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Where Art Meets Nursing

Can public art promote public health? This is the question addressed by the Porch Light Program, a collaboration between Mural Arts Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services.

To answer the question, students in NURS 380 learned about social determinants of health in a community by analyzing a Philadelphia-based mural.

In her foreword to the book If These Walls Could Talk: Community Muralism and the Beauty of Justice, Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia and guest-lecturer in NURS 380 wrote, “Murals are, more often than not, pictorial representations of memories, dreams, heroes, and aspirations. In Philadelphia, they are also an iterative, if incomplete, visual map of human experience in our city’s neighborhoods—and particularly in those that have seen the ills of poverty, disinvestment, drugs, and violence.”

According to Penn Nursing Practice Professor Holly Harner PhD MBA MPH RN WHCNP-BC FAAN who teaches NURS 380, “Public art, when guided by the community where it ‘lives,’ reflects how the community views itself—with a focus on its strengths. It is a strengths-based model, rather than a deficit model. This approach is often lacking when we view communities as outsiders. We don’t see the strength and the hope that community members know exists.”

For the fall assignment, December graduate Tarikwa Leveille Nu’21 chose the mural The Evolving Face of Nursing at the intersection of Broad and Vine.

“This mural tells nurses’ stories of healing and hope,” she wrote. “The mural is meant to…bring people’s attention to health care and quality as a social determinant of health. It bridges the important relationship of art engagement, health, and wellbeing and the importance of diversity and inclusivity in those who provide health care and those who receive health care.”