A mural tour of Philadelphia offers a firsthand look at how one program redirected the energy of graffiti into an ongoing city-wide beautification project.
Founded in 1984, the Mural Arts Program was formed with the idea that graffiti doesn't have to add a negative aesthetic to any city scape; it can be a positive, creative output for any artist.
Muralist Jane Golden, who joined the Mural Arts Program at its start, recognized the creative talent of each graffiti artist and reached out to them in hopes that they would turn their talent into a positive force. The Mural Arts program today has produced more than 3,600 murals, giving Philadelphia the name "city of murals."
In addition to being a force in the public arts, the Mural Arts program has educated roughly 20,000 at-risk and under-served youth around Philadelphia. A typical curriculum teaches job skills, personal responsibilities and creative problem-solving.
The program also reaches out to adult offenders in local prisons, demonstrating the power of art to rehabilitate lives. Hence the program's mantra: Art Saves Lives.
Currently, the program offers 12 different tours including trolley tours, spirituality-themed tours, bike tours and the Paint the Town tour, which offers you the chance to meet a master muralist and help them create a mural project.
You can book a tour via the online calendar. Tickets are $20-$30 per person. Tours can run up to two hours.
Another option for a glimpse into the murals of Philadelphia is to visit the Mural Arts and The Gallery (901 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa.), a 5,000-square-foot art space where you can buy tickets to any of the mural art tours, shop original artwork and create your own murals, as well as watch master muralists at work. The gallery is open Wednesday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9-4 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.