Awardee: Anna Drozdowski

Primary Artistic Medium: Multidisciplinary


In 2005 I told a friend that I’d gotten a job in Philadelphia and they said “Why would you do that? Philly is a place that people leave, not move to.” Immediately my decision was justified – I love an underdog city, and I love a place in flux. The past fifteen years of making my life, work and home in this city continue to re-affirm my choice that it is a vital and vibrant place, full of it’s share of problems and opportunities.

I want to investigate this continued change from “the old Philly” which people lament as development rushes ever forward, buoyed by the streams of economic support and the housing markets capacity to affect radical and lightning quick change. Inspired by my recent work influenced by Philly’s history of redlining, and a foundational dance education I want to focus on the ground beneath our feet – on real estate, on the homes where we sleep at night and the communities that we keep.

Can we coordinate a way for blocks to come together with one another to understand how things have changed across time? Who lived where, and when, and what changes have come? I am deeply inspired by the FOLDED MAP PROJECT in Chicago, which takes individual addresses and matches two buildings who share a numeric but distant geographic relationship across that cities North/South axis.

Can we match two full city blocks together, for the purposes of engagement and understanding? What if my block of 1600 South 9th Street, near Bok, came together with the community at 1600 North 9th Street near Temple? What kinds of conversations would we have about how our streets have changed and developed? Would the person living in a brand new on Moyamensing be willing to talk about their experience with someone who grew up on Point Breeze Ave? Would they be more willing if there was a barbeque? If an artist on their block organized a craft table or a brass band for the occasion?

This is a nascent project idea about getting to know your immediate neighbors, and also in getting to know another block on the other side of the city with a different history, different pressures, and different people who have come and gone. In some cases the houses and humans have remained the same. In some there has been tremendous physical transformation. On every block of our city there are artists and creative people, who will shape the course of this project in meeting and making meaning from the land we stand on – once Lenape, now paved over with generations of change.

Depending on who you talk to, I am either a newcomer or a Philadelphian – and this commitment to the pavement where I pay my taxes inspires me to know about more neighborhoods than those I frequent. It is COVID, so we’ll need to be creative and cautious, but nothing replaces convening in person and learning about another person.