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The Truth About Philadelphia

Jane Golden
Director of the Mural Arts Program, Center City

Question #14: Describe a time in your life when you felt a part of the city ... Are there physical places in the city that make you feel good about Philadelphia? About being a Philadelphian? When have you felt the best about the city?

Glenn: Can you describe a time when you felt truly connected with the city, that city and you were really in sync? Do you know what I mean by that?

Jane: Yeah, umm, I mean, I think it happens a lot. I think it happens when I'm on scaffolding and I, like -- The other day what happened is, like, a little snapshot of what happened within, like, 15 minutes. I was painting and, umm, a woman walked by who had a cane. She was limping and she said, you know, "you, you're making my neighborhood so much better and I just thank you from the bottom of my heart." So I said, "Oh, thank you," you know, and then I went back to painting. And then a guy drove around the corner. He was going, he was speeding, and then he slowed up. And he went by the wall really slowly, and he said, "You're making the city beautiful. Thank you."

And then, umm, about a few minutes later, these, uh, umm, an older couple walked by and they said, "Oh, are you painting this, you know what this looks like to me? It looks like the Amish Country. It's just so beautiful. You're just transforming the space." And then, I mean, it's not the Amish Country. It's actually Puerto Rico, but I thought that was interesting. And then two young guys in their twenties walked by and they said, "Miss, Miss." You know, and I turned around again. And they said, umm, "This is like where we're from. You're painting Puerto Rico. This is wonderful." And, I said, "Do you know what? It's, it's like everything that just happened in the last 15 minutes is why I do this job."

And I realized that there's this, see, I'm, I'm interacting with the community in such a, a really sort of, umm, intimate way that I feel, that's when I feel this connection with the city. I feel the connection with the people walking by, the kids who come, you know, to paint on the bottom of the mural. I feel the connection with the Block Captain, with the Community Leader, with the woman across the street who brings me lemonade and cookies.

You know, there's, you know, a car accident out, you know, front, and people come and they talk to me: "What did, what did you see?" and, you know, like, "Can we talk to you about it?" Or people say, "I want to talk to you about, you know, city politics" or, you know, "I want to just--". And it's like all this, this, it's this incredible exchange of ideas that seems to me particular to Philadelphia. And then I feel really connected with the city at those moments.

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