October 19, 2022

Mural Arts Philadelphia: Inspiring a City Through Civic and Social Change

National Philanthropic Trust’s donors recommend thousands of grants every year. This new series, Grants in Action highlights the breadth of causes and organizations NPT’s donors are supporting with grant recommendations from their donor-advised fund accounts.

Author Hayley Allison, Summer Intern

Philadelphia is home to more than 4,300 works of public art, earning itself the apt title as the “Mural Capital of the World.” For over 35 years, Mural Arts Philadelphia has blended social initiatives and participatory art projects to unite artists and communities across the city. Chad Eric Smith, Director of Communications and Brand Management for Mural Arts Philadelphia, explain that their organization, “is unique because it is, essentially, a social service organization that uses the transformative power of art as the vehicle.”

Between 50-100 projects are produced each year, which draw tens of thousands of visitors. Jane Golden, the Founder and Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, says these city-wide works of art cultivate a “sense of cultural identity and a feeling of belonging” for Philadelphia residents and visitors alike.

Mural Arts Philadelphia has four core programs: Art Education, Social Justice, Restorative Justice and The Porch Light Program. With the help of the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Services, this program provides access to city funded programs in addition to participatory art projects, working to help its participants connect and engage within Philadelphia’s communities.

Color Me Back – a subsect of The Porch Light Program – gives participants an opportunity to work on a piece of public art with the intention of beautifying the city. Participants are recruited through an outreach program and are given access to services in job placement, mental health and behavioral/social.

Golden attributes the Color Me Back Program’s impact to the response of its inspiring participants. “What we’re seeing is [their] potential. We’re seeing the gifts and strengths and assets that exist in people who felt that they were less than.”

Mural Arts Philadelphia would not be able to expand these programs without the help of their donors and sponsors. Donor-advised funds (DAFs) play a particularly essential role in the organization’s operations. “We would not have gotten where we are today without the support of donor-advised funds,” Golden says. “Active, engaged and passionate donors help us move the needle on critical social, civic and social issues our communities are grappling with.”

We would not have gotten where we are today without the support of donor-advised funds.

Smith echoes this sentiment of the impact of the organization’s donors, noting that these philanthropists are “using their money to create real social change in an observably impactful way.”