Philly's World-Famous Mural Arts Program Going Strong At 30

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Philly's World-Famous Mural Arts Program Going Strong At 30

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PHILADELPHIA -

It's art that has changed the face of our city. FOX 29's Dawn Timmeney looks at a Philadelphia treasure now celebrating a milestone of transforming lives.

"There's a lot of emotions behind it and a sense of pride, confidence, a little more faith in humanity," artist Diana Gonzalez says.

Plus, there's an understanding that art is not only capable of transforming landscapes but lives, as well!

"I've seen first-hand the impact of what doing a project can have on a community," Gonzalez said.

Indeed, these larger than life paintings have been key in reviving neighborhoods plagued by abandon buildings, crime, and blight.

Gonzalez is one, in a growing number, of "women muralists" in this country whose work is truly making a difference!

"I've worked on like 50 different projects," Gonzalez said. "Each one has something special about them. It ranges all the way from just painting with each other and starting a conversation or listening to music or laughing together."

She added, "I've seen them bring a lot of joy and change in people lives."

Which has always been the goal of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program.

The brainchild of artist, Jane Golden is preparing to mark a very important milestone.

"2014 is 30 years, 30 years of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network and, later, the Murals Arts Program," the Mural Arts Program executive said. "And I think I just feel so honored, vindicated, supported. There are just so many words that come to mind."

Amazingly, the program has made it through four mayoral administrations and has become an international model that many have tried to duplicate.

"In those early years at Mural Arts … we were just trying to, you know, be an organization that was pro-art and serve the citizens of this city in the best way possible," Golden said.

From the looks of it, that mission has been accomplished with more than 3,600 murals throughout the city gracing the sides of buildings, churches, even trash trucks.

"When you tap into creativity and innovation, anything is possible," Golden said.

Every mural tells a story, be it about a person, a place or even a situation.

"'Family Interrupted' was an awesome project led by Eric O'Dey. It had to do with how being in prison affects whole families," Gonzalez said. "People were allowed to submit personal stories … and there were mailboxes put all over the city. And, in turn, some of these messages were put onto the wall to bringing awareness to that.

One half of the mural, which can be seen on Dauphin Street in North Philadelphia, was created by prisoners. The other half was by members of the Mural Arts Program.

This is in keeping with the goal of the organization, which also aims to educate and help at-risk youth.

A new book, highlighting this and other interesting facts, is now on sale.

"The book is so important because our work has so much depth and breadth that you don't see when you look at the mural," Golden said. "When you drive around the city and you see murals or ceramic or mosaic – we're working in so many ways now – it's really community-based art."

They're telling stories about everyone's experience, including those of the artists' themselves.

"It's really great to be a working artist," Gonzalez said. "I trust this process. I've been through it many times, and it's what brings people together!"

Jane Golden and David Updike will be signing copies of their book, "Mural Arts at 30," on March 25th at the Free Library of Philadelphia, located at 1901 Vine Street. The event gets underway at 7:30 p.m.

For more information on the Mural Arts Program, click here.

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