Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott, class of 2013

High School: Gateway High School
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Major: Psychology, Film Studies (minor)
Activities: Community Diversity Assistant, tour guide, Overbrook Elementary School volunteer assistant art teacher, dance, yoga
Interests: The arts: art as activism, as an educational tool, as healing, and communication. Mindfulness & well-being; education; children’s rights; social justice; community engagement & development.
Internship: Special Projects Intern at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

Mural making is a collaborative and expressive communicative art form that has the potential and the power to engage the community. This past summer I experienced first-hand the transformative power of this distinctive medium in my role as the Special Projects Intern at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Initially created in 1984 as an initiative of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is the largest public art program in the United States that utilizes art as a catalyst for social change and a model for urban transformation. With the principle that life can triumph through the creation of art with and for each other, the Mural Arts Program believes in “art as an economic engine”, in fostering a force to bring people from various backgrounds together. During my three months as the Special Projects Intern, I engaged with artists and communities of Philadelphia in ways that I have not been able to in my three years as a student of the Philadelphia region. I learned that passion and purpose are defining characteristics shared by the fearless leaders working in the complex, dynamic, non-profit arts sector. And, most importantly, I developed a broader and deeper engagement with Mural Arts and its multifaceted, creative programs.
Rarely was there a typical day for me as the Special Projects Intern. Some days I worked on finances requiring me to further develop my mathematical and spreadsheet skills, while other days I attended site visits to mural locations, meetings with artists and sometimes even painting. Throughout the entirety of the summer, I assisted two Project Managers in the Special Projects Department, both of whose processes included working on completing or implementing mural projects for the current fiscal year. The two projects I was most involved with were managed by Netanel Portier—How We Fish: A Mural About Work, examining workforce development, and Imagining Frankford, a collaborative project with the Frankford community creating a collection of murals along the Frankford Avenue corridor. Each day I enjoyed coming into the office with the excitement of facing something new. Once I adapted to the routine of not having a routine, I was able to apply and utilize my varied range of skills and knowledge more effectively. By suspending my usual work habit expectations, and rethinking my priorities and daily tasks, I was able to develop a flexible work approach enabling me to adapt fluidly and quickly to the creative needs at hand.
Aside from daily activities within the office, I was also given a three-day off-site (and continued on-site) research project that proved to challenge me in ways I didn’t expect. The objective of the project was to research a specific corridor of a specific street in Philadelphia. The catch: I was to trace its agricultural development back to the very first farmers that cultivated land in this area. As a Psychology major, I felt completely out of my comfort zone with this type of research, and struggled with where to begin. I traveled throughout the city: to the Free Library, to City Hall, to the Historical Society. I met with map specialists, and I spoke to Philadelphia archivists. After about a week of extensive research, I compiled my information into a presentation that was to be shown to the visiting artist as a proposal. Although the artist didn’t end up choosing this proposed site, the research skills I gained from this project made the effort worth the while. Furthermore, I now have a better understanding and appreciation of Philadelphia’s rich agricultural history than I ever thought I’d know.
Overall my summer internship was invigorating and exciting, challenging and enriching. My experience with Mural Arts is one I will always cherish, and the skills learned, life-long. I was able to see up close and behind the scenes how a non-profit arts organization is structured and how the organization’s programs serve as an effective social change and economic agent for the community. I have always strived to be an advocate for self, motivated with a desire to create positive change for myself and my learning, while also being an advocate for creating positive change for community, inspiring me to serve for the greater good. I believe my experiences with the Mural Arts Program has enabled me to believe in the change I wish to see by making a meaningful contribution to the world, one mural at a time.

link to Powerpoint