Research & Tools

Are you looking for a case study to strengthen your argument, or a curriculum guide to help plan your youth-focused project? How about an essay or publication about the genesis and outcomes of a project or program? Look no further. This is your one stop shop.

Promising Practices 


Learning from the Process: Promising Practices from Mural Arts’ Work in Communities

Mural Arts hired Metris Arts Consulting to create a “learning synthesis” that describes the promising practices embedded in a selection of Mural Arts’ past projects. This learning effort focused on how Mural Arts has approached community arts work. Mural Arts hoped to mine its own practice of artmaking to learn and grow along with the diverse partners and collaborators who have helped build its practice.


Learning from the Process: Promising Practices from Mural Arts’ Work in Community and Collaborate

Use these cards to take a deep dive into the practice of socially engaged. participatory artmaking with and alongside communities. Explore these promising practices and images derived from Mural Arts’ experience.

Included are different approaches to using this deck for facilitating individual or group learning experiences. reflecting on your own practices. and imagining new and more equitable forms of participatory. socially engaged public artmaking.



Case Studies 


ASpire: No Limits

ASpire: No Limits exemplifies Mural Arts’ tried and true process of working with neighborhoods to tell the stories of figures who are and have been significant community assets. This project spotlight highlights impacts and lessons learned. The story of how the mural came together is shared with the lens of illustrating one of Mural Arts’ most successful approaches: targeted engagement with a specific segment of the community around an issue that particularly affects that community.


Micro to Macro

How does Mural Arts collaborate with students, schools and the surrounding communities? “Micro to Macro” serves as a strong example of a yearlong partnership that dramatically transformed a school building.


Southeast by Southeast and Kensington Storefront

In this spotlight, learn the story of how the storefront model took shape. We explore the features of this innovative approach within Mural Arts’ practice of making art with and within communities.

Hub spaces, or storefronts as we often call them, are connections points for communities tailored for those communities. Through our work with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, Hub spaces are research-backed community spaces that center accessible art-making and community support at the same site. Permanent locations and diverse offerings like ESL classes, weaving workshops, and flu shot clinics build trust and foster strong community networks.


Our Park/Southwark

Our Park/Southwark, a 2017-2019 community-led redesign of Southwark school’s outdoor spaces instigated by community members and coordinated by Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Restored Spaces Initiative in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, provided a platform where the community co-designed beauty and meaning through collective thinking and collaborative artistic practices. Neighborhood residents articulated the need for open green space where people could share skills and knowledge in South Philadelphia. Our Park/Southwark implemented strategies to promote equity, community leadership, and horizontal collaboration across cultural divides, specifically playing games, hiring community members, designing and building together, and prioritizing time and resources for collective processes of work and relaxed connection. This case study attempts to examine and evaluate the numerous strategies that, together, catalyzed an unprecedented degree of community investment and involvement in the project.



This case study provides a penetrating look at the successful strategies, positive outcomes, and salient learning that emerged from Uprooted/reRooted, a longitudinal project at William Cramp Elementary School in Philadelphia that provides a model of attending to relationships in the service of addressing the impacts of environmental racism through collective action. Environmental justice requires that those people most impacted by environmental harms envision and are the decision-makers of the solutions. Initiated by the community and produced by the Restored Spaces Initiative, a program of the Environmental Justice department of Mural Arts Philadelphia, the project was undertaken in partnership with the school, artist Marion Wilson, key participants, and ultimately with other artists, non-profits, community members and leaders. Uprooted/reRooted used numerous strategies to redress environmental racism and to foster horizontal collaborations based on equity and respect for local expertise. Care and concern pervaded the myriad large-scale and intimate encounters through which community members drew on local skills and creativity to identify and reimagine under-utilized spaces within and around the school, transforming one such space from a barren and forbidding place to a vibrant, welcoming garden with hand-made hardscaping and lush botanical murals which reflects the actual vitality and resilience of the community and serves as the site of ongoing community collaborations.


Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge

The Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge Neighborhood Convening, held in South Philadelphia on November 13 and 14, 2015, was a working convening on cooperation, civic engagement, and gentrification. It featured talks and round-tables with neighborhood stakeholders and community members, local and international activists, planners, curators, artists, and politicians.

The convening began with an in-depth presentation of CohStra’s research report on South Philadelphia. Everyone present received a copy of this report, which details a year’s worth of qualitative and quantitative research, as well as narratives about the experiences of CohStra and their neighborhood partners on the Playgrounds project.


Reflections on Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge

Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge was built as a pilot project to test new ways for Mural Arts to engage communities through social practice. CohStra’s work is process-oriented action research, and while major actions can be documented through photographs and videos, these actions are built on daily interactions, tensions, and partnerships which are much more difficult to record.

Reflections on Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge features four critical essays by key thinkers on the Playgrounds project: curator Lucía Sanromán, community organizer Beth Uzwiak, project manager Shari Hersh, and Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, who acted as assessor for CohStra’s project.

The four essays presented here discuss particular challenges posed by Playgrounds, as well as learnings which apply across social practice, focusing on the various roles individuals played and how various partners worked together to build a process-based project.


Project  Spotlight
Norris Homes Philly: Documenting a Neighborhood During Profound Change

In 2014, Philadelphia-based artist Jennie Shanker, began working with the residents of Norris Homes in North Philadelphia on a mural and accompanying website to commemorate the changing landscape of the community as its homes were scheduled to be demolished. The Norris Homes were built by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) in 1952. Demolished in 2020, they will be replaced by new mixed income housing as part of PHA’s North Central Philadelphia Transformational Plan and Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.





Curriculum Guides 

Environmental Art Activities for Afterschool Youth (ages 5-12).

Arts & Artists Outdoors (A2O) combines art education programming and community engagement to foster a lasting appreciation of the natural and environmental assets of Philadelphia.





Peace Is A Haiku Song 101 | Art and Writing Activities

Peace is a Haiku Song 101 contains activities for arts and writing classrooms based on the Peace is Haiku Song project. We encourage teachers of all levels to create their own curriculum connections using these materials to inspire student assignments in a variety of disciplines, including art, language arts, and social studies.



The Roots 101 | Art and Writing Activities

The goal of “Roots 101” is to introduce The Roots and their music to a new generation of emerging artists. The enclosed lesson plans were created by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s Art Education Department staff and teaching artists. We encourage teachers of all levels to create their own curriculum connections using these materials to inspire student assignments in a variety of disciplines, including art, language arts, and social studies.







by Jessica Garz

In April 2019, Mural Arts Philadelphia and Moore College of Art & Design hosted a set of events called “Picturing a Place,” conversations that explored the idea of community-based asset mapping and asked important and critical questions about how artists can ethically incorporate this methodology into their practices.