The last action of the Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge took place at Mifflin Square last September in South Philadelphia. After the last committee meeting in the summer, the entire team entered a very productive operative phase. Working closely with curator Lucía Sanromán, CohStra curated the event, while Shari Hersh and the Restored Spaces team organized and managed every aspect of production and permits. Committee members and other partners provided specific contributions, ideas, and support. Each organization and individual involved was asked to contribute, and we had several conversations to define the most effective way to voice the programs and aspirations of each participant. The festival was the result of an alliance of organizations and individuals—our partners—who chose Mifflin Square both as a concrete possibility for the re-appropriation of a shared space and as a symbolic gesture of the reunion of diverse cultures and forms of knowledge. The event was called Mifflin Square Alliance Festival to emphasize a collective imaginative endeavor for attaining social cohesion in a neighborhood that is traditionally torn by racial divisions and in a space known for being contentious. All the partners whom we directly involved responded by suggesting contributions to the program and involving their own networks in the event. Word of the festival spread quickly in the neighborhood, and more people and organizations who hadn’t taken part in the Committee Meetings got involved.

The idea of organizing a public event to close a phase of Cohabitation Strategies’ work in South Philly was conceived as an opportunity to test the collaborations that were initiated during the Committee Meetings and that needed a tangible outcome to solidify and to be challenged. None of the organizations that have been involved, neither we nor the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, could ever have reached such a socially and racially diverse group of people alone. Together, though, we achieved something beyond our individual limits, and more importantly, we had the chance to work closely with people and organizations with great qualities and potential. For more information about the event click here.

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 Steve Weinik
Illustration by Heidi Chisholm