Author: Jacob Kraemer Tebes, Phd; Samantha L. Matlin, Phd; Bronwyn Hunter, Phd; Azure B. Thompson, Dph; Dana M. Prince, Phd; Nathaniel Mohatt, Phd
Media Type: Report
This study report from Yale University's School of Medicine examined Mural Arts' Porch Light Program with a rigorous scientific method and shares the results of that research.
Can public art promote public health? This is the central question addressed in this four-year evaluation of the Porch Light Program, a collaborative endeavor of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disability Services (dbhids). Porch Light creates public murals that seek to transform neighborhoods and promote the health of neigh-borhood residents and individuals who help create the mural. This collaboration involves a variety of stakehold-ers, including behavioral health consumers, artists, family members, service providers, neighborhood residents, and the leadership and staff from two city departments.
The evaluation was guided by a theory of change that specifies how certain neighborhood characteristics, col-lective efficacy among residents and aesthetic qualities of the neighborhood, can reduce established health risks associated with neighborhood decay and disorder. Public murals were expected to enhance these neighborhood char-acteristics in the short-term so as to promote long-term community health. The Porch Light theory of change also specifies how creation of a public mural by individuals with mental health or substance abuse challenges (i.e., behavior-al health consumers) can reduce behavioral health stigma and enhance individual recovery and resilience. In collab-oration with Porch Light stakeholders, the research team developed a logic model based on this underlying theory of change to guide the evaluation and examine community- and individual-level outcomes.
The Porch Light Evaluation was part of a larger initiative, the Philadelphia Community Health Project (pchp), con-ducted in collaboration with dbhids. The purpose of pchp was twofold: to identify appropriate comparison neighbor-hoods and participants from behavioral health agencies in Philadelphia for the Porch Light Evaluation, and to provide additional data to dbhids on the well-being, service use, and neighborhood conditions experienced by persons re-ceiving behavioral health services. Porch Light and pchp neighborhoods and agencies were matched on key char-acteristics, including conditions of neighborhood decay and disorder as well as demographic and neighborhood risk indicators, so as to enhance the scientific rigor of the evaluation.
Eight Philadelphia neighborhoods and seven behavioral health agencies located in those neighborhoods participat-ed in the Porch Light evaluation. The community-level evaluation included person-on-the-street interviews with more than 1,300 residents and systematic observations of hundreds of blocks. Neighborhood interviews and obser-vations were conducted twice per year, and in consecutive years in four neighborhoods. To assess individual-level out-comes, 264 individuals receiving behavioral health services in participating agencies completed interviews; 122 partici-pants enrolled in the Porch Light Program and 142 in usual services at comparison agencies. Individuals were followed for up to one year and interviewed up to three times de-pending on their availability. An additional 10 Porch Light participants also completed case study interviews to share their experiences of the program.
Over two program years, six murals were included in the Porch Light evaluation; five were assessed for community impact and five for individual impact. Details and photos of these murals, including the artists responsible, agencies involved, and their location are included in the report. [Executive Summary]
Arts & Intersections: Public Welfare