Murals now embellish the city's upscale arts and business districts, as well as poor neighborhoods.
Overseeing the creation of some 100 murals a year, the small, wiry Golden covers lots of ground. She talks fast, wears sensible shoes, and dresses simply, even when joined by local Philadelphia VIPs for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Earlier this fall, some local dignitaries came together outside a North Philadelphia drug treatment center to dedicate "Personal Renaissance," a five-story-high, 12,000-square-foot depiction of the process of addiction and recovery.
The making of the mural involved some 1,200 participants over 18 months.
To Golden, making murals depicting heroes, seekers, and slogans is part of community building. Her formula has several steps. First, draw on talented young recruits from the Mural Arts art education program in the public schools.
Next, tap residents for design ideas. Then refine the design until you get it right. And, finally, encourage people to come out and paint.
When they do come out – to paint, to find out what's going on, to weigh in – residents discover that they can come together to accomplish other things, too – like dealing with a vacant lot or a littered street or a problem with a school.
"I love being a city employee," Golden says. "To me it's an honor to be part of government and to figure out ways to better the lives of people."
"She is an incredible public servant," says Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Golden has worked for four different mayors over the years.
Not everyone is a fan of public murals. Inga Saffron, architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, returned here from a stint as a Moscow correspondent to find murals "all over the place. It struck me how much they were like [old-fashioned] Soviet propaganda," she says.