THE MURAL MILE, PHILADELPHIA:THE WORLD’S BIGGEST OUTDOOR GALLERY
The Mural Mile in Philadelphia, is quite literally the world’s largest open air gallery, and trust me it’s not restricted to a mile either from its humble beginnings thirty odd years ago.
I’ve mentioned many times previously, I’m in awe of street art and the artists who create this art form, which has such poignant yet provocative messages behind the façade. Following my visits to Wynwood Walls in Miami, The Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn and the Bring The Paint festival in my home city of Leicester, I was excited to learn of The Mural Mile, Philadelphia.
Have a read of my post about the world famous, Bushwick Collective below:
My home city, Leicester’s Bring The Pain Festival:
Philadelphia or Philly has always been known for its street art culture, which depicts the everyday struggles of local folk. The Mural Mile was set up by Mural Arts as part of the Philly anti-graffiti network, aiming to transform the gripes of graffiti writers into a recognised art form that is able to bring constructive communications amongst the local community as well as neighbouring areas.
The Mural Arts Program is the largest public art program in USA and is dedicated to the fact that art ignites change. It began in 1984 when artist Jane Golden lead the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network to re-focus the creative work of local graffiti writers. In these times graffiti was most definitely referred to as a defacement of public property however Jane believed that art can help individuals and the community change collectively. She provided encouragement for artists to work on community projects and focus on replacing the graffiti with street art.
Developing a program that brought structure, guidance and more importantly income and recognition of artists to Philadelphia, as they were paid for their work that was done on murals.
Over thirty years after the Mural Arts programme was formed, more and more artists have been given public areas to display their talent, each piece is utterly thought provoking and given a title. At one time, artists had to knock on doors to ask permission to paint on walls but now there is a fully fledged programme in place where murals are sponsored but don’t contain promotional material. The Mural Arts engages 50-100 art projects each year in the local community and additionally completes a number of restoration projects.
The Mural Arts project covers the following missions:
Art education programs for 2,000+ under served Philadelphia youth 10 – 21 years of age in 25 – 30 sites. The students develop new skills and bring their talents and labour to new projects.
Employs 25 inmates from a maximum security prison to work on murals as well as provide paid apprenticeships for at risk youth people aged 18 -24. The program is very successful as 74% of Restorative Justice Guild graduates are placed in steady employment, higher education or vocational training programs.
With over 3,000 community members engaged in Porch Light Programs, this initiative works on important mental and behaviour health issues through year-round workshops, community meetings, health forums and paint days.
Public Art and Civic Engagement
Through collaborative community projects the murals focus on building social capital, representing diversity and honouring history. Creating murals that are relevant to the neighbourhood, commemorating important people, dates or events in Philadelphia.
Tours and Public Program
Private and public tours are offered by professional guides and artists. Over 100 events include dedications, panel discussions, gallery exhibitions, artist talks and community paint days. Fundraisers and a month-long celebration of all things Mural Arts is held in October. Each year, 12,000 residents and visitors tour Mural Arts’ outdoor art gallery, injecting $2.7 million into Philadelphia’s creative economy each year.
The map below shows the Self-guided tour and both the North and South mile of the route, which I opted to follow. Both routes are actually further than a mile and took me around half a day to complete. You can also download an audio guide, which gives you an explanation of the art work including the techniques used and its significance or representation. It is no wonder Philadelphia is also known as the ‘City of Murals’
Below is a selection of some of my favourites from the self-guided Mural Mile Tour. I completed both the North and South tours. Just to note if you’re planning to do a similar thing, both routes took around half a day but it was great to be able to take things at a slower pace and reflect on the mural pieces and messages behind them.
The Mural Arts programme and other street art initiatives in Philly are an incredibly inspiring and an invaluable portal of bringing the communities of the city together in uniting diversity, race and rhythm. It provides many a platform to voice their grievances in an artistic form to showcase talent and most importantly create harmony and appreciation of residents and their neighbourhoods and thus the city as a whole.
Mural Arts Philadelphia
1727-29 Mount Vernon Street
More information and downloadable maps are available via their website
I’d love to hear your comments about The Mural Mile below. have you ever been on a mural walking tour before?