Hummingbird Summersweet. Christmas and Southern Wood Fern. Dwarf Fetterbush. The bark of Sycamore trees and blooms of Oakleaf Hydrangea. These are the natural ornaments of Bella Vista’s Palumbo Park on Catherine Street. Re-opened after a thorough refurbishment led by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, this well-used community park features an expanded and ADA-accessible entrance, new seating and ground surfacing, and new and expanded plantings.
Situated mid-block next to the Fleisher Art Memorial, Palumbo is a well-used neighborhood park that has inspired a “friends” organization to partner with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to plant seasonal flowers, and offer programming from time to time.
With the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s participation in ArtPlace America’s Community Development Investments Program, we had the opportunity to bring the creativity of artists to the work we do in Philadelphia’s city parks. So Palumbo Park presented us with a small project to test out some big ideas.
At Palumbo Park, we asked “How could an attractive piece of art shield a cluttered construction site from neighbors and also provide information about what was happening to the park?” Such a gesture might acknowledge how important the park is to the community. And further, that its stewards care about that relationship to infuse each aspect of the park’s refurbishment with care and consideration.
Artist Christine Blair, a teacher at Fleisher Art Memorial, was commissioned to design a fence wrap to offer visual relief and to communicate the story of the reconstruction. She took cues from the park’s horticulture. “My inspiration for the imagery that I created for the wrap was both the old and new plantings of the park. My design was also informed by the fact that the banner is utilitarian in its nature to temporarily provide beauty while concealing the renovation work and I liked the idea of continuing the utilitarian purpose of the banner and I designed it specifically so that it could be repurposed for tote bags and aprons for the Friends of Palumbo Park. In creating the piece, I made a background pattern using my photographs of the bark of the London Planes that are in the park and on Catharine Street. I made a repeat pattern over the bark including the future plantings for Palumbo Park and the existing Dogwood blooms.
Christine continues: “I have been a regular user of Palumbo Park for almost twenty-three years when I first started teaching at Fleisher Art Memorial. Over the years I have frequently sat in Palumbo Park before it is time to teach my evening courses. The park has provided the perfect setting to sit quietly while having a snack or sometimes to just read. I am excited to see the new renovations and all these beautiful plantings that I have depicted in my artwork.”
Palumbo Park reopened in Fall 2016 to much acclaim and we were thrilled to play a small part in welcoming its rebirth through Christine’s thoughtful contribution.