By Ian Litwin
Partnering with the Frankford Community Development Corporation, Philadelphia Sculptors, and the Globe Development Group, on April 19th, we opened the Destination Frankford Gallery in long-vacant building just steps from the Margaret-Orthodox Market-Frankford El station. The gallery is home to RECLAIM | REDISCOVER | REANIMATE, a series of art exhibitions that will run Saturdays from April 19 through July 26, 2014.
In RECLAIM, Philadelphia’s Dumpster Divers bring a new awareness to the concept of “upcycling” to Frankford as they transform discarded materials into creative new art forms. Philadelphia’s Dumpster Divers are well known for seeing the possibilities in trash and other under-utilized resources.
REDISCOVER, the second pop-up exhibition at the Destination Frankford Gallery, includes the works of six local photographers who use their cameras to explore Philadelphia’s urban terrain, concentrating on less visited locations and offering new perspectives of familiar imagery.
In REANIMATE, members of Philadelphia Sculptors will address the concept of bringing new life back to a place, person, or community.
The opening event far exceeded our expectations. More than 200 people experienced the dynamic art from Philadelphia's Dumpster Divers, and the event enlivened an entire city block with food trucks and live music. The success of this event is reshaping the way we think about place making in Frankford.
Our next event will be in May 24th as we open REDISCOVER with more live music, food, and exciting activities for both children and adults. Everyone who comes out will have his or her picture taken in front of a Destination Frankford “step and repeat” banner by our professional photographer. These images will be featured on our website and social media accounts.
Due to the work of the Frankford Community Development Corporation and the Community Design Collaborative, the biggest challenge we ran into over the past three months is quickly becoming the best opportunity for us to leave a lasting impression in Frankford. Due to circumstances out of our control, we had no choice but to rethink the Gateway Sculpture project we previously proposed for Womrath Park.
We propose to use the money originally intended for the design, fabrication, and installation of the sculpture to install a pop-up park adjacent to the Destination Frankford Gallery.
The Frankford CDC, under new leadership, is now a much stronger organization than when the PCPC originally applied for the ArtPlace grant. Under the leadership of Kimberly Washington, the Frankford CDC has received three design grants from the Community Design Collaborative to build off the success of the Destination Frankford Gallery. One of these grants is to design a dynamic, arts-focused pop-up park next-door to the Destination Frankford Gallery. The design, intended to last 2-3 years, will incorporate reused materials, a stage for performances, and two large-scale murals to be painted by the Mural Arts Program. One of the other Community Design Collaborative Grants will be a permanent park design informed by the real-world usage and performance of the pop-up park.
We believe that, in the end, this is a more impactful use of our ArtPlace grant funds. One of our goals is to leverage the grant in order to strengthen the Frankford CDC so that the projects we start can continue after our grant runs out. This is happening at a much quicker pace than we anticipated. The appointment of Kimberly Washington as Executive Director has transformed the Frankford CDC into a powerful agent for change in Frankford. In less than one year, the CDC has increased its budget by more than $50,000, renovated two city-owned parks, and meticulously planned the Destination Frankford Gallery opening celebration.
One of our goals with this project is to plan / design / implement projects that can live on after the grant is over. To that end, we are setting things up so that the Frankford CDC can continue what we have started. For example, the CDC will program and maintain the pop-up park.
To further the goal of strengthening the CDC, we plan to redesign the Destination Frankford website to act as a marketing tool for the Frankford CDC. In addition, we are only funding phase 1 of our neighborhood signage program with the intention of having the CDC fund raise for the additional phases. The CDC will manage the signage maintenance fund.
The big question in all of this is one of continuity. The Frankford CDC, in the past has gone through multiple board and leadership changes that have severely limited its ability to become an effective agent of change. How can we (the Philadelphia City Planning Commission / Destination Frankford) ensure that what we leave behind will continue despite any potential changes in the leadership or structure of the Frankford CDC?