The Mural Arts Program arose from the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, established by Willie Wilson Goode, the mayor of the Pennsylvania city in the 1980s, in an attempt to eradicate urban graffiti. Offering young offenders painting courses and the opportunity to participate in collective works, it is considered the most important public arts initiative in the United States.
Since its foundation, over 20,000 youth have participated in the Mural Arts Program, creating over 3,000 interior and exterior murals. It has helped to transform the destructive attitude of the graffiti writers and focus their creativity and talents on works of art that beautify Philadelphia’s neighbourhoods. A successful hybrid of a city agency and non-profit organization, the program has inspired similar efforts in many communities, including Montreal.