How can art help us drive civic restoration? As the Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program, Jane Golden has seen her city transform through creativity and grit. Under Golden’s leadership, Mural Arts is a model for community development and restorative justice around the globe. In her talks, she shows how public art lowers crime rates, fortifies local business, and brings pride to unloved areas. For the people whose lives it’s changed, art means feeling at home in your own neighborhood.
“Jane Golden ... is a grit paragon.”— Angela Duckworth, in her #1 New York Times bestselling book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
In 1984, the city of Philadelphia was blighted by graffiti. Jane Golden was tapped by the mayor to apprehend the graffiti crisis in whatever way she could. As she describes in her galvanizing talks, when traditional intervention fails, we need to think outside the box. For Golden, this meant reaching out to the city’s graffiti artists, creating opportunities to put their art on walls in a more beautiful, constructive way. Shockingly, the new murals weren’t defaced, and through 35 years and five mayors, Mural Arts now produces work designed by a diverse range of artists from across the nation, painted both by professional artists and collaboratively with community members. Because of Mural Arts, neighborhoods previously marked by crime and neglect are now sources of dignity and respect. Creativity and art can help us come up with fresh approaches to civic restoration, says Golden, and that isn’t strictly limited to mural painting. Her talks speak to the possibility of bringing hope to tangible life in cities of brick and mortar, through the empowering work of collective creativity.
As its Executive Director, Golden has overseen Mural Arts’ growth from a small city agency into the nation’s largest public art program, with more than 4,000 murals completed. Sought after internationally as an expert on urban transformation through art, Golden has received numerous awards, including the Hepburn Medal, the Visionary Woman Award from Moore College of Art, a Governor’s Award for Innovation in the Arts, and the Anne d’Harnoncourt Award for Artistic Excellence. Golden is an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches a class on the history and practice of Mural Arts. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and degrees in Fine Arts and Political Science from Stanford University, as well as multiple honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College, Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, and many others.