Keeping art alive in South Philadelphia is a major initiative for the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA), University of the Arts and PECO, who has made a donation of $250,000 to support the development of public art.
On April 17 three organizations held an event at the Diversified Community Services (DCS) Dixon House located in South Philadelphia for “Commotion,” a public art festival.
“There are workshops for parents, children and seniors,” said Benjamin Armstrong, PECO senior communications specialist. “We are making sure the community involvement hits all areas of the community.”
The festival began in January and is a six-month-long series of hands-on community art workshops focusing on visual art, sculpture, dance, drama and music in various neighborhoods south of South Street, including Grays Ferry and Point Breeze.
This initiative was built off the PRA’s 53-year-old Percent for Art Program that required developers to commission art as part of the development process.
The Clothespin by Claes Oldenburg at 15th and Market St. and Wave Forms by Dennis Oppenheim at 34th and Chestnut St. are two examples of public art that derived from the Percent for Art Program.
With the development of “Commotion,” South Philadelphia community members have the opportunity to partake in public art projects and learn art education.
PECO’s contribution went towards the funding for the workshop and the development of an undergraduate class at the University of the Arts that will focus on history and the impact of art in local communities.
At the event, organization representatives and community members joined as artist Jeb Lewis led a demonstration workshop with children from Stephen Girard Elementary School.
In conclusion of the six-month workshop series, the organizers will host a community event in June to display the artwork and other finalized projects from these workshops.
“We are really excited to see the results in June when we have this community event,” Armstrong said.
The workshops are free and will be held at various venues around the city. Local artists lead many of the workshops.
Christina Kerrigan, PECO senior sponsorship and development specialist, felt PECO made a good decision in investing in these programs.
“This was a risk for us as well as University of Arts,” she said. “Nothing like this has been done before especially of this kind — we were excited that UARTS embraced this.”
With the idea to connect with people of all ages in the South Philadelphia community, the University of the Arts, PRA and PECO hopes these workshops will provide an outlet for art expression.
“We feel this is a wonderful way to engage the community and provide art education to various residents and seniors of South and Point Breeze,” Armstrong said.