quilt in purples, fuchsia and violet, on Aspen St. near the zoo. A five-foot pinecone is stenciled on the cement barrier along the 4th St. tunnel near Spring Garden St. A flower-sprouting, mosaic beanstalk sprawls down a wall on N. Broad St., as if it leapt off the page of a children's fairy tale book. In West Philly near Malcolm X Park, an entire wall is dedicated in black and white to famed African Americans, complete with an enormous red, white, and blue barber shop pole. These elaborate pieces of art inspire a sense of community intimacy while simultaneously offering free, outdoor art for the public to appreciate, enjoy, and admire practically each time they round a corner. Philly's murals provide a unique distinction of the personality that the City of Brotherly Love exudes.
Mural Arts Program Tours
- Downloadable tour maps available on the official Mural Arts Program Website: muralarts.org/tour
- Trolley Tours:
- Trolley tours run Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays at 10am. The prices are as follow: Adults: $25, Seniors: $23, Children (under 10): $15.
- Walking Tours:
- There are daily walking tours that leave at 11:30am, and the price is $17.