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Exhibition explores the evolution and national impact of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program
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.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 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 produced new works that amplify and expand the program’s art practice in both form and approach. Temporary Services presents 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 installed a temporary screen printing shop inside the gallery. MacPhee designed a series of collaboratively-produced “broadsheets” (large-format newspapers), which collect poetry, journalism, illustrations, and personal stories from different communities. Each broadsheet has been 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 offers 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 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.

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