She uses paint, brushes, and volunteers to clean up graffiti and build communities
In Philadelphia, Jane Golden oversees the Mural Arts Program, which gets citizens involved in painting over graffiti while celebrating their history and culture.
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When they do come out – to paint, to find out what's going on, to weigh in – residents discover that they can come together to accomplish other things, too – like dealing with a vacant lot or a littered street or a problem with a school.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Philadelphia: The City of Murals
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"I love being a city employee," Golden says. "To me it's an honor to be part of government and to figure out ways to better the lives of people."
"She is an incredible public servant," says Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Golden has worked for four different mayors over the years.
Not everyone is a fan of public murals. Inga Saffron, architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, returned here from a stint as a Moscow correspondent to find murals "all over the place. It struck me how much they were like [old-fashioned] Soviet propaganda," she says.
In Russia, the message typically was "work harder," while here, she says, the message is more philosophical: "It's a small world after all/ we're all family/ everyone is good," but dogmatic nonetheless.
Ms. Saffron also objects to the sheer number of murals, and says that the young people served by the program could be put to work creating more diverse forms of public art, particularly now that covering up graffiti seems to be no longer the chief goal of the program.
As Golden joined other officials at the massive Personal Renaissance wall outside the drug treatment center, local participants in the real-life drama of drug addiction stood tentatively at the fringes. The words on the mural came from poems written and painted by proud clinic attendees.
"We're showing the neighbors we're not just a bunch of drug addicts. We are a member of the neighborhood," said a patient who identified herself only as Pat.
Down the block, local resident Yesenia Lopez says the mural's words give the wall deep significance.
"If you read it – if you really read it – you can change your life," she says.
IN PICTURES: Philadelphia: The City of Murals