Porch Light Program Launches New Kensington Site

Ribbon cutting at Porch Light Project Kensington KickoffIt was an afternoon of food, fun and fellowship as we cut the ribbon to our Kensington Storefront site, a new hub where people throughout Kensington can gather to learn about behavioral health resources, participate in community programming, and develop a love for public art.

Dozens gathered on Saturday, March 25, for the kickoff of our newest Porch Light site at 2774 Kensington Ave. The Porch Light Program is an ongoing program in which we partner with Mural Arts Philadelphia to promote public health by creating murals that transform Philadelphia neighborhoods, enhancing recovery and resilience among individuals facing behavioral health challenges. Through this innovative program, we collaborate with other organizations to build a team of artists, service providers, community members and city-wide stakeholders to initiate transformative public art projects.

“We believe that art ignites change, that it has a particular power,” Mural Arts Executive Director Jane Golden said to attendees, emphasizing how the Porch Light program can be an effective weapon in the fight against substance use. “And we’re proud to work with our partners to use art to overcome stigma and focus on overall behavioral health wellness.”

In addition to Golden, guests heard from several city leaders, including our own Deputy Commissioner Roland Lamb, City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis, and Philadelphia City Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez (7th District).

Lamb echoed Golden’s remarks, stressing that collaboration is crucial to delivering the resources people need to improve their quality of life.

“Solutions for the problems we have are right here in the community. We want to make sure we have focused interventions here, but most importantly, we want to make sure we have people in the communities who are champions,” Lamb said, acknowledging Impact Services, Prevention Point Philadelphia, and New Kensington Community Development Corp., all Kensington-based groups partnering with DBHIDS and Mural Arts to offer support for those affected by trauma caused by substance abuse, homelessness, and crime.

Added Lamb, “We are looking to build high-level collaborations and partnerships like the ones we have today to continue to build supports that people need to have in their communities.”

Our first Porch Light hub in South Philadelphia has generated positive change in regards to the public health of the residents in the communities served by the program. A 2015 Yale School of Medicine study found that after almost two years, residents living within one mile of the mural created there experienced an increase in neighborhood “collective efficacy,” pride over improved community aesthetics and a decrease in feelings of stigma towards mental health and substance use. To date, 60-70 people utilize that site each day and expectations are for similar participation in Kensington, Golden said.

Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis lauded the Kensington Storefront partners for their willingness to come together to create opportunities for those in greatest need.

“This hub space can be a window to the soul of the community,” DiBerardinis said. “Out of that grows ideas, faith, hope, courage, and progress. We want to build hope here. We want to build opportunity here.”

New York City Commissions Artists to Paint Murals for Mental Health Awareness

According to Carl Campanile of the New York Post, New York City has announced that it will use a $500,000 grant to hire artists to paint three murals to raise awareness about mental health. The artists will be asked to work with between thirty and forty people from the community who are involved in the numerous mental-health programs based in the city.

“The Health Department is launching its first Mural Arts Project using art as a public-health approach to address mental and behavioral health issues through artistic collaboration,” spokeswoman Carolina Rodriguez, said.

Funded by the state’s Office of Mental Health, the murals will be completed in three different neighborhoods. The proposal for the project cited the success of Philadelphia’s Porch Light Project, a collaborative initiative launched by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. The program sought to transform neighborhoods with art while promoting the health of the community.

Tobacco Awareness Mural Dedication

Join us to dedicate a new mural at 5108 Malcolm Street. The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts’ Porch Light Program has partnered with the Department of Public Health around their effort of Tobacco Cessation and Behavioral Health. The Porch Light Program, a partnership with DBHIDS, situates art at the heart of recovery, resilience, and healing throughout Philadelphia. The creation of participatory community-driven art builds connections between individuals, artists, community members, service providers, and city government that serve as powerful forces in making our communities vibrant, healthy, and strong.

Artist Jeane Cohen said of the mural, titled “Smoke Cycles: Seeking Shelter from the Storm,” “Some habits are hard to break, especially when building a healthy lifestyle. When we are stuck, or when we get in the way of ourselves and the people we want to be, we can look to the greater community and educate ourselves. We can look to role models, positive rays of sunshine in our lives, to learn from their experiences and wisdom. We can learn from the stories of people who have not had an easy time breaking habitual patterns as a way to have compassion and make ourselves better. We can also nourish those who want to grow, helping them be the best people they can be. No matter the person, there are always opportunities to grow.”

The work is designed to improve health outcomes for individuals, build stronger alliances between service providers and communities, reduce stigma directed towards those in recovery, and increase utilization of services. This mural on the underlying relationship between tobacco use and behavioral health will empower the community with a greater understanding about addressing tobacco use, with a vision of advancing wellness, recovery, and resiliency in behavioral health populations.

Community involvement in the design of this mural happened through a series of round tables hosted by Mural Arts and DPH at behavioral health providers situated in ZIP codes with the highest tobacco use in the city. These discussions were focused on the issues around tobacco use and behavioral health and provided opportunities to ask questions and discuss concerns about tobacco use, tobacco products, and tobacco companies.

Get Creative With Mural Arts!

Join in and paint a project designed by Eric Okdeh in conjunction with participants in workshops at the Kirkbride Center.

The mural describes the process of acknowledging, accepting, and overcoming the hardships and struggles that occur in all our lives, ending in the warm embrace of community. We’re also happy to welcome various community health and wellness organizations who will be tabling and sharing resources with attendees.

This event is free and open to the public of all ages.

Rise and Shine Mural Tour

The Rise and Shine Mural Tour explores a powerful collection of murals about health and wellness in the City of Philadelphia.

Join the Porch Light program for it’s Rise and Shine Mural Tour and see how we build a place together to influence and promote community understanding through phenomenal public art.

The tour leaves from the Mural Arts Tour Office.

Rise and Shine Mural Tour

The Rise and Shine Mural Tour explores a powerful collection of murals about health and wellness in the City of Philadelphia.

Join the Porch Light program for it’s Rise and Shine Mural Tour and see how we build a place together to influence and promote community understanding through phenomenal public art.

The tour leaves from the Mural Arts Tour Office.

An Artful Solution Possible for Refugee Program

Six months before Durga Dulal arrived in Philadelphia as a refugee from Bhutan, fire swept through the U.N. camp in the Himalayas where she, her husband, and their four children lived, consuming all they owned.

Five years later, the memory still makes the otherwise sunny woman’s eyes well. Her family, she said, was traumatized – though it fared better than three camp neighbors who, despondent over their losses, committed suicide.

Dulal, 46, was unburdening herself to a social worker at the Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative, an innovative program that since 2011 has helped refugees not only heal from past ordeals, but also overcome the culture shock of life in America. With a staff of three social workers and four interpreters, it offers wellness screenings, medical referrals, art therapy, and psychological counseling to more than 400 clients, mostly women.

Amid an international refugee crisis of historic scale, such services would seem ever more essential. But the collaborative, which operates from a South Eighth Street storefront, is facing an uncertain future, too.

Last month, Liberty Lutheran, the Ambler-based social ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and overseer of the collaborative’s $115,000 annual budget, said it would sever its ties with refugee programs in Pennsylvania as of June 30. According to a statement, its focus will shift to health care and assisted living for seniors.

The action was taken “with a heavy heart and after much prayerful deliberation,” Liberty Lutheran said, adding that unpredictable state and local funding, inadequate reimbursements, and lagging private donations necessitated the move.

Funded almost entirely by outside grants, which Liberty Lutheran has managed, the collaborative has only enough money for the next two months.

It is scrambling to find a new administrative partner so it can pursue and receive more grants. Its recent benefactors have included Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS); the Pew Charitable Trusts; the First Hospital Foundation; and the Hilles Fund.

“We certainly would like to see the collaborative continue,” DBHIDS commissioner Arthur Evans Jr. said. “It’s important work.”

The answer could well lie with an unlikely source: the Mural Arts Program, which has been instrumental in using art-based projects – not just wall painting – to engage refugees. The collaborative shares space with Mural Arts’ “Southeast by Southeast,” which “celebrate[s] the diversity and resilience of new immigrants” through “participatory public art.”

On Friday, Evans and his staff met with representatives of Mural Arts and the collaborative, who reached “an agreement in principle,” DBHIDS spokesman Joel Avery said.

Mural Arts wants to step into the role Liberty Lutheran is vacating; an official announcement could come after a follow-up meeting in a month.

“I feel driven . . . to make this work continue,” Mural Arts executive director Jane Golden said.

In connecting with refugees, Avery said, art can be especially valuable, because “traditional approaches” don’t always succeed “in reaching this particular population.”

The collaborative’s current “hope-restoration” activities, such as teaching refugees to visualize themselves alive and succeeding, encourage resilience and pride, supporters say.

“If you don’t address a person’s emotional well-being, we are setting them up for devastating behaviors,” which can lead to psychiatric hospitalizations, said Cathi Tillman, founder of Puerta Abierto, an immigrant-family mental-health group in Kensington, South Philadelphia, and Upper Darby.

Councilman Mark Squilla, in whose district the collaborative is located, said, “It’s very important for the city, as more people migrate here, to get them acclimated.”

To that end, the collaborative offers English classes, helps arrange job interviews and doctor appointments, and assists in other everyday challenges. It runs a similar program for Iraqi and Syrian refugees weekly or biweekly at the Northeast Regional Library on Cottman Avenue near Bustleton Avenue.

In a recent language lesson at the collaborative’s South Philadelphia base, volunteer Margery Miller and Michelle Chung, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student, taught 18 refugees the difference between plural and singular nouns.

“I have three apples. Do you want one apple?”

The instructors handed out a drawing of a typical living room and asked the students to name each item. “This is a couch,” they recited. “That is a chair.”

The next subject: fruits and trees in America.

After piping up with answers like banana and orange, the English-language learners shouted “jackfruit” – a musky staple of their native Bhutan.

The instructors knew little about it.

“Is the jackfruit tree big?” Miller asked.

“Very, very big,” several students replied, beaming.

They took pride in teaching the teachers – a twist that helps them build self-confidence, social worker Melissa Fogg said.

“That’s the thing,” she said. “It’s not all teach-down, teach-down.”


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