Former inmates reflect on graduating from Mural Arts program

Guild program assists with re-entry after prison.

Pat Loeb
June 13, 2018 - 1:47 pm
Mural Arts Guild program graduate Tahire Briscoe

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia's Mural Arts program likes to say "art ignites change." That may be most true of its Guild program, which trains formerly incarcerated people in skills such as painting, carpentry and mosaics. 

At this year's graduation ceremony on Wednesday, Mural Arts director Jane Golden said the 2018 class learned from prominent artists, took classes at the Barnes, and worked on several major murals.

"You don't know this when you're driving around Philadelphia, but a large percentage of the work in the city is created by the Guild, and that deserves a round of applause," Golden said.

Graduates such as Robert Long say there's much more to it: "Restorative justice, re-entry, job placement."

The Guild has a strong record of preventing recidivism. Graduate Tahire Briscoe is proof.

"I'm not dealing drugs," Briscoe said. "I wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work. It keeps me motivated, keeps me going, gives me that energy, that extra push. They're always there for me. They helped me get my license. They helped me get ID. ... They helped me with transportation — transportation alone is a lot. I'm just grateful that I'm in this program, because it did help me out a lot."

Next year's class begins immediately with new funding from the Ford Foundation and a partnership with the city's McArthur Fund Safety and Justice program.