Friday, April 19, 2013

Breaking Down Walls

I was at a conference last week and had the great privilege of hearing Jane Golden, director of the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program speak. This woman has turned mural painting into a signature program for the City, the largest program of its kind in the nation and taken what was originally intended to be an anti-graffiti program into a model for community development and an important program for social justice. It is astonishing what she has been able to accomplish. There has been so much talk about innovation lately and there was at this conference as well. This woman has what it takes for real innovation – the willingness and the fortitude to keep breaking down walls (or painting them) until something happens.

There were three things she said that made an indelible impression on me. The first is that she believes that every citizen deserves art and anything less is unacceptable. The second was that in her work she found that in the same way that a broken window can lead to crime in a neighborhood that a work of art can lead to an increase in caring about a neighborhood.

And finally, she approaches the work with Rigor and Love – you can see it in the work and you can see it in the neighborhoods she has changed and you can see it when she speaks. She was absolutely inspiring, and I hope to approach my work with something approximating the rigor and love she brings.


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