Public Art for Public Health Celebrated in Philadelphia in March

Mockups of the in-progress design for a mural near 11th Street Family Health Services
The in-progress design for a mural near Drexel's 11th Street Family Health Services shown in these mockups, created by artist Benjamin Volta with 11th Street patients and community members, integrate medicinal plant illustrations in a wallpaper pattern, overlaid by silhouettes of meaningful objects from participants' homes.

At Drexel University’s nurse-run health center this spring, an innovative effort in public art for public health is underway. The community served there, at 11th Street Family Health Services, will soon share this ongoing experience with other Philadelphians through a series of events highlighting the Porch Light program, collectively including more than six years of collaborative projects between the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (MAP) and the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS).

Since 2007, the partnership between these agencies has resulted in 18 completed projects, including 15 large-scale murals and six ongoing mural projects across Philadelphia. Some of these murals focus specifically on mental health and substance use, while some address other issues that significantly influence mental health, including trauma, immigration, war and community safety and tensions. 

Now, Philadelphians will have more opportunities to learn more about these innovative efforts at health promotion through artistic creation in their neighborhoods.

Panel Discussion and Film to Focus on Public Art and Behavioral Health Policy

Panel Discussion and Film to Focus on Public Art and Behavioral Health Policy

The film specifically documents one program year of the Porch Light Initiative, a three-year behavioral health intervention aimed at promoting healing through creating public art in three distressed North Philadelphia neighborhoods. This initiative has become the namesake of the broader Porch Light program. It has been implemented with several community partner organizations working to promote behavioral health and wellness. The 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University (11th Street) is a current partner in the Porch Light Initiative for the 2012-2013 service year. More information about 11th Street’s participation is available here.

Panelists for the policy discussion following the film screening will include Dr. Arthur Evans, Commissioner of DBHIDS, Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts program and Dr. Jacob Tebes, director of Prevention and Community Research at Yale University School of Medicine. Tebes is the principal investigator of the Porch Light Initiative’s evaluation program, a pioneering community-based research study to measure the impact of the public art program on individual and community-level outcomes.

Panelists will discuss public health approaches to behavioral health and wellness, specifically focusing on the capacity for public art to help achieve these ends.

The Porch Light film was directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Nigel Noble. The screening and policy panel discussion will take place on March 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Geary Auditorium in Drexel’s New College Building, 245 N. 15th Street in Center City, Philadelphia.

Gallery Displays Public Art Projects Promoting Health and Wellness

Gallery Displays Public Art Projects Promoting Health and Wellness

  • The First Friday opening event for the exhibition, on display at The Trust Building at 249 Arch Street, will include live painting and mixed media. The gallery will open at 6 p.m. on March 1, 2013.
  • On March 14 at 6 p.m., Golden and Evans will speak at a gallery talk and reception held at the exhibit. Attendees can meet and mingle with Porch Light artists, community participants, community partners and city leaders.

The gallery exhibit at The Trust Building will not be open to the public at other times, except by special arrangement. To request a group viewing on other dates and times during March, contact Sara Ansell.

Note to News Media: Contact Sara Ansell, Porch Light Program Manager (, 215-685-0739) for questions about the Porch Light Program and Initiative, including questions unrelated to the participation of Drexel's 11th Street Family Health Services.