May 19, 2017

Spring Garden Bridge and the Seeds of Mural Arts

by: Laura Kochman

This Sunday, Mural Arts will dedicate a new mural on the Spring Garden Bridge, the result of more than two intensive years of partnership between our Art Education program, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Mantua Civic Association, designed by artist Betsy Casañas. But did you know: the Spring Garden Bridge is where it all started for Mural Arts!

Our long history with the bridge started in the late 1980s, when Mayor Wilson Goode formed the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network and hired a young muralist named Jane Golden on a short-term contract. The challenge: six weeks, 100 young people from the Mantua community, and a bridge-long painting to complete. The reward: a full-time job with PAGN. Jane recalls “working tirelessly on the bridge, working weekends and evenings” to finish the project that would contain “the seeds from which the Mural Arts Program’s subsequent successes would be grown.”

It was a moment of such great excitement, opportunity, and challenge. I will always be grateful to former Mayor Wilson Goode, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, for giving me a chance.


In 2002, artist Shira Walinsky created a new mural on the bridge, updating the imagery with bright faces and abstract, colorful symbols. Fifteen years later, Mural Arts has collaborated with the Mantua community to update the bridge once again, working diligently to create a mural that takes up over 6,000 square feet. Betsy Casañas’ design incorporates talavera Mexican tile pattern from the PMA’s recent exhibition Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, and 2,000 square feet of tulips that honor Bulbs not Bullets, a nonviolence campaign led by the Mantua Civic Association.

Spring Garden Bridge Murals Through the Years 

  • A portion of the Spring Garden Street Bridge Mural by Betsy Casañas. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Mantua Stars by Shira Walinsky. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

  • Detail of Mantua Stars by Shira Walinsky. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

  • The first mural. A June 1996 photo of the Spring Garden Street Bridge shows a mural by Jane Golden. Photo by Jim Prigoff.

On that bridge, I was able to see first-hand the power of art at work...I saw the energy generated among the young people as they worked together to do something positive for themselves, their neighborhood, and the city they called home.


Last updated: May 19, 2017

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