Two women who work on different canvasses but deliver strikingly similar messages received the Philadelphia Award last night at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Jane Golden, whose work as artistic director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts program has helped transform the face of the city, was honored along with Art Museum director Anne d'Harnoncourt, whose work has revitalized the museum.

"They're linked by what they've done for the city,'' Mayor Rendell told an audience of about 325.

Speaking early in the 90-minute program, Rendell said that the women "operate in very different venues, but both have raised the spirits of the city considerably.''

The Philadelphia Award, founded in 1921 by publisher Edward W. Bok, is given annually to someone who has done the most to advance the interests of the community.

As head of the Recreation Department's Mural Arts Program and its predecessor, the Anti-Graffiti Network, since 1984, Golden has turned brick walls into works of art.

In 1997, the program completed 75 murals, bringing the city's total to more than 1,672 and surpassing Los Angeles as the American city with the most murals. The program has received requests to paint 5,000 more.

Golden told the audience that she accepted the award "on behalf of all the individuals and organizations who have helped make Philadelphia the mural capital of the United States. ''

Many of the murals are painted in distressed, decaying neighborhoods. For instance, one of Golden's more recent murals is a 25-by-45-foot depiction of hands coming together, painted last year on a wall at 29th and Wharton Streets in racially troubled Grays Ferry.

Golden told the audience that when a mural goes up in a neighborhood, it's "a sign people care and things can change.''

D'Harnoncourt, director of the museum since 1982, is an advocate of displaying art created by local artists. She was a force in bringing the hugely successful Cezanne exhibition to the Art Museum in 1996. During its three-month run, the exhibition drew 778,000 visitors to the museum.