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Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education, v13 n1 p81-85 Spr 2016

During the nearly sixteen years she has lived and worked in inner city neighborhoods in New York, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Bethany Welch has seen communities reclaim these spaces by tackling the most visible things first. This includes clearing trash strewn vacant lots and creating murals on expansive exterior walls stained with marks of time. This is due in part to the presence of the internationally recognized Mural Arts Program, a public/nonprofit collaborative which has developed a viable model that engages artists, grass roots nonprofits, established organizations, funders, and neighbors in co-creating murals that reclaim the streetscape. In 2013 Welch was able to experience the power of mural making more deeply when she spent a summer sabbatical as a studio assistant to Philadelphia muralist Betsy Casañas. She painted with volunteers, touched up mural panels in the evenings, and watched closely as Betsy's brightly colored images were eventually installed on a drug rehabilitation center in a predominantly Latin[at] community in North Philadelphia. This opportunity reinforced her belief that community based organizations, churches, and schools are ideal agents to help reclaim marginalized urban spaces through murals. In this article, Welch shares specific examples of mural making that has: (1) united diverse communities in shared "ownership" of space; (2) illuminated the tenuous nature of the precariat (those individuals, families, and communities that face prolonged economic uncertainty); and (3) amplified the community's voices.

Descriptors: Urban Areas, Painting (Visual Arts), Art Activities, Community Cooperation, Ownership, Economically Disadvantaged, Disadvantaged

University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education. 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. e-mail: journal[at]; Web site:

Autor: Welch, Bethany J.


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