Mural Arts Philadelphia

Public art program

Grantee Cohort Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

Location Philadelphia

Mural Arts Philadelphia is an innovative public art program rooted in the traditions of mural-making that engages the community and employs therapeutic practices to transform individual lives. Mural Arts produces 50–100 public art projects each year and maintains its growing collection through a restoration initiative.

Core Mural Arts programs such as Art Education, Restorative Justice, and Porch Light offer unique, project-based learning opportunities for thousands of youth and adults. Each year, Mural Arts interacts with up to 25,000 people through programs at sites around the city of Philadelphia. Mural Arts seeks to create opportunities and improve quality of life for those in and returning from prison to reduce recidivism and increase chances of successful reentry.

Art for Justice is partnering with Mural Arts Philadelphia in two different Art for Justice Activating Art and Advocacy grants. First, in partnership with Fair and Just Prosecution, Mural Arts Philadelphia will hire justice-involved artists to create a collection of 10 original works of art for future publication with the New Press. The book will highlight the unique perspectives and experiences of a range of visionary locally elected prosecutors working to reimagine the role of the prosecutor, shrink the legal system and build safer, healthier and fairer communities. Alongside the book and a variety of accompanying media, justice-involved artists will offer creative interpretations of a “portrait” for each featured district attorney. The project will put justice-involved artists at the heart of a national dialogue about a new vision for our legal system.

Second, as part of Philadelphia’s reconciliation and police reform process, Art for Justice partners Mural Arts Philadelphia and artist Russell Craig will expand his mural Crown onto the east and west sides of the Municipal Services Building. Crown was born of the on-going national movement for racial justice and is a daily reminder for our public servants and elected officials of the human impact of their decisions.

In the past, with support from Art for Justice, Mural Arts Philadelphia continued its arts-based training and employment opportunities for people who are formerly incarcerated, a fellowship program for formerly incarcerated artists, and opened a new studio space.

Also, artists Russell Craig and Jesse Krimes to select a justice-involved artist for a one-year residency in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. At the end of 2019, Mural Arts and its partner Fair and Just Prosecution hosted a day-long symposium—Reimagining Re-entry— that explored the human toll of incarceration and the importance of creating a justice system that is not dependent on it. The symposium provided government officials, scholars, justice-involved individuals and artists opportunities to reflect on recent reform efforts and better understand the role of art-based approaches to criminal justice reform.

Mural Arts Philadelphia also teamed up with Xaviera Simmons to begin a major abolition project featuring public artworks designed by and with people who are systems-involved. They continue to expand partnerships with powerful Philadelphia-based groups and connect artists to the District Attorney’s office to move the needle on criminal justice reform.