One of the most troubling issues in the United States today is the rapid growth of the prison population. The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Restorative Justice program is shining a light on this problem through our Beyond the Wall series. The project, initiated by muralist Eric Okdeh and the inmates participating in the Mural Arts Program inside SCI Graterford, included community discussion groups held throughout the City, a one day seminar on the issue at the Community College of Philadelphia, a poster series by artist Josh McPhee exhibited at SEPTA sites and on Regional Rail cars, and a new series of interviews and mini murals by Okdeh.

The mini murals feature inmates, formerly incarcerated individuals, attorneys, criminal justice professionals, Corrections Officers, politicians, academics, advocates and community members, and include statistics and quotes from those interviewed about this troubling issue. The project website, beyondthewall.muralarts.org, features expanded versions of these interviews, along with photos of the projects as they develop and get installed in locations throughout the city.

The various mini murals have appeared in 5 separate exhibitions as of this date: The Philadelphia Art Alliance, Drexel University’s Connelly Center, Eastern State Penitentiary, The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and Philadelphia’s City Hall.

If you want to be a part of the dialogue, and see the contributions of others use #beyondthewallproject on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Mural Arts Program incorporates the concepts of restorative justice through art instruction, mural making, and community service work within the criminal justice system. Current inmates, returning citizens and juvenile delinquents are given the opportunity to learn new skills and make a positive contribution to their communities to repair the prior harm they may have caused. In the Mural Arts Restorative Justice program there is a growing emphasis on re-entry, reclamation of civic spaces and the use of art to give voice to people who have consistently felt disconnected from society.

Through weekly programs and opportunities for involvement, Mural Arts provides art instruction to over 100 inmates annually, and affords part time temporary employment to returning citizens and young adults on probation through the Guild program. The Guild program provides on the job training to over 55 adults per year, teaching important employment skills while allowing participants to re-connect with their communities.

For more information about the Restorative Justice programs, contact Robyn Buseman [robyn.buseman@muralarts.org] Restorative Justice Program Director, 215-685-0756.

Eric Okdeh is a Philadelphia based muralist, who has been creating public art since 1998. After receiving his BFA in painting from Tyler School of Art, Eric chose to focus on mural work exclusively. Since 2002, in addition to his commissioned work, Eric has taught mural making classes to children and teens throughout the city as well as inmates at SCI Graterford Prison. The classes exist as leadership, teamwork, and skill building exercises which culminate in major mural projects. The SCI Graterford Class has completed over 30 such projects in and around the City of Philadelphia and collaborated with a variety of communities through Eric.

Eric has over 80 commissions throughout the cities of Philadelphia, Maui, Seville Spain and most recently Amman, Jordan . He has participated in mural projects in Tucson, Arizona and Los Angeles. His work is featured in five books about public and Mural art.

For more information about Eric visit his website

2 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello,

    I am interested in tours provided to study the exhibitions as well as speak with some individuals involved in the making of the project. I currently live in Chicago and study at the University of Illinois at Chicago (MA). I would like to intern during the summer of 2016 with the MPA. I would love to receive an opportunity.

    All my best,

    Brandon D. Houston, MLS
    2017 Graduate, MA Museum & Exhibition Studies
    Research & Archives Assistant, History Moves

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