Jul 31, 2018

Building Relationships with Murals on the Move

by: Laura Kochman

Our Murals on the Move initiative brings seasoned teaching artists to recreation centers around the city—in a fully-stocked, colorful van. Art Education initiatives embed teaching artists at public schools, or set up programming at youth facilities, so it made sense to add some wheels. Because everyone deserves access to art, no matter where you live. We asked two of our teaching artists, Star and Daniel, how the experience has been so far.

How have people responded to Murals on the Move? 

Star: An added benefit of the program is meeting the folks that work at the rec centers. If we want to go to all these different parts of the city, we can’t be everywhere at the same time, so it was cool to see what they’re up to when we’re not there—whether that’s a way of working with the kids or supplies that they can buy. That was a really fun interaction and exchange between us.

Daniel: A couple of rec center leaders asked where we bought the materials. It’s exposing them to the possibility of doing it themselves, because all of our materials and supplies are really basic. We didn’t know what to expect, so we stocked up on crayons, scissors, construction paper and then they build up the confidence and the tools to put their own spin on it. And chalk is so accessible, too—it’s not expensive. Most people wouldn’t think of chalk as art, but you get to say, “No, no, here you go, this is art too.” That’s nice.

We’re learning what works and what doesn’t—it sounds like button-making works with a lot of folks as an intro, and it has a wow factor to it.

Star: It’s a really satisfying thing you can take with you, the memory and the object.

Murals on the Move programming at Smith Recreation Center. Photo by Steve Weinik.

What moments have stood out to you? 

Daniel: Whether it’s little kids or other community members out there, I would see people be really hesitant, looking over, seeing what we were doing. And then Star would usually ask, “Hey! You wanna make a button?” And they would look at it, think about it, try and resist, turn away and keep going on with their day—and then they would give in and come over, and just have so much fun making a button. It was nice to see people still willing to give in to that little kid urge to just make something, even if they have a whole day going on.

Star: Yeah, that was cool.

Daniel: These are vital things for your health and enjoyment. It’s going to be exciting to see where else we can take [Murals on the Move], to just plug art into the community and get people thinking about it in their day-to-day routines. I feel like, at some level, we’re all adult children still. You get socialized at some point to think, “Cool. I’m very cool, and I don’t have to do this.” But really, we all started out exploring and being creative.

Working on a Murals on the Move activity at Smith Rec Center. Photo by Steve Weinik.

What are you learning from this experience? 

Daniel: It was interesting to see the relationships. Each rec center has its own personality, and its own personalities within it. So the first time, you might think, “Ah man…that rec leader was really tough,” but then the next time you come, they’re playing with the kids.

Star: Like, “Oh, you love each other.” You can have both sides. You also see how the rec centers look different from neighborhood to neighborhood. You see the realities of Philadelphia—some rec centers are huge and have two or three stories—closets, lights, a terrace, new flooring, and then… you go to some others and it’s a room.

Daniel: Mural Arts has obviously been doing art education for such a long time, and this is like a moving program going from place to place, but not in a super speedy way. We can be really, really responsive with the Murals on the Move van. There’s no need to set up a space, because it’s already in the van. It’s all there.


Check the Murals on the Move schedule to see when we’ll be at a rec center near you!



Murals on the Move is a collaboration with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Last updated: Feb 24, 2019

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