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Getting There: The ISEPTAPHILLY Blog

Color Me Back: A Same Day Work and Pay Program

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Mural Arts Philadelphia - the nation’s largest public art program, dedicated to the belief that art ignites change - has created an innovative new program, Color Me Back: A Same Day Work and Pay Program, which combines participatory art-making and access to social services. The program offers individuals who are experiencing economic insecurity an opportunity to earn wages.

Color Me Back is a partnership of Mural Arts Philadelphia, Mental Health Partnerships (MHP), SEPTA, Scattergood Foundation, and AthenianRazak. Color Me Back is supported by a generous grant from the Barra Foundation and the Sheller Family Foundation. Other donations have been provided by Wawa.

Color Me Back is a program of Mural Arts’ Porch Light, a partnership with the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. The program draws on the successful experiences of other cities in offering ‘same day wage’ to help address economic instability.

This 28-week pilot program launched on April 23, 2019 and was designed to reach individuals who are not necessarily connected to services. Each participant is paid $50 cash for three hours of work creating a new public art project. The payment amount was specifically designed to exceed the living wage standard for Philadelphia.

Participants of Color Me Back are recruited through outreach. 

Outreach is conducted by recruiting directly from the areas surrounding SEPTA's Suburban Station leading to a lottery every morning (Monday - Thursday) in Love Park. This pilot serves ten (10) people per day working with a trained teaching artist, design artist, and outreach workers from MHP to design and paint a mural in SEPTA’s Suburban Station. The first mural, which will be approximately 57 feet by 7 feet, 6 inches, was dedicated on July 30, 2019.

Each day of the program, between 50 and 60 individuals gather to participate in the lottery for one of the ten daily slots. Those who are selected help design and paint a mural in the concourse. Outreach workers have learned that the most-needed services are employment, shelter or housing, and basic needs, such as showers, clothes, and food. In the first ten weeks of the program, over 330 participants received payments totaling over $16,500 for same day work.

The Scattergood Foundation is an instrumental partner on the project, helping to design the program and helping with data collection and evaluation. The Foundation has committed to helping measure outcomes during and after the project.

For 35 years, Mural Arts has united artists and communities through a collaborative and equitable process, creating nearly 4,000 artworks that have transformed public spaces and individual lives. Mural Arts aims to empower people, stimulate dialogue, and build bridges to understanding with projects that attract artists from Philadelphia and around the world, and programs that focus on youth education, restorative justice, mental health and wellness, and public art and its preservation. Popular mural tours offer a firsthand glimpse into the inspiring stories behind Mural Arts' iconic and unparalleled collection, which has earned Philadelphia worldwide recognition as the "City of Murals."

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