Dear CultureSource Members,

Last week, we hosted our partners from Mural Arts Philadelphia (MAP) in a series of conversations about public art, where it was highlighted as a tool not only to brighten buildings, but one that can encourage recycling, provide job opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals, and address mental health and public housing crises. CultureSource—along with our partner the Live6 Alliance—is part of a multi-year consultation project of the Mural Arts Institute, the Art & Environment Capacity Building Initiative. We have been eager for all of you to hear their approaches, be inspired, and have tactical takeaways for your own practices.

Mural Arts EventPhoto courtesy of Valaurian Waller
L to R: Maurice Cox, Kimberly Driggins, Jane Golden, Nic Esposito, Meg Heeres, and Rob Goodspeed
As more than 100 participants in last week’s sessions heard, the contrasts between how Philadelphia and Detroit approach public art are vastly different. To start, Mural Arts was born more than 30 years ago out of a city-run department and is now the nation’s largest public art program. Its founder and executive director Jane Golden shared that there are over 4,000 murals throughout the city of Philadelphia. And the public art does not stop there. Through projects like Monument Lab, Trash Academy, and [email protected], art is a visible part of the fabric of Philadelphia, creatively connecting city services, social movements, and the environment. Most importantly, MAP employs approximately 300 artists per year and has artists on staff who are involved with the creation and upkeep of the murals.

As we know, Detroit has a steep learning curve. But as Maurice Cox, Detroit’s director of planning shared, it is able to adapt best practices from cities around the world at this critical juncture in our history. The planning department is also building public art into streetscape designs with each of their neighborhood initiatives. Yet they know they need more resources and more input from the cultural community, not only in the planning process, but in the long-term strategy, upkeep, and integration of artistic projects. Participating in conversations like these are imperative to the essential community engagement Jane Golden espouses.

Why is CultureSource participating in the Mural Arts Institute?

We understand the importance of creativity embedded in people’s everyday lives, and the positive impact it can have on communities. We also know that public art is a hot issue here in Southeast Michigan, with everyone from grassroots community organizations to national institutions to real estate developers commissioning artists to create a unique display on their walls or in their courtyards. Bringing art outside and into communities is a critical step in increasing access and exposure, but as we heard from Golden, should not be done without speaking with our neighbors and incorporating their insights into the process. The eventual artwork may provoke, it may make people question its artistry, but these tenets are shared with the development of all creative processes.  

CultureSource aims to connect our members—the practitioners embarking on these projects and those mulling the possibilities—with experts, providing resources, access, and an avenue to information. As you discover new artwork in your communities, we encourage you to consider the possibilities for education, engagement, and amplifying voices.  

The CultureSource Team