Community Voices Gallery: City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent
July 11, 2012 – December 31, 2012
Family Interrupted/Community Connected Exhibition
When the Mural Arts Program was founded in 1984 as part of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, it was an effort to engage “writers” and “taggers” in activities that both re-purposed their creative energies and eradicated blight in neighborhoods throughout the city. After almost 28 years, this dual purpose of the Mural Arts Program—to heal communities and transform individual lives and perspectives through art—has been expanded and deepened through hundreds of projects and related programs.
While over the years Mural Arts has evolved a program structure that addresses a wide array of social concerns—behavioral health, art education, workforce development, environmental education and economic development, it is the work with at-risk and adjudicated youth and ex-offenders has been our most consistent, challenging and rewarding.
Family Interrupted is both a community engagement process and an ambitious, multidisciplinary mural project.
Led by long-time muralist Eric Okdeh, who has completed more than 65 commissions in Philadelphia—more than 25 of them through Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice Program, Family Interrupted addresses the largely hidden but significant impact of incarceration on spouses, children and parents of inmates, in addition to the inmates themselves. For them, the justice system is a one-way street, where loved ones are locked away, serving time in isolation without outlets to express their emotions, offer regrets, or make amends to the communities and families they have harmed.
This project grew directly out of their joint frustrations, separated from one another by a prison sentence, changeable state or city visitor policies and the occasional lock-down that no one could anticipate.
Family Interrupted drew participants from all elements of Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice work: Inmates serving long-term to life sentences at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford and those on work release from Philadelphia’s Prison System; young men and women, 18 to 24 years old, of The Guild, who fashioned the six mailboxes that collected messages in prison waiting rooms and public buildings (two of which are included in the exhibition), and youth from St. Gabriel’s Hall.
The mural, with its four distinct walls, transforms a site at Dauphin Street and Germantown Avenue in North Philadelphia with paint, glass and mirror mosaics, and incorporates QR codes that allow viewers (both on site at the mural and in the gallery at PHM) to access audio messages and video images of the mural visioning and production process. A six-foot mirrored-mosaic figure and a large portrait of an inmate are included in the exhibition to provide a sense of both materials and the scale of the mural.
The exhibition will also include a photographic panorama of the four walls of the mural with call outs that highlight specific content and historical benchmarks of Mural Arts’ history, and a video that provides a sense of the complex engagement process for Family Interrupted.
An opening reception and programs are planned over the six-month run of the exhibition.
The Family Interrupted programs and project were sponsored by: Ford Foundation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services, United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Thomas Skelton Harrison Foundation and the Lomax Family Foundation