· Imagining Solar Art at the Village of Arts and Humanities Philadelphia

Imagining Solar Art at the Village of Arts and Humanities Philadelphia

Photo by Katia McGuirk

Photo by Katia McGuirk

Thanks to the Village of Arts and Humanities for hosting a LAGI workshop today in North Philadelphia. The event was held in partnership with Temple University, and brought together a wonderful group of all ages to brainstorm ideas for bringing renewable energy infrastructure into this vibrant neighborhood.

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The day started off with an introduction to the history of the Village of Arts and Humanities by the Executive Director, Aviva Kapust. We were inspired by the rich tradition of community art with an infrastructural approach to beautifying public spaces. From the Village’s website:

More than 40 years ago, Arthur Hall erected the Black Humanitarian Center near the corner of 10th and Lehigh in North Central Philadelphia (now The Village’s main programming building). For Arthur Hall, creating space for people in the neighborhood to read, dance, sing and make music, was a crucial part of each resident learning and celebrating the community’s culture and heritage. Twenty years later, artist Lily Yeh continued growing spaces in the neighborhood, in the same spirit of communal care and compassion. For Lily, the beautification of physical space catalyzed positive mental and emotional shifts in the way that residents viewed their own lives and the health of their neighborhood. Using social art practice, both Arthur and Lily—the Village’s first artists in residence—in collaboration with Big Man, Jo Jo, H German Wilson, and so many other influential figures, encouraged people to believe in, and help build a more beautiful and just future for themselves and their families.

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With help from Jon Hopkins, Environmental Director and head of the PhillyEarth program, we explored the beautiful park spaces and building facades of the Village as a group, looking at opportunities for solar power generation. The group studied three potential sites and everyone eventually narrowed in on one south-facing wall of a building directly across from Ile Ife park that has the greatest solar potential.

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After learning about the amazing versatility of solar panels (did you know that they can come in almost any color and in custom shapes?) and inspired by a pop-up exhibition of LAGI artworks from past competitions, the workshop participants got busy with idea generating.

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The concepts that developed are rooted in the tradition of the neighborhood and carry forward key phrases such as “power resilience” and “angels watching over the community.” Any of the ideas put forward today could evolve into a public artwork for the Village that provides renewable energy to the community with integrated solar technology. More than that, the concepts presented can continue the rich tradition of the Village of Arts and Humanities supporting self expression and catalyzing positive change.

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The workshop followed a talk the day before at Temple University’s Architecture Building.

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A special thanks to Kathleen Grady and Sally Harrison at Temple University for planning and supporting this February’s LAGI events.

The program under which the workshop took place is part of Temple University’s “Seeing Stories: Visualizing Sustainable Citizenship” series, co-curated by Temple Contemporary, Temple University’s Office of Sustainability, and Temple University Libraries, along with faculty and graduate students from the Tyler School of Art, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Center for the Cinematic and Performing Arts.