Originally posted on DrexelNow.
Some people may not consider painting a picture a traditional component of health care. To take that notion further, some may not consider murals an important part of a healthy community. But, despite those expectations, dedicated groups of people across Philadelphia are coming together to help individuals be healthier and to make their communities stronger, through creating public art.
Nearly thirty patients at 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University (11th Street) and many more members of their community have become one of these inspiring groups. They have spent the last year together pointing their paintbrushes toward that vision at weekly sessions of the Porch Light Program.
On October 16 at 12:30 p.m., the community will gather at 11th Street to dedicate and celebrate their artwork entitled “A Healing Home.”
“A Healing Home” speaks to universal themes of health, home and nature. The artwork reflects the creativity and effort of community members, 11th Street staff and service recipients and artist Ben Volta.
Together over the course of a year, this group collaboratively envisioned, drew and painted this set of murals to be installed outside the neighborhood K-8 school, Spring Garden School, as well as new glass-etched drawings of medicinal plants on the windows of the 11th Street health center building.
“Creative arts therapies are behavioral health services that we’ve offered to patients at 11th Street for years, as part of our commitment to holistic, integrated care,” said Dr. Patricia Gerrity, a professor and associate dean of Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, who directs the center. “We chose to partner with the Mural Arts Porch Light Program last year because we also believe in what they are doing to connect art to community and public health.”
Porch Light, a project of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, situates art and human connection at the heart of recovery and healing in Philadelphia neighborhoods.
Drexel’s nurse-managed 11th Street health center became one of several health agencies around the city creating a unique piece of public art for its neighborhood through Porch Light in the 2012-13 service year. Lindsay M. Edwards, the director of creative arts therapies at 11th Street, worked with Porch Light staff as well as artist Volta to bring the collaborative art-making process to 11th Street patients.
“As I start drawing, I start setting myself free,” Porch Light participant Ethel Wells said of the experience during a Porch Light gallery exhibition in March. Wells, who did not have much prior interest in art and is quiet and reserved in a group, found relaxation and community by creating art together with the group of 11th Street patients at regular Porch Light sessions.
In addition to the regular weekly sessions for a core group of participants, more patients and community members from 11th Street contributed to the mural artwork during Open Studio days that occurred monthly at first, and up to three full days per week in the 11th Street community room as the murals neared completion.
“This process cultivates relationships and connections not only among the individuals that are engaged, but also in the larger community. To install the completed artwork outside such an important landmark in the community, the Spring Garden School, is something we’re thrilled about,” said Sara Ansell, director of the Porch Light Program. “The point of the artwork created with Porch Light participants is to have it be experienced and understood by the larger community. We are so grateful to have the support of both Drexel University and the Philadelphia School District in helping us forge the connections between the individual community members who created the art and the broader public who will see it every day.”
Upon the dedication of the mural “A Healing Home,” patients at 11th Street will begin a second year of the Porch Light creative process for a new piece of collaborative, healing-focused public art.