What is it? Murals are usually larger, outdoor public displays of visual art. They often serve as a way to beautify space, embrace local history, and showcase the talents of area artists. The nature of mural projects differ in the extent to which they focus on engaging local artists and residents. Engaging neighborhood youth or other populations in design, placement, installation and even upkeep of murals can be very powerful. The local participants (often in conjunction with artists) often gain a deeper appreciation for local history and culture, a strengthened sense of attachment and identity to the neighborhood, and gain new skills. As such, mural initiatives can help spur change in many ways that go beyond an aesthetic difference.
How has it been used? The City of Philadelphia has a very strong mural program. In 2011 and 2012, the program conducted a number of community workshops in partnership with Project HOME, the Hank Gathers Rec Center, and the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. Participants in these workshops created poetry that represented their perspective on their community and reflected individual talents and challenges. From these poems a mural was created. The mural included a new poem bringing together lines from many different contributions to create a comprehensive image of that community. The poem was translated into colors to fill another part of the mural. The focus of the poem and artwork, community resilience and strength, is beautifully displayed in a dynamic presentation of words and colors. Community members were even invited to help paint the final project to show that this really was a community vision and not just an outside perspective. (Source: City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program: The Color of Your Voice)