Mural Arts Philadelphia
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Industry: Arts and Culture
In 1984, Jane Golden was hired as a young artist by former Mayor Wilson Goode to address Philadelphia’s widespread graffiti issue through the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. Golden worked with graffiti artists to channel their creative energy and talent toward mural collaborations, transforming neighborhoods where buildings and communities suffered from neglect. The process gave graffiti writers an opportunity to rethink their work and contributions to the city as artists.
In 1997, then-Mayor Ed Rendell, who would eventually support the creation of the Mural Arts Program under Golden’s leadership, restructured the Anti-Graffiti Network. In 1998, Golden established the Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support the program.
In the decades since, Mural Arts has created over 4,000 works of public art that reimagine the intersection of art and public space and address societal challenges. Golden has led a series of increasingly complex, ambitious and award-winning public art projects, and launched the Mural Arts Institute in 2017 to help guide best practices across the globe.
“My greatest lesson has been to be determined, tenacious and driven but to always have humility,” said Golden, executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia. “This means knowing I am not the smartest person in the room, to listen intently and to soak up best practices like a sponge — and connected to this — be brave and open to shift direction and be open to change.”
For over 35 years, Mural Arts has united artists and communities through mural-making, creating art that transforms public spaces and individual lives. “Mural Arts engages communities in 50–100 public art projects each year, and maintains its growing collection through a restoration initiative,” the organization said. “Our core program areas — art education, environmental justice, Porch Light and restorative justice — yield unique, project-based learning opportunities for thousands of youth and adults every year.”
The organization’s Porch Light program spotlights mental illness issues, homelessness and addiction, in cooperation with the city’s Department of Behavioral Health.
Golden has taught at Graterford Prison for many years and spearheaded a project connecting inmates and juveniles at a correctional facility with a Kensington neighborhood. This work has resulted in a restorative justice program that uses art to combat recidivism.
Golden serves on the mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council and the board of directors of The Heliotrope Foundation. She has received honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College, Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, Widener University, Arcadia University, LaSalle College, Haverford College, Rosemont College, Villanova University, St. Joseph’s University, Drexel University, Auburn University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Golden oversees 56 full-time individuals and a $13 million budget. She is directly responsible for the largest exterior public art collection in the country and was instrumental in earning Philadelphia the nickname “the city of murals.”
“I love our city and intend to stay involved in civic initiatives, to be value-added to the cultural sector and to continue supporting younger artists,” Golden said.
Jane has a dog and two cats. The dog constantly fights with one of the cats and Jane manages to find herself regularly in the middle of these family spats while on a virtual call with Mural Arts colleagues, supporters and stakeholders, and she doesn't lose a beat. Jane also has an incredibly witty sense of humor.
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