Facing the possibility of losing funding, Mural Arts is forced to halt specific mural projects.
Kids’ hopes of gaining a quality art education from master muralists may need to be put on hold.
Currently, the state’s budget impasse has halted all contracts with the Mural Arts Program, which offers after-school opportunities for youth in Philadelphia ages 11 to 18, in the public sector, making it extremely difficult to finish projects already planned, much less pay contract workers for new projects.
Also, thanks to the Nutter administration and the possible implementation of “Plan C,” thousands of students may not be getting their art fix at all in the next five years, as $1 million may be eliminated from its budget.
“We had to furlough all full-time employees, we delayed 20 major projects, we canceled 10 projects, and we postponed all programs for kids till mid-October,” said Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts Program. “But we want to make sure that people understand these programs may not happen at all if Plan C goes into effect.”
The art education programs offered to Philadelphia’s “at risk” youth – declared by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services as “at risk of abuse, neglect and delinquency” – provide more than just a painting opportunity for young people. Students are given something constructive to do with their time after school, making them less vulnerable to troublemaking tendencies.
“Over the years we have created what is, in effect, an exemplary model of a public/private partnership,” Golden said. “It has been one that allowed us to maximize our impact, reach out to every neighborhood of the city, expand our reach into social services and provide programs for thousands of young people.”
Opportunities to take art classes in the curriculum of most Philadelphia schools are few, and the Mural Arts Program somewhat solved that problem. These programs, such as the Mural Corps for teenagers, mold incredible individuals who have the opportunity to find themselves, helping them decide whether they will move on to higher education.
Shemice Evans is heading to New York University this fall after being involved with the Mural Corps. After finding success in the program, Evans would recommend it to his peers. But now, he said he is worried his suggestions will be meaningless.
“Each program has a rigorous program of study and large-scale projects designed to stimulate creativity and social action that advance participation, equity, civic engagement and connection,” Golden said. “Our work, which appears in every neighborhood of the city, asserts and underscores the value of diversity and fosters an appreciation of both difference and the commonality within that difference.”
With the start of the programs already being pushed to mid-October, it is a question of whether or not they will happen at all. Golden and her staff are kicking up their advocacy efforts and attempting to gain support from their private sector, as well as the public community to help see that the Mural Arts Program does not get eliminated if Plan C is passed.
Murals tell amazing stories about the communities in which they are set, but the process of mural-painting and the people behind it are even more valuable than the artwork itself.
Tara Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.