Last weekend the second action of Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge took place at 632 Jackson Street in South Philadelphia. The event activities brought up a number of interrelated issues that emerged over and over again in community meetings organized at the neighborhood hub during the last couple of weeks. In these conversations the committees formed in Action One, which focus on diverse social, spatial and economic aspects, converged giving priority to the lack of green, recreation and community spaces for the different community groups to meet and learn each other’s culture; the deficit of resources and interests to maintain a clean and safe environment; and the racial tensions among different community groups living side by side in this diverse neighborhood.

Action Two aimed to move from discussing issues to envisioning solutions by conceiving initiatives, campaigns and strategic occupations for the development of the neighborhood using local knowledge and assets. Philadelphia Theater of the Oppressed opened up the event with games, which included the creation of neighborhoods according to participants conditions, interests and desires. It later performed forum theater inciting participants to delve into issues related to neighborhood neglect and racial tensions, as well as to propose and act potential solutions.

Mifflin Square, one of the few public green spaces of the neighborhood that has been contested by different community groups, was the site collectively selected to showcase the proposed long-term neighborhood initiatives, celebrate local knowledge, and manifest the desire of ending up social divisions. A large scale map of the park was provided by Cohabitation Strategies to facilitate the conversation and planning of the following action. Mifflin Square is a symbolic space in the neighborhood that has been recently targeted for improvements by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

During the rest of the summer community members, artists and local experts will developed further the proposed initiatives at the neighborhood hub and get ready for Action Three, which will take place on September 19th.

Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge is a project by Cohabitation Strategies with The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s Restored Spaces Initiative. Curated by Lucía Sanromán. Project Manager Shari Hersh. Major support for Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. For more information and to get involved follow the project’s website.

Photo by Juan Pablo Pemberty
Illustration by Heidi Chisholm