Lack Of Financial Literacy Is One Of The Main Reasons Which Cause Limited Participation In The Stock Market University Essay Example


The following paper provides in-depth examination of underlying factors which affect low stock market participation rate among households. Clearly, advices based on the world-known assumptions and modern portfolio theory are not being followed by individual investors. Despite the significant risk premium, half of the American households do not own the stocks due to various reasons starting from risk aversion and ending with macroeconomic factors. However, some researchers point out lack of financial literacy as one of the main reasons which cause limited participation in the stock market. In the 21st century when budgeting is an important part of every household, the value of financial literacy is undeniable. The following paper, backed by many researches and analyzes, indicates that financial literacy correlates with household participation in the stock market.

Keywords: stock market, financial literacy, household, limited participation, reasons.


A lot of academicians have devoted their time and effort analyzing stock market as well as the factors which affect the participants. Despite the logical belief that all investors are participating in the stock market when expected returns are positive, the tendency of factual data is evident that some are not investing neither directly or indirectly. Looking into reasons which are holding a lot of people back from stock market participation and pointing them out is essential for both households and governments. Among the investors it is generally known that because of the compound interest, individuals who are participating in the stock market can generate more money compared to those who choose not to. According to Hardy (2010), there was an experiment where many random people were asked if they would rather have a million dollars now or take a penny today and double it for the next 30 days.

As expected, majority took 1 million now, but when the actual calculations are made, those people who chose a penny, at the end of the period would have over 5 million dollars. Though 100% return is very unlikely, but the idea of compound effect works even for much lower interest rates, it just might take longer than a month to make millions. This means that the wise investment of little bit of money can compound into a fortune. Albert Einstein used to call compound interest one of the greatest mathematical concepts and even compared it to the 8th wonder of the world. On the other hand, while there are a lot of stocks which are booming with high expected returns, poor allocation of capital and lack of knowledge might lead to financial distress. To take this a step further, this paper is a summary of variables that affect household participation in the stock market and its relation to financial literacy. 


Household participation in the stock market has been a hot topic of many academic researchers in the personal finance over the last years. The tendency is evident that most of the households shy away and do not invest in the stocks even though it offers a significant risk premium. Based on S&P 500 stock market index, the average total annual return including dividends on investments in the last decade was 10.38% (“S&P 500 Index”, n.d.). Despite 2008, when financial crisis took place, the returns of every single year were positive. However, investment class is narrow, and it is not getting bigger since the great depression of 2008.

In addition, people became more suspicious about putting their money to work and shifted from higher risk investments (stocks) to savings accounts. Even now, ten years after financial crisis, households still have not changed their attitude towards capital market. According to Jones (2017), only 54% of American households own stocks, compared with the pre-crisis level of 62%. Also, a lot of them hold just a small amount of stocks. Research, conducted by Wolff (2016), uncovered that 84% of all stocks owned by Americans are concentrated in the hands of the top 10% wealthiest households.

These statistics include direct ownership of the stocks as well as indirect through mutual funds and other accounts. Similar survey was done by Jones (2017) which revealed percentage rates of investors in terms of annual income.

2001-2008 2009-2017

U.S adults 62% 54%

Annual household income:

Less than $30,000 27% 21%

$30,000 to $74,999 67% 54%

$75,000 to $99,999 85% 75%

$100,000+ 88% 89%

From the table the trend is clear that ownership rates have deteriorated in the past years and correlate with the income level. Even though in the last couple of years stock market performed well, it is obvious that fewer households are willing to take risk in order to benefit from today’s bulls market compared to pre-crisis conditions.

Another study was conducted to test the knowledge of market participants (Rooij, Lusardi & Alessie, 2007). The researchers prepared questionnaires regarding the financial markets and asked 1,508 households to fill out the module (a total of 1,373 households completed the survey). The results showed the tendency that many individuals are not educated enough to compete in the stock market and to benefit from investing. For example, only 67% out of all households were able to define stock market and its purpose.

Overall, based on S&P index and various studies, stock market has an enormous potential and could generate a fortune to anybody in case of well allocated capital. Yet, only the very rich are enjoying full benefits of the compound effect. Financial crisis of 2008 only complicated everything and the gap between the rich and the poor increased. It is evident that households fear to put their money into something they do not understand completely.

Markowitz portfolio theory

On the other hand, empirical findings contradict the Markowitz portfolio theory which asserts that in order to maximize the utility, individuals must create a diversified portfolio of unrelated assets. The theory implies that capital allocation among various financial instruments balances returns and risks of the investors, “unless they are infinitely risk averse and/or expected equity risk premium is not present in the market” (Mauricas, Darškuvienė & Mariničevaitė, 2017, p. 228). In the other words, if investors combine asset classes that fluctuate each individually, the volatility of the entire portfolio should be low. Because of diversification, the entire portfolio is much more stable and can sustain even dramatic fluctuations. For example, gold may plunge by 20% in a year, while oil boom by 25%.

In this scenario, even though gold has suffered an extreme loss, the entire value of the portfolio has risen due to diversification. It is directly associated with the traditional wisdom of “never putting all your eggs in one basket”. In addition, as quoted by Haliassos and Hassapis (2002): “A marginal addition of stocks should be preferred to a marginal addition of the riskless asset by someone that holds no stocks”. But nowadays people face trade-off between familiarity and diversification. The empirical data shows that people feel more confident investing in riskless assets rather than in stocks. Further paragraphs explain the main reasons why reality differs from the theory of utility maximization and why households are so anxious towards buying stocks.

Factors which influence households

Even though, according to the evidence, long-term investments in stock market earn positive returns and investors do not have irrationally large level of risk aversion, yet, households underestimate equity market. On the other hand, there are many other factors which affect investment decisions in the stock market both positively and negatively.

Firstly, Lee, Rosenthal, Veld and Merkoulova (2013) investigated stock market expectations and risk aversion of households based on the Dutch National Bank Household Survey. Just as the researchers predicted, expectation of high returns increased stock participation, while high risk aversion – decreased.

Next important determinant which causes market participation puzzle is the overall wealth of the households. The Eurosystem survey completed in 2016 point out that income have a considerable effect on stock participation as well. Also, activeness in equity market increases with age, “with 16–34-year-olds having twice lower stock market participation compared to 45–74-year-olds” (Mauricas et al., 2017, p. 229). However, it is generally known that older people are usually wealthier, even though age as an indicator was found to be irrelevant.

Fraile and Ehrmann (2014) researched household eagerness to invest in stock market and how it is affiliated to overall macroenvironment. The authors found out that individual’s willingness to take additional risks to invest in stocks was positively related to an overall macroenvironment. For instance, the period of bull market encouraged households to participate in the stock market, while the recession – reduced the desire of putting money to work.

Another category of researches was conducted to find the relation between the stock market participation puzzle and financial literacy. According to Heath and Tversky (1991), investors are more confident in financial decision making when they feel that they have all the information available. Logically, since investing in stock market requires rationality, Rooij et al. (2007) discovered a positive relationship between the financial literacy and equity market participation. Gaudecker (2013) extended the research on this topic and discovered that individuals who lack of financial literacy and awareness about “hot stocks” tend to “put all their eggs in one basket” what eventually leads to smaller returns in the long-run.

Finally, having services of financial consultant is valuable to households as well, because in this way professional advisors can substitute the lack of knowledge (Georgarakos & Inderst, 2014).

To sum up, there are a lot of factors that influence stock market participation either positively or negatively. Besides mentioned above it is worth to point out loss aversion (negative effect), fixed entry cost (negative effect), investments in real estate (negative effect), income inequality (negative effect), trust (positive effect), IQ of an investor (positive effect) and many others. Having reviewed the key factors which explain market participation puzzle, the paper aims to evaluate the importance of financial literacy.

Financial literacy

Another possible explanation of the puzzle why households do not participate in the stock market is the lack of knowledge about financial instruments. Shortage of financial literacy has been an issue in many countries, including well-developed and advanced societies. The opportunity cost of not having it in some cases might be substantial, because financial knowledge helps to make informed decisions and can create well-being for an individual (Muchiri, 2015). The importance of it takes place, for instance, when individuals are considering how to save for their pension, where to invest or how to ensure that they are able pay off a mortgage.

However, the supply of more complicated financial instruments is increasing, even though study conducted by Flash Eurobarometer in 2009 found out that 50% of EU citizens would like to be provided with simpler financial services. According to Remund (2010), the term financial literacy covers concepts ranging from financial awareness and knowledge, including of financial products, institutions and concepts; financial skills, such as the ability to calculate compound interest payments; and general knowledge in money management and personal finance. In the 21st century when budgeting plays an important role in everyone’s life, the need for financial literacy is undeniable.

Rooij et al. (2007) found out that majority of the people who lack financial knowledge and must make important financial decisions, approach their relatives and friends, while only around a quarter go to financial advisor or refer to financial magazines, guides or books. More and more governments are starting to appreciate the value of economic knowledge and are starting to invest their money and time in financial education programs (Gallery, Newton & Palm, 2010). For example, few academicians have proved that individuals who have a college degree are more likely to own stocks (Haliassos and Bertaunt, 1995; Campbell, 2006; Lusardi and Scheresberg, 2013). Prior studies have shown that the quality of financial literacy correlates with household participation in the stock market.


To sum up, the paper reveals that even though Markowitz portfolio theory and many other studies reasonably explains the advantages of having diversified portfolio, households are still anxious towards investing in the stock market. That is why it is of crucial importance to identify and underline the reasons which cause limited household participation in the stock market phenomenon. The paper finds quite a few factors which affect the public attitude towards investing such as expected returns, risks, macroenvironment, overall wealth of the household, financial advices and many other. However, one of the most important reason which holds many households back is the lack of financial literacy. It is logical that people do not want to invest into something they do not understand. Consequently, governments and financial institutions have a responsibility to allocate their assets and time towards building the necessity and value of financial literacy in every person through schools, universities and other educational institutions.

The Role Of Financial Literacy In Enterprise Risk Management And Firm Performance


In recent days, the market competition across all industries has been on the rise. Additionally, the number of risks likely to face the businesses has also been on the rise. As such, many firms have focused lots of their resources on developing measures that will help them overcome the risks is any of them emerged. Also, the firms have invested lots of their resources in ensuring that they perform well irrespective of the market situation. As such, this research paper aims at examining how the use of Enterprise risk management (ERM) practices relates to the firm performance. Besides, the research paper will seek to establish the different ways in which the ERM can impact on the performance of different firms, more so the small market enterprises in the developing countries. The research paper will conduct and qualitative and quantitative. Further, the research will try to establish how competitive advantage that arises from ERM can influence the success of a firm. Additionally, the research paper will examine the essence of financial literacy in implementing the ERM practices in motivating the performance of the business.


According to (Arena et al., 2010), businesses have continuously faced competitive market threats which have prompted them to develop attention on Enterprise risk management (ERM). As such, few studies such as (Florio, & Leoni, 2017) believes that ERM directly affects the performance of a given firm. Some researchers on their part believe that different internal factors impact how ERM and firm performance relates. In trying to establish the relationship between firm performance and ERM, researchers have focused primarily on the developed countries while paying less attention to the businesses in the emerging economies. Also, few empirical studies on how ERM and firm performance relates. Therefore, in helping understand the relationship between ERM and firm performance, this study seeks to take a case example of Small market enterprise (SME) performance and study how ERM affects the development of Competitive advantage (CA). Additionally, this study aims at examining the role of financial literacy in the ERM and firms performance.

Enterprise Risk Management involves the practices that a particular organization or industry have developed to manage the risks that may emerge as well as utilize every opportunity that will help it achieve its primary goals as explained by (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018). Therefore, ERM is expected to help reduce costs that may arise as a result of financial distress, the shocks in the financial markets, and also help in the process of making business decisions. In the present era, ERM is essential in that it helps in controlling the internal systems of a business. However, the implementation of ERM requires a lot of resources. Due to this, many SMEs are unable to adopt ERM practices (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018).

The risk management theory shows that the reduction of the accounting costs in business helps in the enhancing the performance of the firm thus proving that competitive advantage is the backbone of ERM. Previous studies such as (Krause, & Tse, 2016) demonstrates that ERM is very vital in enhancing competitive advantage as well as the firm’s performance. As such, this research suggests that ERM is an internal factor that helps lower the cost of running a business and increases the value of the products. This suggestion is in line with the Resource-Based View theory which involves the business reducing its financial costs as a way of enhancing its competitive advantage. Other studies such as (Arena et al., 2010) argues that the ERM practices depend on the behavior of the manager. This can, in turn, affect the competitiveness and performance of a firm.

ERM and Firm Performance

ERM practices are vital in exposing the risks that are likely to face business. Also, the ERM practices create room for the business to manage the risks that may emerge. Additionally, it provides the firms with a room to enhance its values. As such, (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) argues that ERM helps improve the profitability of a firm by lowering the costs involved in running the business as well as enhancing the value of the business. A study by (Krause, & Tse, 2016) reveals that firms that implement that have ERM practices in place have a higher firm performance than those that do not have the methods. Also, the study shows that firms with ERM practices in place earn more than those that lack. It is therefore evident that there exists a strong relationship between ERM and firm performance as proven by (Krause, & Tse, 2016).

Competitive advantage and ERM

The success, as well as the failure of many businesses, lies on the strategies and the processes established to run the firm. Also, the ability of the business to cope up with the emerging market issues depends on the procedures that have been set to run the business. As such, (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) argues that the implementation of ERM strategies is inevitable. The ERM system and processes outline the measures that need to be adopted in case of any situation in the industry. Therefore, the ERM is vital to the business for both the financial and the non-financial performance of the business. In almost all cases, the management of the firm is mandated to strategize and plan on behalf of the company and hence the need to be well informed of the ERM practices.

Additionally, (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) states that when the management is informed of the ERM practices, it is likely to develop a competitive advantage which will in return translate to the success in the business. The development of the Competitive advantage would also mean that few risks are likely to affect the business. It is therefore evident that there exists a relationship between ERP and the competitive advantage and hence the firm performance (Fraser, Simkins, & Narvaez, 2014).

ERM, Firm performance and Competitive advantage

Firm performance depends on various factors. Key among the elements is a competitive advantage. A study by (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) reveals that a competitive advantage can be achieved by lowering the costs involved in ensuring that the business runs effectively. In the same study, (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) argues that implementing an ERM helps to reduce the operational, management as well as any other cost associated with running the business. In striving to achieve a competitive advantage. Additionally, a business can achieve competitive advantage by making its products different from those of its competitors.

Competitive advantage is very vital for a firm especially in a case where the industry is very competitive. As such, in businesses where the ERM system is implemented, the business is likely to achieve a competitive advantage which will, in turn, boost the performance of the firm. For instance, most of the Chinese companies have in the present days embarked on attaining a competitive advantage by adopting cost-based strategies which are achieved by implementing the ERM system. Further, (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) argues that empirical evidence shows that the competitive advantage is an essential aspect in determining the performance of the company.

Financial literacy, ERM and Competitive advantage

One of the primary ways in which firms achieve competitive advantage is by implementing the ERM. However, a study by (Krause, & Tse, 2016) reveals that it is not always the case that the ERM will ensure the company achieves the competitive advantage. The study further argues that there is a dire need to ensure that the management can facilitate the achievement of the firm’s targets as well as the ERM system. With this understanding, (Krause, & Tse, 2016) explains that it is necessary to ensure that the management has adequate financial literacy. Besides, the study states that the ERM system employed by any given firm should incorporate the necessary financial policies.


Studies have been conducted in the past with the aim of examining what role is played by the ERM on the performance of different firms more so the SMEs. In this part, the findings obtained by various studies will be discussed. This discussion will, therefore, help to understand what other studies have found out in regards to the topic at hand.

First, qualitative research conducted (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) showed that there was a significant impact of ERM on the performance of SMEs. In the finding, the study revealed that many of the firms that registered market success employed the ERM practices and also the formal business policies. The study, therefore, concluded that the performance of different firms has a close relationship with ERM practices (Fraser, Simkins, & Narvaez, 2014).

Secondly, (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) found out that ERM affects the competitive advantage. This can be attributed to the fact that the ERM helps to lower the various costs involved in ensuring that the business runs effectively. The competitive advantage on its hand helps to enhance the performance of the business. As a consequence of this, the firm can gain cost-based competitive advantage thus favoring the suggestion by previous studies that stated that there existed a relationship between ERM and competitive advantage and hence firm performance.

Also, (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) found out that the success of a firm does not solely depend on ERM practices. In its empirical analysis, the study found out that financial literacy is significant in the success of the business as well. As such, the study found it necessary to have financial literacy incorporated with the ERP practices to enhance the performance of the firm.


In conclusion, this research paper examines the relationship of ERM and the firm performance as well as how the ERM affects the firm performance considering the case of SMEs. In so doing, the research paper has borrowed heavily on the research by (Yang, Ishtiaq, & Anwar, 2018) which was conducted in Pakistan and involved an analysis of data from 304 small market enterprises. The research paper mainly used a qualitative method to gather the information needed to support its argument. From this, we can conclude that ERM is very significant in the performance of any firm. It reduces the operational cost, management cost as well as any other cost that may arise. The ERM framework also comes out as a better way of gaining a competitive advantage and hence superior business performance. To further ensure that the ERM practices yield better results for any given firm, we can conclude that it is necessary to merge the practices with the financial policies that would help reduce the chances of the emergence of any financial risk. Lastly, we can conclude that businesses that are managed by financial literate individuals and also implement the ERM practices are likely to register a good performance whether the market is stable or turbulent.


Arena, M., Arnaboldi, M., & Azzone, G. (2010). The organizational dynamics of enterprise risk management. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 35(7), 659-675.
Florio, C., & Leoni, G. (2017). Enterprise risk management and firm performance: The Italian case. The British Accounting Review, 49(1), 56-74.
Yang, S., Ishtiaq, M., & Anwar, M. (2018). Enterprise Risk Management Practices and Firm Performance, the Mediating Role of Competitive Advantage and the Moderating Role of Financial Literacy. Journal of Risk and Financial Management, 11(3), 35.
Krause, T. A., & Tse, Y. (2016). Risk management and firm value: recent theory and evidence. International Journal of Accounting and Information Management, 24(1), 56-81.
Fraser, J., Simkins, B., & Narvaez, K. (2014). Implementing enterprise risk management: Case studies and best practices. John Wiley & Sons.

Jane Golden And Philadelphia’s Graffiti Crisis

In the decades since The Mural Arts Program was established, Jane Golden has combated Philadelphia’s graffiti crisis by using the program’s resources as a means of transforming graffiti’s destructive use of art into a more constructive outlet. While rechanneling the negative energy, she also took preventive measures against future occurrences of graffiti and crime by bringing about innovative art education and restorative justice programs to Philadelphia communities that are predisposed to crime. The Mural Arts Program, under the guidance of Golden, has made it possible for the thousands impacted by it to break the cycle of crime and violence, and bring about healing in individuals and communities.

Graffiti has a long and complicated history in Philadelphia, its birthplace. Acknowledged as the world’s first modern graffiti artist, “Cornbread,” aka Darryl McCray, picked up his tagging style while in a youth detention center. During the late 1960’s, he and a group of friends started ‘tagging’ Philadelphia, by writing their nicknames on walls across the city. The movement spread to New York and blossomed into the modern graffiti movement, which reached its peak in the U.S. in the 1980’s and then spread to Europe (Benner). As a troubled teen who used graffiti as a means of self-expression, Cornbread said that graffiti saved him.

After a hiatus from Philadelphia, McCray returned in the 1980s only to see that graffiti had spread throughout the city as vandalism, rather than art (Shea). In 1984, Philadelphia mayor, Wilson Goode, founded the Anti-Graffiti Network and recruited McCray to help him stop inner city youth from tagging. The Anti-Graffiti Network eventually turned into The Mural Arts Program, the largest public art program in the United States. McCray developed a close relationship with Jane Golden, the Executive Director of Mural Arts. Today, McCray works as a public speaker and youth advocate. He gives motivational talks about his youth as a tagger, his run-ins with the law, and his struggles with drugs. He speaks out against illegal graffiti, but he still tags when commissioned (Benner).

Defining graffiti is a controversial debate, in which both sides proves valid points. There seems to be thin line separating graffiti from a form of art. This is one of the reasons Philadelphia has a complicated relationship with graffiti. That relationship is best illustrated today on two walls that thousands of travelers heading out of the city on the Schuylkill Expressway or Amtrak see every day. On one wall, a large orange paint scrawl, and next to that, a huge graffiti tag proclaiming “Texas Gane Bred.” The two works don’t look incompatible; in a strange way, they complement each other.

The orange scrawl — a rail corridor project called “psychylustro” by German artist Katharina Grosse commissioned by the Mural Arts Program — is sanctioned and legal (Silverman). The neighboring tag is vandalism. The difference, it seems, is permission. Graffiti artists ask no one for permission. They tag to advertise themselves, and they’re daring. The more dangerous and out of the way places they can tag, the better. For the artists, graffiti is a painted manifestation that something is wrong: a stumbling economy, high poverty, chaos throughout the world, disaffected young people so lacking a voice they’re moved to risk arrest and physical danger to spray paint their names 6 feet high (Halpern).

But one must recognize the sense of raw, uncensored message that gets delivered with graffiti since it lacks control or direction from outside influences. It offers an edge that isn’t present in street art. Even Golden acknowledges that there is a blurring in the definitions of street art, murals, and graffiti (Silverman).

While much of the city’s graffiti is like litter, some of it is complex and compelling to look at, like the crazy explosion of images covering a block-long factory at Sixth and Moore. The artists asked for and were granted permission to paint the walls by the business owner (Halpern). So there is some graffiti people would rather look at than yet another wrapped bus jeans ad, or a TV screen at a gas pump spewing commercials, or the rest of the advertising landscape we’re forced to look at every day. Advertisers have permission — though not directly from Philadelphia’s citizens — to litter the landscape too.

Just like anything else that’s created humans, graffiti can be used negatively. Even when it’s not the artist’s intention to cause a disruption, there will always be people who disapprove. But censoring artwork of any kind is complicated and problematic. And that is why Jane Golden made it her mission rechannel the negative energy behind graffiti and refocus it into public art projects. Through these public art projects, she hoped to send a message of community, hope, and healing to the city of Philadelphia and its citizens (“About”).

Initially hired as a young artist by former Mayor Wilson Goode to help combat the graffiti crisis plaguing the city, Golden reached out to graffiti writers to help turn their destructive energies into creative ones. In the process, she recognized the raw artistic talent among the graffiti writers, and she provided them with fresh opportunities to channel their creativity and ideas into mural-making (“About). Under her direction, young people — most of them graffiti artists themselves, teenagers who had never dipped a brush in watercolors or seen even the outside of an art museum — were enlisted and paid to put in “scrub time” and to learn how to paint murals. Golden introduced them to professional artists, to poetry, to fine arts. She and her small staff started after-school art programs and summer mural-painting programs and apprenticeship programs.

More than 10,000 kids have participated so far, many of them year after year, through junior high and high school, internships, apprenticeships, and jobs (“Art Education”). Through Mural Arts, more than 1,200 students a year receive free art instruction, and our Guild reentry program imparts career skills to men and women returning from incarceration. The program employs 200 to 250 artists a year and contributes $2.7 million annually to the local creative economy (Silverman).

Mural Arts’ award-winning Art Education program provides over 1,500 underserved Philadelphia youth annually, ages 10 to 21, with access to quality in-school and after-school programming at 25–30 sites across Philadelphia. The program and its variety of initiatives exposes students to everything from entrepreneurship to environmental stewardship, all through a creative and colorful lens, and integrates content that is thematically relevant to the challenges and interests of today’s youth (“Art Education”). As they develop new skills, participants bring their talents and perspectives to major mural projects.

Beautification projects have been going on for decades in inner cities across America, often with striking results. But it is still remarkable, even to an artist and activist like Golden, how democracy can be advanced in real and tangible ways simply by putting paintings on the sides of buildings in communities that reflect the very failure of democracy. “I always thought murals made art accessible to people, and they do,” Golden says. “But I’ve witnessed how they create real neighborhood change, too” (“Letters: Murals Invigorate Philly”).

The murals themselves transformed city neighborhoods which had long suffered from years of neglect and hardship. In 1996, Mural Arts was reorganized under the City of Philadelphia Department of Recreation, and Golden was put in place as its director. At this time, she established the Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates, a nonprofit organized to raise funds and provide support to the program (Shea).

While Mural Arts has roughly 70 ongoing community mural projects, the citywide initiative is actually about much more than murals. Golden, who is now Mural Arts’ executive director, and her 54-member team are also shepherding a floating art and ecology lab as envisioned by artist Meejin Yoon for the Schuylkill River; Radio Silence, a podcast and radio series by Michael Rakowitz created in tandem with the city’s Iraqi refugee community; and Porch Light, a collaboration with the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services to provide programs at the intersection of arts, recovery, and healing (“Public Art and Civil Engagement”). Mural Arts also has programs addressing arts education and the criminal justice system, and offers city tours through which visitors can explore what Mural Arts calls “the world’s largest outdoor art gallery” (Heidenry).

Despite the diversification of its activities, the organization’s core mission remains the same, according to Golden. “We’re addressing the need for creativity in people’s lives—the opportunity to look at some of our city’s more intractable problems and address them through a creative means,” she emphasized (Halpern). Golden also acknowledged that public funding support has been crucial to fostering and growing Mural Arts. “We have been honored to receive funds from the NEA, and feel that it is invaluable…. Government funding for us is a platform and a catalyst” (Silverman).

Through her work with Mural Arts, Golden has developed an understanding of the utility of art. Yes, public art can make a community more aesthetically appealing. But even more essential, however, it is the way in which the process of making art can powerfully give voice to community members. When the people of a community are actively engaged in creating the artwork that beautifies the built environment in which they live, they can see their own hopes, dreams, and concerns writ large on their local landscape, which in turn empowers them to ask for and make change at a deeper level.

With the murals Golden oversees, the challenges start even before the paintbrushes come out. Before any mural comes to life, a community has to come together, put in a request, and meet to decide on images (“Public Art and Civil Engagement). In 2004, community leaders from Mantua, a West Philadelphia neighborhood known as ‘The Bottom,’ submitted an ambitious request. They wanted to paint murals on two apartment buildings that bordered a field trashed with glass shards and old tires. Today, the junk in the vacant Mantua lots has been replaced by a park — a trend that can attract developers. ‘They say that they feel that it is safer to build in Mantua,’ Golden says. ‘ I know that what we’re doing isn’t a solution for all that is wrong with the city … [but] murals show us the catalytic role that art can play in healing a city,’ Golden says (“Letters: Murals Invigorate Philly”). Not only do these murals work at bringing together and healing a community, they also help bring about economic change and opportunities.

Jane Golden has been a driving force in the organization since its genesis as the Anti-Graffiti Network. Today, the Mural Arts Program is internationally renowned for its success in beautifying urban neighborhoods, transcending urban divides and empowering artists to bring their work to the public.

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