Mural Arts is getting $200K to expand its criminal justice reform program - Generocity Philly


Nov. 28, 2017 1:27 pm

Mural Arts is getting $200K to expand its criminal justice reform program

The Philly nonprofit is the only visual arts organization out of 30 grantees of the Ford Foundation's new Art for Justice Fund.

Mural Arts' Guild members at yesterday's press conference announcing the Art for Justice grant.

(Photo via

Local arts and the criminal justice system are in a iffy relationship.

There’s a lack of stable funding and data to back up advocates’ desire for new, arts-focused approaches to reform.

But Mural ArtsRestorative Justice program is getting access to both of those through a grant from the Ford Foundation’s new Art for Justice Fund.

In a press conference held yesterday, it was announced that the fund, founded this past summer by art collector and philanthropist Agnes Gund, would be giving the Restorative Justice program a $200,000 grant to expand its existing work in and outside of local prisons. Mural Arts was the only visual arts grantee out of 30 orgs that received money.

The new funds will specifically go toward continuing or starting these efforts:

  • A new public art project produced in collaboration with the city’s MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge to highlight the ramifications of what an oversized county jail population has on communities
  • An additional cohort of 10 people to be added to the Mural Arts Guild, a paid apprenticeship program that provides job development opportunities to more than 100 formerly incarcerated individuals and those on probation
  • A new fellowship program led by Jesse Krimes and Russell Craig, two professional artists and graduates of the Guild program, that will provide resources and opportunities to five formerly incarcerated artists from around the country
  • An evaluation of the work being done by Mural Arts, particularly with the Guild program, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2)

Robyn Buseman, director of Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice program, who told us earlier this month that arts programming isn’t considered enough by those working in criminal justice, said yesterday she was honored to not only receive the grant, but the acknowledgement, too.

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The new Safety and Justice Challenge art project will involve collaboration with the district attorney, local judges and the police department in an effort to include them in the overall discussion.

“I think it will open their eyes,” Buseman said. “Meeting those people and having these discussions, I think, will be powerful.”

And the partnership with SP2, which will culminate in a symposium and exhibition late next year to share findings, is an example of how Buseman hopes she can show that art is important for everyone, not just certain classes of people.

Buseman mentioned an example of when she saw a Guild member, Anthony Lovett, proudly showing his grandkids the work he did in revitalizing a playground in Germantown.

“That’s the kind of thing I think where people feel like they belong to the community again,” she said.


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