Awardee: Kaitlin Pomerantz and Sean O’Rourke
Primary Artistic Medium: Landscape treatment and social engagement public art project.
Kaitlin Pomerantz (artist) and Sean O’Rourke (Architect and Community Liaison)
Community organization liaison: South of South Street Neighborhood Association (SOSNA)
Collaborating artists: TBD
This grant offers an opportunity to redirect public attention in a powerful way, at a crucial community nexus: Grey’s Ferry Plaza.
The Greys Ferry Plaza, a public space at the intersection of 23rd Street, South Street, and Grays Ferry Avenue, is geographically situated in the heart of several different neighborhoods, each with their own history, sociographies, and ever changing demographics: Filter Square, South of South Street, Naval Square gated community, 30th Ward, Southwest Rittenhouse Square, and a short commercial spur of South Street. The area boasts historic ties to legendary figures including W.E.B. DuBois, Marion Anderson, and the Calder Family, and serves as the locus of the Odunde Festival.
This proposal suggests an art intervention in the Plaza that can address the opportunity to physically improve the Plaza and celebrate the history of its surrounding neighborhoods. Inviting public and socially-engaged artist Kaitlin Pomerantz to act as the project’s lead visioning artist, in collaboration with architect and community liaison Sean O’Rourke, interventions would include: murals or ground treatments, new furniture, additional horticultural elements, or other as-yet-to-be-imagined conceptual designs exploring the site’s history and current use. Through Kaitlin’s guidance, the planning, development and execution of the art treatment would involve collaboration with other relevant artists and local cultural leaders, as well as engagement with neighborhood residents through public workshops, on-site interviews, historical research, and on-line engagement.
Some background on the site reveals why it is sorely in need of this attention. Six years ago, South of South Street Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) was allowed by the Philadelphia Streets Department (PSD) to temporarily close an underutilized section of Grays Ferry Avenue to create the Triangle Plaza. SOSNA is attempting to work with PSD to make the existing plaza permanent in association with other nearby street improvements. These street improvements will take years to implement, and there is presently no funding for it. Consequently, there is no guarantee that it will occur, or that the public plaza will be thoughtfully re-designed. In the meantime, the Triangle Plaza is temporary, with a 3-year-old painted design on the street surface, movable chairs, tables, and planters, a jury-rigged horse trough turned into a fountain, two forty year old cherry trees, and a pollinator garden. Its existing conditions fall far short of a well-designed public realm.
SOSNA understands the importance of this place to the community and the city. As a ‘verge’, it does not belong to any one neighborhood but rests between them. SOSNA recognizes that this Plaza acts as a gathering place for residents of these diverse surrounding neighborhoods. It has the opportunity to provide a public realm that could create social capital through well-designed, social infrastructure that nurtures shared values and trust through place making.
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