PAFA presents "Beyond the Paint: Philadelphia’s Mural Arts," November 15, 2013 – April 6, 2014

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Exhibition exploring the evolution and national impact of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program

Philly Painting © 2013 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Jeroen Koolhaas & Dre Urhahn, 2500 - 2800 Germantown Avenue, Photo: Dre Urhahn

Over the last 30 years, the Mural Arts Program has evolved from a localized attempt to deal with graffiti to an internationally heralded art- and community-making program...

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) presents Beyond the Paint: Philadelphia’s Mural Arts, an immersive exhibition celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

On view November 15, 2013 – April 6, 2014, Beyond the Paint showcases community-inspired art-making in Philadelphia, while situating the Mural Arts Program’s process and progress within the national and international realm of socially-engaged arts practices.

The exhibition presents archival and documentary material, as well as images ranging from the years when the Mural Arts Program was still the “Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network,” to the most current Mural Arts Program projects and initiatives, including those still in process. Highlighting themes that have been at the heart of 30 years worth of socially conscious art projects, the exhibition celebrates the people, places, and projects that have been involved in this city-wide art project over the years. Additionally, the Museum gallery space will be enlivened by the creation of new murals.

“Over the last 30 years, the Mural Arts Program has evolved from a localized attempt to deal with graffiti to an internationally heralded art- and community-making program that has created thousands of murals, engaged tens of thousands of people in dialogue and transformation, pioneered social practice in art-making, and helped rebuild the vibrant and diverse City of Philadelphia. We are delighted to partner with Mural Arts to bring this exciting and dynamic exhibition to life,” says Harry Philbrick, the Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum.

Beyond the Paint particularly highlights the participation and grassroots ethic at the heart of Mural Arts’ 30 years of practice with three new works: Temporary Services, an artist collective based in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Copenhagen, and Philadelphia artist duo Megawords will produce new works that amplify and expand the program’s art practice in both form and approach. Temporary Services will present an extended version of the popular “Self-reliance Library,” a reading space featuring a curated collection of books “designed to provoke the reader, solve creative problems, or suggest imaginative directions for a range of creative practices.”

New York-based artist Josh MacPhee will install a temporary screen printing shop inside the gallery. MacPhee will design a series of collaboratively-produced “broadsheets” (large-format newspapers), which will collect poetry, journalism, illustrations, and personal stories from different communities. Each broadsheet will be screenprinted collaboratively in the gallery by members of these same communities, along with PAFA students and Museum visitors. Once printed, the broadsheets will be brought back to the communities and publicly posted throughout their respective neighborhoods.

A custom-built studio space inside the exhibition will offer opportunities to glimpse Mural Arts artists at work, as well as to highlight the creative and physical processes behind some of the Mural Arts Program’s most current projects.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to launch us into our 30th year, and humbled by the extraordinary commitment of artists, staffers, community members and program partners that this exhibition represents. The collaboration between PAFA staff and our own has been extraordinary—itself an impressive exercise in collective creativity and social practice,” says Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Since its inception in 1984, the Mural Arts Program has engaged thousands of community members throughout Philadelphia in free mural-making programs—from artists, students, and community leaders, to victims of crime and prison inmates—resulting in over 3,600 murals that have transformed the city, while highlighting the community building power of art. The program’s efforts have earned Philadelphia international praise as the “City of Murals,” and have helped build and sustain a vibrant local community of artists, many of whom are also PAFA students, alumni, and faculty.

Central to the Mural Arts Program’s ethic is social practice, which aims to effect social change through socially engaged art-making. Although social practice art has come to the fore only relatively recently in the U.S., the work of the Mural Arts Program has been a strand in this emerging field for three decades. Now considered by many to be a leader in the field of socially engaged art-making, Mural Arts is seen as having much to offer other organizations and practitioners. Blurring the lines between making art objects and social activism, social practice artists embed their art-making firmly within the practice of social change, creating art solely in the context of creating solutions for entrenched social, political, environmental, and economic challenges.

Extensive programming will accompany the exhibition, including free Sunday admission, throughout the run of the show. The opening weekend will kick off a series of thought-provoking talks, programs and workshops with "Who Shapes Our City?," a panel discussion that will offer Philadelphians a chance to hear from community leaders and to offer opinions of their own regarding how Philadelphia’s public spaces should be shaped by the arts moving forward.

Beyond the Paint’s Presenting Sponsor is The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation. The exhibition was also made possible in part by generous funding from PECO, the exhibit’s lead corporate sponsor. PECO puts its energy into the arts and supports cultural institutions like PAFA and Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program to make the arts more accessible to a wider audience.

The exhibition has been developed through a collaborative process involving Mural Arts’ founder Jane Golden; PAFA Museum director Harry Philbrick; Elizabeth Thomas, an independent, Oakland-based curator who curated the exhibition’s special projects; project manager Netanel Portier; and exhibition coordinator Kristin Hankins. Philadelphia designers Blue Cadet designed the installation.


November 17, 4-6 p.m.
How do we want to shape Philadelphia’s public spaces through the arts, and who should be making those decisions? Join a panel of civic and community leaders for a lively discussion around these questions, and be part of the conversation about our city’s future.

November 17, 2-4 p.m.
Understand how to dissect some of the murals in Beyond the Paint, and create one with our teaching artist and other families.

November 21, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
Open to all classroom teachers, this evening will offer a tour of the exhibition with Museum staff, see artists in action in the galleries and work with staff on projects that can be incorporated into your classroom curriculum. Refreshments and teacher materials will be provided.

December 1, 12-2 p.m.
Bundle up the whole family for a bike tour of some of the Mural Arts Program’s greatest murals around the city. Staff will introduce the history and process of mural-making, while helping you burn off some of that Thanksgiving lethargy!

The fourth season of PAFA After Dark features two events in conjunction with Beyond the Paint:

  • December 5, 6-9 p.m.: WINTER IS COMING
  • March 6, 6-9 p.m.: BLOCK PARTY

November 29, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
PAFA offers holiday camp for ages 5-15 years to make art and friends when school is out. Campers will visit the exhibition galleries, participate in a series of creative projects, and learn about the Mural Arts Program.

December 6, 10 a.m.
Bring the little ones for a Stroller Tour through Beyond the Paint! Designed for parents and caregivers to explore art enrichment and conversation among peers, Stroller Tours promote the concept that early child learning begins at 1 month.

Ongoing through run of exhibition
The Traveling Lecture Series brings Museum staff into the community to give free talks on important PAFA projects. This fall, talks will focus on the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Put in the context of Philadelphia’s other public arts projects and PAFA's own history of producing the artists who make these remarkable murals, we will explore some of the city's most diverse neighborhoods for a taste of the art they have produced as part of this project.

The exhibition’s Presenting Sponsor is The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation. Lead Corporate Sponsor: PECO. Funded in part by Julie and James Alexandre, Joe and Jane Goldblum, the Independence Foundation, and PTS Foundation. The catalogue is funded in part by a grant from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.


Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America's first School of Fine Arts and Museum. A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts presented by the President of the United States, PAFA is a recognized leader in Fine Arts education. Nearly every major American artist has taught, studied, or exhibited at PAFA. The institution's world-class collection of American art continues to grow and provides what only a few other art institutions in the world offer: the rare combination of an outstanding Museum and an extraordinary faculty known for its commitment to students and for the stature and quality of its artistic work.

The Mural Arts Program is the nation’s largest public art program, dedicated to the belief that art ignites change. For nearly 30 years, the Mural Arts Program has united artists and communities through a collaborative process, rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives. Mural Arts engages communities in 50 to 100 mural and public art projects each year, including a restoration program that maintains the collection. The murals also create unique project-based learning opportunities for thousands of youth and adults in the Art Education for Youth, Restorative Justice, and Behavioral Health programs. Each year, 14,000 residents and visitors tour the Mural Arts Program’s outdoor art gallery, which has become part of the city’s civic landscape and a source of pride and inspiration. The Mural Arts Program has created over 3,600 murals and works of public art, earning Philadelphia international recognition as the “City of Murals.”

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