NYC has taken a hard stance on graffiti- putting an end to metro trains being entirely covered in spray paint, local media painting graffiti artists as deceitful criminals and undercover cops taking the streets as artists. On the flip side, Philly in responding to the spread of graffiti by providing legal space, has come to be known as the mural capital.
The city of Brotherly Love along with private foundations have poured millions of dollars into fostering community murals. Philadelphia’s Anti-Graffiti Network (PAGN) gave birth to Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program (MAP) in 1986. PAGN founder Tim Spencer hoped the development of MAP would encourage graffiti artists to take on other arts while MAP head Jane Golden had envisioned today’s reality. MAP’s success landed Philadelphia the Innovations in American Government Award in 1991. Since its launch MAP has produced over 2,800 murals. That figure becomes more impressive when one considers that the average mural created by MAP is about the height of a three story house, each costing approximately 10 to 15 K. MAP is among the largest employers of artists in the city, employing over 300 artists a year. In addition to attracting talented artists and tourists, the murals have actively exhibited Philly’s diversity, culture and history.
The rise of legal walls around the world raises many questions. Some of the key ones being: Has the emergence of legal state sponsored murals deterred illegal graffiti? How do these community programs decide who is invited to paint murals and the site of legal walls? What censorship restrictions are there on legal graffiti murals in terms of subject matter? The answers to the above questions are blurry yet the mission of community mural projects is clear: prevent illegal graffiti, encourage neighborhood activism, promote youth development and create a sense of identity and dignity among residents of a community. In response to a few incidents of vandalism, my own college chose to take the Philly route by installing a “graffiti wall." Enjoy the clip touring Philly murals below.
Since Philly is on HiphoPolitico's mind (disappointingly I have yet to make the trip to Philly, that will change in 09) I included a video clip from the legendary Roots crew.