The People’s Budget

Re-Envisioning the City Budget

About the Project 

Calls to “defund” programs and “invest” in others echo in cities across the United States. Activists and policymakers are demanding cuts to police, debt servicing, fossil fuels, and reinvestment in social services, financial safety nets, and renewable energy. Services that directly support, instead of harm, those most impacted by crime, poverty, and public health issues band communities together with resources rather than cause them to fight for scraps. Disproportionately, Black, Brown, and immigrant communities face a double-edged sword of underfunding, aggressive law enforcement, and environmental conditions that challenge their very survival. While budgets are complex financial documents, they are also mission statements for the city – a real-world accounting of officials’ priorities. Organizations that advocate for a just budget recognize that building a multi-issue and multi-racial coalition is necessary for providing for all Philadelphians.

Over the last two years, Mural Arts Philadelphia has produced two public art projects about the city budget, led by artist Phoebe Bachman. These projects aim to increase public awareness through popular education on the city’s budget process and offer a platform for residents to share what the city should fund. Artistic outcomes included quilts handmade by residents across the city depicting budget priorities, postcards to city council members, a People’s Budget Festival, and a series of People’s Budget posters wheat-pasted across the city. In 2023, we are launching the People’s Budget Office, a public art installation at LOVE Park where residents can learn about the budget from city officials, everyday Philadelphians, and grassroots groups.


City of Philadelphia


City of Philadelphia Budget Office, Social Justice Sewing Academy, Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild