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My Philadelphia: Philadelphia Mural Art Program's Jane Golden

The driving force behind the Mural Arts Program talks about the organization, art and her favorite Philly memories

Philadelphia has more murals than any other city in the world thanks to the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Executive director Jane Golden has been a driving force in the organization since its genesis as the Anti-Graffiti Network. Today, the Mural Arts Program is internationally renowned for its success in beautifying urban neighborhoods, transcending urban divides and empowering artists to bring their work to the public. We sat down with Golden and talked about the future of the program, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, as well as what’s in store for the next 30 years.

Can you tell us a little about the Mural Arts Program?

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is an organization devoted to ensuring that all citizens have art in their lives and that young people have access to art education. It is a program that believes in the power of art to uplift and transform individuals and communities.

Do you have a favorite mural?

At Broad and Spring Garden [streets] there is a mural called, “Common Threads.” It’s one of my favorites because it is so iconic. People come from all over the world to see it. It shows people that murals can be of the same quality as fine art that you find in galleries and museums.

The "Common Threads" Mural
Artist Meg Saligman created the "Common Threads" mural. (©Steve Weinik for Mural Arts Program)

How does it feel to be celebrating 30th anniversary?

I feel very proud to have been part of this organization from the inception and it’s been a real thrill and privilege to see the program grow and expand and be what it is today which is a national and international model.

Where do you see the organization going in the future?

People will see a real growth in our body of work in terms of variety, in terms of temporary and permanent [art] and in terms of the artists that we work with. Some of the artists will be local—we’re very loyal to artists from Philadelphia—but we believe in mixing it up and bringing in artists from all over the world. We feel lucky that so many artists want to come to Philadelphia.

What is the best way to tour the murals in the city?

I would always encourage people to go on a walking tour and see the Mural Mile. It is the collection of about 18 geographically connected murals. I would also suggest that people come on the trolley tour.

Mural Arts Program Trolley Tour
See the murals of the city on a guided trolley tour. (©Rusty Kennedy/Visit Philadelphia)

What is one of your fondest Philadelphia memories?

When we opened the exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art [“Beyond The Paint”] over 1,000 people came and when I looked out into the audience I saw such an incredibly diverse audience—every age, every race. It was a quintessential Philadelphia moment. It made me really proud about how Mural Arts reaches every community and neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia. No one is left out. Art is for everyone.

What are some of your favorite Philadelphia attractions?

I love the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum, the Barnes Foundation and PAFA.

What is one of your favorite places to eat?

I love the margherita pizza at Osteria. I’m a huge fan of Marc Vetri, and he’s been a great supporter of ours.

How do you plan on spending Valentine’s Day?

I hope to get sushi at Umai Umai at 22nd and Brandywine streets in my neighborhood, and I hope I get some chocolate from Mueller at the wonderful Reading Terminal Market.