On August 6, 2011, Art Sphere Inc. organized a second Grays Ferry Neighborhood Cleanup and Mural painting event with the help of neighbors, volunteers, and city sanitation agencies.
This project was overwhelming for neighbors and local business owners, who tried contacting groups and delinquent neighbors for assistance over the years, and felt hopeless and ignored. Many parents feared for their kids safety because they were unable to walk on the sidewalk.
Knowing we had group support and expertise helped make the obstacles of trash, graffiti and overgrowth seem a lot more manageable, and we were able to make the abandoned trash filled and graffitied corner lot at Latona and 32nd Street into a “Peace Park.”
With the help of four creative volunteers from PFF, we painted abandoned tires to create recycled planters to border the park. Beautifying the wall with a “named” mural, the Indigenous Peoples in the Americas medicine wheel, which celebrates all peoples’ healing, directions, and ages, and peace and universal life spiral symbols establishes the lot as “Peace Park”. Clearing the area of its past in drug dealing and homelessness and replacing it with safe outdoor green space provides a message of hope to the youth living on this block.
Additionally, neighbors removed several old trees which could have damaged homes and pedestrians. Clearing out ragweed, plants associated with allergies and asthma, and a bad pond where stagnant water was breeding swarms of mosquitoes, was another positive outcome which improved the quality of life for neighbors and children of Grays Ferry.
The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services assisted us by bringing in teams of people and equipment to remove several truckloads of trash, including human feces, drug needles and paraphernalia, and homeless bedding, as well as to cut back an incredible amount of overgrowth of plants and trees that blocked the sidewalks from Grays Ferry to Wharton Street. Also, by Art Sphere’s invitation, the city cleared another abandoned, overgrown and trash filled lot across from “Peace Park” on 32nd Street, removed graffiti on one brick building, and covered graffiti on the corner fencing the south side of Grays Ferry from 32nd.
I am very happy to share our success. Please feel free to assist the spread of positive change in Philadelphia by sharing Art Sphere’s work and our praise of local neighborhoods, city leadership, programs, and community heroes on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.
We are excited to promote the cleanup and creativity spreading work within Grays Ferry with other neighbors from nearby blocks by planning our next “Reed Street” mural project. BME Challenge “Be Me” (celebrating African American men who are active in the community) also came out to join us and made video interviews with our hero Leonard, who also provided tools and manpower on the previous Saturday.
Erica, dedicated Grays Ferry neighbor and future block captain, is planning future cleanups and neighborhood activities. Grays Ferry neighbor and Art Sphere board member Priscilla made a great team! We three succeeded in making the needs a neighborhood had just weeks ago into goals and then a new reality by sharing a dream with others. Priscilla, who invited Philly Food Forests to participate for several hours this Saturday with hopes that they will plant a garden, also plans to possibly get Cultural Education and Events members of the Lenape Nation to come out to participate in a fellowship ceremony. Her inspiring pictures of our event are posted here:
Thank you all for supporting neighbors and grassroots art programs that work to make a meaningful impact on this great city.