A Beautiful Day in this Neighborhood!

neighborhoodToday was one of those picture perfect days to mural paint. A sunny day with just enough clouds not get sunburned and a cool breeze. I returned home not too tired, dehydrated or sweaty – its time to reflect on a series of special days these last few weeks at Lederer Pool in Fishtown.

We accomplished so much covering chipped walls and graffiti that the city worker who painted it last (over ten years ago) exclaimed he was highly impressed. Budget cutbacks make it so pool doesn’t open until June 29 and closes in July. Everyone walking by seems to ask and sigh – can’t wait until the pool opens!

There are so many stories to share people walk up and talk – art is so totally humanizing of even this forsaken stretch of treeless cement. Art is disarming and makes people friendly. Folks want to share – they recite poems they have written, tell me about their own artwork, their childhoods, their life’s turning points and their observations of the mural.

Mike, a vet and regular helper, came by to lend a hand and roll some green. He cheered us on and but soon quit – he said it was harder work than it looked. He much rather carry paint back and forth from our Rec Center storage closet. Not easy painting on brick with missing mortar!

A father and little girl came back to see if we added their suggestions and played seek and find looking for their butterfly and squirrel.

A retired parent volunteer (and newbie having only living in Fishtown 10 years) asked if we could add pollinators as they have such a vital role in elementary school curriculum and nature. She plans to connect other artists with this project. Flowers to be added to areas with newest painted guest insects!

A long time Fishtowner celebrating his 58th birthday and pool neighbor wanted “the Swimmo” painted on our sign. He gave the history  of the local pools and shared (our message, too!) that when he was a kid there were these amazing recreation centers  that kids flocked to with wonderful mentors who really cared which kept children like himself out of trouble. One gave him his first book that made him an avid reader as he recited pages from the Breakfast Club by Kurt Vonnegut. And I thought I was a Kurt Vonnegut fan!

Later the local gang threw shadows, curses and soda cans but were immediately quelled when asked for feedback on the waterfalls and their contribution. They were unanimous  in asking for wolves. Later one evening, when Peter was finishing painting the other side, they jumped the fence to take their pictures with the wolves.  A good sign one wall won’t get graffitied and the best kind of feedback!

One older girl made her father detour and stop his car at the site to show him our latest progress. He couldn’t believe it after all these years. She was ecstatic and announced that that swimming was her favorite thing to do (butterfly was her strongest stroke she likes to swim like a mermaid). her father explained she had been coming here for five years and this was her favorite place. They were thrilled with the changes … this was going to be the best summer ever because the pool area was finally fixed up and now so beautiful.

Jon another Vet and artist shares he likes what we are doing and that making art and looking at art is relaxing but hard work. Have to agree there – arms and hands cramp from beating paint into wall grooves and legs feel wobbly from squatting down to paint all those low places on each wall.

Ms. Yim’s art students from Penn Treaty Middle School to make contributions Friday – looking forward to this. Press release sent to local paper to invite ideas for fish to be painted in water, volunteer match and Phila serve, Fishtown Neighbors Association and NKCDC emailed invites. Love to see who will show up and how this dilapidated public pool will be transformed into a proper Swimming hole by the end of the 2013 year.

This is our mission  – to make the public places where childhood memories are made inspiring and beautiful.

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