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Metro Atlanta LINK delegation raises $75,000 to replicate Philadelphia’s successful mural arts program

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.

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker with Jane Golden and Philadelphia Mayor Mike Nutter (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker with Jane Golden and Philadelphia Mayor Mike Nutter (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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.

A mural of Philadelphia hero Dr. J., which has been protected for about 20 years by the community (Mural images from website)

A mural of Philadelphia hero Dr. J., which has been protected for about 20 years by the community (Mural images from website)

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.”

Philadelphia mural

Philadelphia mural

Philadelphia mural

Philadelphia mural

Philadelphia mura

Philadelphia mura

Philadelphia mural

Philadelphia mural


Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. Ross Wallace May 13, 2014 8:37 am

    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/Report


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