“Every city should have an entity like Philadelphia Mural Arts,” writes SNF Program Officer Kira Pritchard.
Art and artists do not typically enter into mainstream conversations on public health and community wellbeing— but they should. As COVID-19 challenges our very social fabric, further underscoring the connections and disparities in wealth and health, it is more urgent than ever to consider diverse approaches to and determinants of health. What would happen if more communities included creatives at the center of public health?
Every city might have an entity like Philadelphia Mural Arts (Mural Arts), with a mission to inspire change in people, place, and practice, creating opportunity for a more just and equitable society. Established by the legendary Jane Golden in 1984, Mural Arts has grown from an anti-graffiti network to the nation’s largest public art program. Through the lens of art, Mural Arts seeks to address collective trauma, chronic disease, and social isolation, among other societal issues. For example, SNF currently supports its Porch Light program, a collaboration between Mural Arts and the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health. In this setting, mural making turns therapeutic, opening a dialogue between trained artists, social workers, and those battling opioid addiction or mental health disorders. Stories of ravage slowly evolve to stories of resiliency, with participants restoring self-esteem and self-worth through collective healing.
Amid the current crisis, Mural Arts has positioned art to, once again, call for action. Wash Your Hands and Space Pads creatively leverage PSAs on proper hygiene and social distancing practices to keep the community informed. Homeschool with Mural Arts champions connection with art-making resources and videos, including Murals on the Fly, stunning aerial tours of Philadelphia’s public art treasures. By positioning art and artists as agents of public wellbeing and social change, our communities have the potential to take flight and soar, as well.
Program Officer, New York
For further reading on art and public health, please see:
Sonke, J., Golden, T., Francois, S., Hand, J., Chandra, A., Clemmons, L., Fakunle, D., Jackson, M.R., Magsamen, S., Rubin, V., Sams, K., Springs, S. (2019).
Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-Sector Collaboration [White paper].
University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine / ArtPlace America.