Mural Arts was founded as the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network in 1984 in response to then-Mayor Wilson Goode’s campaign promise to rid the city of graffiti.
Graffiti was considered so much of a problem the sale of spray paint to minors was outlawed. Before the program was created, graffiti writers who were caught were often sent to juvenile detention centers or jail. While involved with the Anti-Graffiti Network, Golden realized many graffiti writers were starved for arts education. She began recruiting them to help create murals. Because minors couldn’t buy spray paint, Golden taught the graffiti writers how to wield a paintbrush instead.
The Sports Murals under the twin bridges were among the first installations by the Anti-Grafitti Network. They celebrated the stellar performance of the USA athletes at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. While the murals were fun and well-received when originally painted, by the turn of the 21st Century they were very dated, had deteriorated substantially (due to the poor quality housepaint used early in the mural program) and had nothing to do with East Falls and its connection to the Schuylkill River. Community sentiment suggested that new, more appropriate “community-centric” murals would help brighten the desolate area under the Roosevelt Blvd Extension and create an exciting new entry into East Falls.
EFDC took the project on; formed a committee of neighbors to establish design direction, issue an RFP, coordinate with Philadelphia Mural Arts, and manage the community-based selection process,