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Jane Golden | Founder and Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

How can art help 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 invigorating 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 by both 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 limited to mural painting. Her talks speak to the possibility of bringing hope to 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 MFA 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.

Speech Topics

Civic Engagement
Public Art Can Change a City Social Change, One Mural at a Time
Art ignites change—in individuals and their shared communities. For Mural Arts Philadelphia’s founder Jane Golden, bringing art into the city was a way of addressing a graffiti crisis through intentional color and value, all while engaging community members in telling their own stories outside of the ads, billboards, and tags that surrounded them. Managing over 100 major projects per year that involve all kinds of artists, including the mentally ill, the homeless, and otherwise struggling city-dwellers, the result has been nothing short of transformative. Whether you are a community organizer, activist, artist, caregiver, or local business, Golden’s wholehearted perspective shows that art matters in ways we’re only beginning to explore. Art can be accessible, telling the stories of people who’ve never been to a museum in their life. Art can engage people to care about each other and their neighborhoods, bringing municipal resources to blocks that had previously only seen the surveillance of police officers. Motivating and hopeful, Golden’s talk will help you and your audience see your communities as blank canvases for creativity. The stories you want to express with them are up to you.