The premise of the Porch Light program, a venture between Mural Arts Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, is that public art can heal both communities and individual residents. A 2015 Yale School of Public Health evaluation found promising results for individuals, but recommended further study. For communities, though, murals on subjects related to mental health, homelessness, and other social issues boosted empathy, social trust, and perceptions of the neighborhood, among other measures. Stigma around mental health issues was lowered, and new murals provided a catalyst for neighborhood activism.
Steve Weinik is a photographer and digital media artist based in Philadelphia. He’s currently the Staff Photographer for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.