Philadelphia's Murals and the Common Good

Jane Golden

  • Date Mar 26, 2015
  • Venue Warner Memorial Library
    Eastern University
    1300 Eagle Road
    Saint Davids, PA 19087

Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, has been a driving force for the mural arts, overseeing its growth from a small city agency into the nation's largest mural program and a model for community development across the country and around the globe. Under Golden’s direction, the Mural Arts Program has created over 3,600 landmark works of public art through innovative collaborations with community based organizations, city agencies, non-profits, schools, the private sector and philanthropies.

Golden, a young artist initially hired by former Mayor Wilson Goode to help combat the graffiti crisis plaguing the city, reached out to graffiti writers to help turn their destructive energies into creative ones. In the process, she recognized the raw artistic talent among the graffiti writers as she began to provide opportunities for them to channel their creative forces into mural-making. The murals themselves transformed city neighborhoods suffering from years of neglect and hardship. In 1996, the Mural Arts Program was reorganized under the City of Philadelphia Department of Recreation and Golden was put in place as its director, at which time she established the Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates, a nonprofit organized to raise funds and provide support to the program.

In the 15 years since, Golden has connected the process of muralism to a multitude of community and public outcomes.  In partnership with a range of city agencies, she has developed innovative and rigorous art education, restorative justice, and behavioral health programs serving young people, youth and adult offenders at area prisons and detention centers, and individuals suffering from trauma, mental illness and addiction.  These programs have made it possible for thousands to experience and witness the power of art to connect young people to their communities and to opportunities for their futures, to break the cycle of crime and violence, and to bring about healing in individuals and communities affected by behavioral health disorders.

In addition to developing innovative programs, Golden has overseen a series of increasingly complex, ambitious, and award-winning public art projects, including How Philly Moves, an 85,000 square foot mural at the Philadelphia International Airport; Lightdrift, an interactive light project in and along the Schuylkill River created by a team from MIT; Love Letter, a narrative series of 50 text-based images visible from the Market-Frankford El developed by Stephen Powers; and Philly Painting, a collaboration with Dutch artists Dre Urhahn and Jeroen Koolhaus  to catalyze economic development by engaging community members and businesses in the transformation of 60 buildings along a struggling commercial corridor.

Sought after nationally and internationally as an expert on urban transformation through art, Golden has received numerous awards for her work, including the Philadelphia Award, the Hepburn Medal from the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center at Bryn Mawr College, The Visionary Woman Award from Moore College of Art, The 2012 Governor's Award for Innovation in the Arts, a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania Award from former Governor Edward G Rendell, the Adela Dwywe /St. Thomas Peace Award from Villanova University, LaSalle University's Alumni Association's Signum Fidei Medal, and an Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship Award. Golden has also co-authored two books about the murals in Philadelphia, is referenced publications around the world, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Golden holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and degrees in Fine Arts and Political Science from Stanford University. In addition, Golden has received honorary PhDs from Swarthmore College, Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, Widener University, and most recently, Haverford College and Villanova University.