By Maria Saporta
PHILADELPHIA – A ball of energy known as Jane Golden captivated the metro Atlanta LINK delegation during its three-day trip to the Pennsylvania city.
Golden’s underlying message was to show how the arts can help address an urban area’s most intractable problems and bring creative energy to a city’s streets, its walls and its heart.
In 1984, Golden went to work for Philadelphia’s newly launched Anti-Graffiti Network. Like many anti-graffiti efforts, the city would paint over the graffit, and within a few days, new graffiti would appear.
By 1986, Philadelphia tried a different approach — the Mural Arts Program — and Golden became its director. Since then, the program has worked with more than 100 communities and produced 3,600 murals, which have been described as a cherished part of the civic landscape and a great source of inspiration to residents and visitors alike.
The 110-member Atlanta delegation was no different.
In a most unusual response, at the closing session of the LINK trip on Friday afternoon, Cobb County businessman Jim Rhoden told other members of the delegation that local arts and philanthropic leaders planned to bring Golden down to Atlanta to talk about the Philadelphia mural program to a broader audience and share ideas of how it could be replicated in our region.
Then Rhoden announced that leaders on the trip were launching an effort to raise $100,000 to hire someone who could run a Mural Arts Program in metro Atlanta and that $30,000 had already been pledged to the effort.
Who else would be willing to contribute, Rhoden asked. One by one, members of the delegation raised their hands, pledging $1,000 or $2,000 or $2,500 or even $5,000. After about 10 minutes, a total of $75,000 had been raised.
It was the first time in the 18-year history of LINK trips where an immediate, tangible action had been taken. One delegation member suggested that it should become an annual feature of the trip.
Whether or not that will happen, it was clear that Golden’s presentation touched the Atlanta delegation.
She described how the Mural Arts Program offers free art education classes to nearly 2,000 young people throughout the city and to at-risk teens through its outreach programs.
It also serves adult offenders in local prisons and rehabilitation centers, using the restorative power of art to breat the cycle of crime and violence in communities.
In a fund-raising brochure, the Mural Arts Program is described as delivering a a “bold view of art in our proud city” of Philadelphia.
It went on to say: “We achieve real progress by embracing the diverse perspectives of communities, artists, and citizens who believe that art — in a creative and collaboartive process — propels us forward.”
Dear Metro Atlanta Link members, Please allow me to introduce you to Living Walls. Instead of raising $100,000 dollars to hire an executive, perhaps you could simply support one of the best non-profit start-up mural arts programs in the country, that is already well-established in Atlanta. Over the past five years, Living Walls has produced over 100 murals within the City of Atlanta and across the State of Georgia. Bringing artists from near and far to share their talents with the citizens of our region, while often working on shoe-string budgets with large quantities of volunteer labor and supplies. The quantity and quality of work produced by Living Walls, based on their limited budget and resources, is nothing short of extraordinary! http://livingwallsatl.com/