These Organizations are Revitalizing West Philly with a Creative Placemaking Grant from LISC

Philadelphia LISC has announced it will be awarding ten grants totaling $180,000 as part of the second year of its Creative Placemaking program

On November 18, Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) announced it will be awarding ten grants totaling $180,000 as part of the second year of its Creative Placemaking program. The grants will support projects and programs that use arts and culture as a catalyst for revitalization, bringing together people of all backgrounds to make positive physical, economic and social impacts in their neighborhood.

The grants are part of a new national Creative Placemaking initiative launched by LISC with an inaugural $3.5 million grant from The Kresge Foundation.  The funding will allow LISC to embed arts and culture in its approach to comprehensive community development. As one of five pilot sites across the country, Philadelphia LISC has raised additional funds from the Panaphil Foundation and William Penn Foundation.

LISC is awarding grants in two key areas of the city: Eastern North Philadelphia and West Philadelphia. In this blog post, we’re highlighting organizations working in Eastern North Philadelphia. Look for a post later this month highlighting those in West Philadelphia!

In Eastern North Philadelphia, Philadelphia LISC is supporting projects that strategically advance implementation of the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) Quality of Life Plan. The partners who are receiving grants have envisioned bold, exciting ways to empower residents to use creativity to reclaim and revitalize their neighborhoods in Eastern North Philadelphia.

GroundSwell talked to a few of the organizations who are working with partners to complete these projects to get a better sense of what they’re working on and how they chose their partners:

One of those organizations is Norris Square Neighborhood Project (NSNP), which is working on a project with Anne Harrison and Amber Art and Design called Hecho EN.

Hecho EN is intended to transform the narrative of Norris Square Park and celebrate the spirit and creativity of the neighborhood that once thrived as a textile industrial hub. The project will focus on promoting the artistry and functionality of craft-based work through engaging and supporting the organization of a community craft fair at Norris Square Park that supports a new vision for local grassroots commerce.

The project came about when Anne Harrison, an independent artist, and Linda Fernandez of Amber Art and Design first approached NSNP about providing craft workshops to youth.

Initially the concept was small: offer workshops to youth of Norris Square on how to make upcycled craft such as jewelry and other items, but collectively everyone agreed that it would be great to inspire residents and artists of the neighborhood and develop a grassroots craft fair, according to Justin Trezza, NSNP’s executive director. As for its other partner, the Village of Arts and Humanities, NSNP has always seen them as a sister organization with a similar history, added Trezza. Collaborating with the Village is an opportunity to link the two organizations and communities and promote the talent, craftsmanship, and creativity of Eastern North Philadelphia.

According to Trezza, all of the partners involved in the project have a history of promoting cultural preservation, craftwork and leadership within the identified communities. Both Norris Square Neighborhood Project and The Village of Arts and Humanities were started from grassroots initiatives meant to empower residents and will continue to apply those experiences and knowledge in this project.

In addition, Trezza says, ideally this will not be a one-off project but one that continues as community buy-in grows. Hecho En aims to lay the groundwork for an annual craft fair by creating the infrastructure and brand to ease in the continued efforts of the event.  An advisory council will be formed of stakeholders interested in supporting the event with project coordinators from NSNP and artists.

Another grantee, Taller Puertorriqueno, will use its Cultural Arts Center (slated to open in 2016) as an anchor to collect oral histories from fellow community members, acknowledge place-based memories by erecting artistic markers throughout the community, and create a map and tour of those places and stories in its Meditation on Memory: Visually Mapping Fairhill project. Youth in Taller’s arts programs will be trained as docents of this community cultural tour.

Taller is currently in the process of building its state-of-the-art symbol of pride with El Corazón Cultural Center.  According to Carmen Febo San Miguel, Taller’s executive director, the project is one of several strategies to develop the building as a gathering space, imbued with a deeper sense of belonging, community integration and permanence by integrating public work, in this case the map and markers, as a visual metaphor to display the accumulated stories of the people that define this neighborhood.

 “Much like community murals, these permanent installations, both within the new building and around the community, will ensure the stories will be accessible to the public,” she says.

For the project, Taller will join forces with Philadelphia Public History Truck and Temple Contemporary.

“We liked the goals of what Erin Bernard has for the History Truck and how she uses art to connect communities to their shared local histories,” says Rafael Damast, Taller’s curator and visual arts program manager, who saw Bernard’s exhibition at Little Berlin, Manufacturing Fire, and was very impressed.

“History, art, and community being the operative words here and used in combination is something that Taller knows quite a bit about when thinking about programing,” added Damast.  “So for us, [in] inviting Bernard to investigate our neighborhood we saw a possibility to follow up on old projects, e.g. Taller’s Batiendo La Olla (“Stirring the Pot,” an oral history project on the Puerto Rican community from the late 1970s) as well as document the changes happening now -- this is a fortuitous time now that Taller is constructing its new building. Temple Contemporary, just like Taller, has a strong commitment to working with the local community, and so we knew this would be a good fit.”

In addition, as Taller moves into its new building, the project will demonstrate how Taller is a gateway to the area that connects people to history, place, and community.

Learn more about the creative placemaking grantmaking program on LISC Philly’s website and see a full list of grantees in Eastern North Philadephia below.

The grantees in Eastern North Philadelphia:

South Kensington Community Partners, in partnership with Philadelphia Photo Arts Center and Spiral Q, will host a dinner with over 300 stakeholders in the middle of American Street and publish a neighborhood memory book inclusive of traditional recipes submitted by neighbors. A Mighty American Street Feast! Collectively Claiming American Street aims to be the inaugural annual event celebrating community strength along the American Street corridor.

Taller Puertorriqueño, using its Cultural Arts Center (slated to open in 2016) as an anchor, will join forces with Philadelphia Public History Truck and Temple Contemporary to collect oral histories from fellow community members, acknowledge place-based memories by erecting artistic markers throughout the community, and create a map and tour of those places and stories. Youth in Taller’s arts programs will be trained as docents of this community cultural tour.

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and artist Jennie Shanker are collaborating with Norris Homes Resident Council, Inc. to create a Memory Book with Norris residents, documenting the identity of the community prior to the Homes’ demolition. The team will also document its creative, popular education approach as a model to support other neighborhoods in transition.

Norris Square Neighborhood Project (NSNP)’s Hecho EN Project, led by Anne Harrison and Amber Art and Design, will promote creative enterprise and highlight local craft talent through workshops at NSNP and The Village of Arts and Humanities. Local artists will practice selling upcycled crafts at a new cooperative neighborhood craft market in Norris Square Park.

The Big Sandbox will engage parents and residents in creative ways of reclaiming and activating space on the school grounds at William McKinley Elementary, advancing the longer-term project to renovate the schoolyard and make the space safer and accessible to the community-at-large.