Philadelphia, PA (population 1.5 million) is home to the Village of Arts and Humanities, which grew out of the artistic and activist work of choreographer Arthur Hall and visual artist Lily Yeh. The Village has inaugurated an artist residency program, in which artists live and work in three row homes, bringing visibility to artists as neighbors and highlighting the artistic and creative processes (in addition to the products or commodities artists produce). The five-month residencies allow for both formal and informal interactions among artists and other residents, and each residency culminates in the execution of a transformative project that is rooted equally in artistic practice and community. The Village has requested support to extend these residencies beyond the pilot stage.
Check out SPACES Cycle One Projects -- Playback Musik with King Britt, Village Table with Amber Art + Design, and People's Paper Co-op with Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist
Cycle One Projects
VILLAGE TABLE: Check out the video.
The Amber Art and Design team explored the feasibility of creating an alternative currency in the neighborhood in an effort to eliminate barriers to civic engagement and increase access to healthy foods, recipes and nutritional information. To do so, they designed “Village Table,” a sit-down, four-course dining experience in The Village’s Meditation Park, thereby activating this under-utilized art park at The Village. There they served local recipes collected from people in the neighborhood. Community members earned VIP tickets to the meal by volunteering to build tables and other furniture to outfit the open space, or by contributing a personal recipe to a neighborhood recipe collection.
This exchange of time, energy, skills and institutional knowledge kicked off a sequence of community engagement opportunities: (1) all stories and recipes collected via recipe card forms were reviewed and catalogued, and questions included on the cards were investigated for areas of improvement—by using a creative approach to data collection, responses increased 85% above all neighborhood surveys distributed through tradition community development initiatives; (2) all contributors were invited to a tasting dinner where a visiting nutritionist from The Food Trust collaborated with them to healthily “remix” their recipes while also pointing them to city-wide resources for health related issues and interests; (3) contributors were invited to help harvest ingredients for the meal in The Village’s PhillyEarth Demonstration Farm and to work with Common Market, a local produce wholesaler, to order surplus ingredients; and, (4) were invited to the culminating four-course meal where selected recipes were served, and the chefs of those meals profiled in the menu.
Over the course of the summer, the team created four Village Tables, held seven tasting dinners and six community barbeques, and served home-cooked food to over 460 community members. Their events featured two jazz quartets, an emcee and a Brazilian drumming group, performing for the first time in the neighborhood. Their artists’ residence, 2512 North Alder Street, is now outfitted as a full community kitchen facility, currently being used by our youth program to teach culinary arts. In Phase 2 of The Village Table, one of the neighborhood artists is working at The Village’s storefront on Germantown Avenue to sell affordable soup, bread, and coffee, and to continue to collect local recipes for a Village cookbook.
PLAYBACK MUSIK: Check out the video.
King Britt, internationally renowned, Philly-based music producer, DJ and composer, explored amplifying the positive voice of the neighborhood by designing and launching a community-based record label and live radio show at The Village. King was joined by five talented neighborhood artists, each with years of musical experience but little or no time in a professional recording studio and little experience with community activism (three young individuals enrolled in the Village’s art education programs, and two men from the neighborhood.) King created a full recording studio in his artist residence, soliciting discounts or donations from electronics companies like Ableton and Push to help support the project. The neighborhood artists mastered using the equipment while designing and producing a full-length album featuring voices from the neighborhood. They named their label Playback Musik and dedicated it to “fearless experimentation and community pride.” To activate public space, the team created ‘The Stoop,’ a weekly outdoor listening party at the artist residence that fostered community connections by inviting attendees and passersby to share songs meaningful to them and to respond, musically, to various social issue presented to them. In the six Stoops held before cold weather arrived, they hosted over 120 neighbors for music and conversation. Sessions are recorded and posted online as an Internet radio show. The team debuted their album on WKDU, a local radio show, and then at a live concert and film exclusive free screening of “Time is Illmatic,” the award-winning Nas documentary, in North Philadelphia, attended by 150 music lovers from both our community and around the city. They have distributed 500 CDs throughout the neighborhood and at public events. In Phase 2 of Playback Musik, the team continues in residence at the studio, producing local artists for a second album and working up to becoming a more robust and efficient community resource. ‘The Stoop’ will continue in Spring of 2015 at the new Village storefront on Germantown Ave and is investigating its future development as an ititiative of the youth Music Production program.
PEOPLE’S PAPER CO-OP:
Mark Strandquist and Courtney Bowles worked with four neighborhood artists to create The People’s Paper Co-op, an advocacy and social entrepreneurship project seeking to transform the universal perception that a criminal record permanently prevents an individual's upward mobility. The Co-op trains neighborhood artists and extended audiences in in the art of paper-making using discarded materials. The team collaborated with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE), to artistically transform the sterile environment of free, criminal record expungment clinics around the city, and to work with attendees to shred and pulp their criminal records and turn them into fresh paper. The resulting pages are continually being sewn together to create a giant paper quilt, an art piece emphasizing the collective impact of expungement. The co-op has a thriving small business creating and selling handmade recycled paper books and journals online at craft fairs; the proceeds help to fund the program itself and are dedicated to purchasing capacity-building items for the co-op. Neighborhood artists are being trained as teaching artists, event organizers, and public speakers are traveling to organizations and schools around the city to talk about the impact of the broken criminal justice system. By bringing PLSE to our community, the co-op has helped 90 community members expunge their criminal records, and has worked with over 500 people in Philadelphia to cerate a reverse mugshot from shredded records. They have sold over $6500 of merchandise and have created a partnership with Whole Foods to continue to sell their products. The People’s Paper Co-op is entering a year-long incubation period as a formal program of The Village of Arts and Humanities. Mark and Courtney will continue to work with the team as they train in advocacy and organizing techniques, continue their work at expungement clinics around the city, develop their creative business, and hold regular events in the SPACES Storefront.
See below for recent updates, press, and events from this project