Awardee: Jungwoong Kim

Primary Artistic Medium: Multidisciplinary


Coronavirus has transformed the ways that families/communities mourn and pay tribute to lost loved ones, neighbors, and community mainstays. Restrictions on gatherings have precluded funerals and memorial rituals/traditions as we know them, where family, neighbors, friends, work colleagues come together, sometimes over multiple days, to offer memories, share food and drink, give comforting embraces, and talk about what the decedent meant to those left behind. This idea of what community engagement looks like acknowledges the impact of COVID on memorial customs, and honors the role that funerals and other memorial practices play in sustaining community connections and expressing community identity, culture and values.

This community engagement idea involves up to 4 Philadelphia neighborhoods where community members have died within the previous year, from COVID or other causes. An organization/civic entity within each neighborhood would be selected to serve as a hub for community engagement activities——the organization/entity might be a school, community center, senior center, church, library, community-based arts organization, etc. Each hub would manage/facilitate a constructed process (e.g. story circles) for bringing community members together (live or virtually) to nominate candidates and select one recently-departed ancestor to be honored. Communities could also choose to honor more than one, or a collective of ancestors. The process would focus on identifying the values that are important to the neighborhood and how the nominees, and the ancestor(s) selected for tribute, represent those values. Community artists would be responsible for guiding the process at the participating neighborhood hubs.

For each person/group to be honored, there would be an archiving process to collect stories, photos, objects, and other artifacts representing the ancestor’s significance to that neighborhood. A multi-disciplinary team of 2-4 artists, that might include musicians, spoken word artists, text artists, movement artists, videographers, material artists, curators, or theater artists, will work to develop an appropriate and distinctive memorial for each neighborhood ancestor or ancestral group. The memorial might be in the form of song/poetry, photography/video, a performance piece, processional/parade, or some combination of genres. Upon completion of the memorials, there will be a presentation and celebration (live or virtual) for each neighborhood, or perhaps a combined presentation for all of the neighborhoods involved in the project. Community selection and archiving processes and memorial presentations in each neighborhood would be thoroughly documented, and the overarching process shared with local residents through video presentations, exhibitions, light box displays, or other means.

This idea’s 4 key community engagement aspects:

  • Gathering community members to share remembrances about recently-departed ancestors, and talk about how those people represented important community identities, cultures and values;
  • Collecting community stories, remembrances, and memorabilia that represent an ancestor’s significance to their community/neighborhood; gathering source material for distinctive arts-based memorials;
  • Presentation/celebration assembling members of the neighborhoods to honor their chosen ancestor(s) and acknowledge their importance to neighborhood identity, culture, and values.
  • A public exhibition/display that recounts the community-engaged process.