became a mural painter
in 1977, after graduating with degrees in fine arts and political
science from Stanford University. Her first work was in Santa Monica,
a 20 by 100 foot depiction of the once-popular Ocean Pier. (I called
the city every day for three months to let me do it, she recalls.)
It was named a historic landmark in 1984.
became addictive, she says. When you paint a mural, you get continuous
feedback from people on the street. Each time someone said, Thank
you, it made my dayand eventually changed my life.
next six years, she painted murals from Beverly Hills West to Los
Angeles. Weary of having her work defaced by graffiti, in 1982 she
founded the Public Art Foundation in Los Angeles to train kids on
probation to create public art. Mural painting is an incredible
way for kids to transition from graffiti to constructive work,
she says. I [tried] to teach them that there are responsible ways
to express themselves.
was diagnosed with lupus and moved home to Philadelphia to be closer
to her family. In 1984, with the disease in remission (where she
says it remains), she was hired by the city as artistic director
of the mural component of the start-up Anti-Graffiti Networkshe
calls it the epitome of a grassroots organization with no money
but an incredibly sound philosophy.
the Mural Arts Program, part of the citys Department of Recreation
since 1996, has an administrative staff of 13 and a yearly budget
of $2.5 million. Along the way, the program has garnered a slew
of awards, both locally and nationally, as well as significant corporate
and foundation support. (Only $800,000 of the annual budget comes
from the city.)
two decades of championing the cause of public art, specifically
murals, in Philadelphia, Goldens mantra has remained the same:
Art Saves Lives.
is so much more than a painting on a wall, she says. A mural becomes
a catalyst for positive change in a community.
has seen it happen in neighborhoods across the city that have reinvented
themselves around the creation of murals. Trash-strewn lots become
gardens, drug dealers relocate, graffiti disappears, and residents
rediscover pride in their community. But it doesnt stop there.
In the last five years, approximately 2,500 kids have enrolled in
her programs extensive year round art-education components, painting
murals or participating in workshops offered at churches and schools,
while over the last three years another 5,000 people have participated
in its popular tours of Philadelphias outdoor muralsthe nations
largest collection of its kind, numbering over 2,000.
the art-education program for children ages 8-17 operates in 20
sites around the city, including eight recreation centers, four
community centers, and eight public schools. This fall, a high-school
component, the Mural Arts Corps, was initiated, featuring accelerated
design courses, art history, and studio practicum. The program has
become a natural component of current Mayor John Streets anti
blight campaign, and its outreach program has been expanded into
prisons, homeless shelters, and youth-detention centers.
the program moved into a new base of operations, a brownstone at
1729 Mt. Vernon Street that once was the home and studio of the
artist Thomas Eakins. For the first time, the program is able to
offer a central arts-education workshop for children throughout
the city, complete with a computer lab and exhibition space. This
is an unprecedented opportunity, says Golden.
for the prolonged success of the Mural Arts Program is Goldens
insistence that the process work, as she describes it, from the
bottom up. She tells her students at Penn that their course, will
explore what that means. There is a certain immediacy to what we
do as opposed to the think-tank, top-down approach.
reason is Golden herselfwho appears to sleep, breathe, and eat
her mission. She is tenacious, driven, and fabulous. Ive never
seen anybody keep going and moving forward like she does, says
Robert Yermish, chairman of the board of directors of the Mural
Arts Program. Jane is a visionary, adds David Langfitt, another
board member. She sees in her mind what needs to be done and she
does what it takes to implement what she sees. What propels Jane
is an unwavering belief in the power of art to inspire, change,
and, in some cases, actually heal.
through her opening lecturein which she relates the history of
the Mural Arts Programthe Penn students are entranced. Its a
very difficult concept to link art with social services, Golden
concludes. Its not an easy process but it is tremendously rewarding.