ISSUE | MURALS

Program's outreach invigorates Philly

A recent letter suggested that Philadelphia is hampered by its abundance of murals, most of which are produced by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program ("Art in moderation," Friday). As the board chair of the nonprofit arm of Mural Arts, I take pride in the organization's commitment to a robust and transparent community process that encourages input on future artworks. The figures and ideas depicted in the murals emerge from these crucial conversations. Our murals possess a strong staying power because of this process, and we honor our commitment to the work and our relationships with a growing mural preservation program.

Through Mural Arts, more than 1,200 students a year receive free art instruction, and our Guild reentry program imparts career skills to men and women returning from incarceration. The program employs 200 to 250 artists a year and contributes $2.7 million annually to the local creative economy.

Philadelphia's outdoor mural gallery has put the city on the map as a global destination for public art. For information about Mural Arts' collection and impact, visit www.muralarts.org.

|David Pudlin, board chair, Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates, Philadelphia

An international reputation

Making art is chancy, and being a mural doesn't make it good or bad. The Mural Arts Program's proven track record and ability to attract artists from near and far, however, make Philadelphia a great place to make and see art.

There is a rigorous review process for new murals, while older ones are vetted for quality, preservation, and public response.

Philadelphia is not "hobbled" by its murals. Our checkered history has created some quirky walls and corners that are a special opportunity for artistic intervention. It is a joy to see a new artist with big ideas change the landscape.

As a Mural Arts artist, I get requests from people around the world for advice on how to become part of the program. Many are inspired to start their own arts organizations. I have witnessed the insight, compassion, and hard work of the people who have made it great.

|Ann Northrup, Philadelphia, ann.northrup@gmail.com

Community effort

Manayunk has worked with the Mural Arts Program on several murals that tell a story or transform walls that otherwise would be defaced by graffiti. The art is developed with the community's involvement. As a neighborhood, we would be offended if an elite committee chose the art.

Vibrant artwork enlivens Canal View Park and the Fountain Street steps leading to the Schuylkill River Trail. And we plan to extend that project with the help of local schools and community centers.

|Kay Sykora, project director, Destination Schuylkill River, Philadelphia, ksykora@manayunk.org

Pitching in and reaping rewards

For paint days, the Mural Arts Program reaches out to all kinds of volunteers, from nuns, students, and mural veterans to families, friends, and anyone who wants to get involved. I enjoyed my first paint day so much that I plan to participate in several more.

Volunteers can let their hair down and enjoy a meditative experience, knowing they are doing service and being served, with everything from paint cups and designs to snacks and drinks provided.

One of my greatest joys was seeing the finished mural I helped create.

|Eric Schaefer, Upper Southampton