This is an Arts & Culture Program Post

Back to the Arts & Culture Program website

Arts and Culture

A year of arts and culture in Philly’s parks

by Melissa Romero and Kevin Roche on January 8, 2019

2018 was a big year for arts and culture in Philadelphia’s parks. From the first-ever youth photography camp in Strawberry Mansion to the 10th annual West Park Arts Fest, there were plenty of events and programs that revealed the power of arts and culture to bring communities together in public spaces. None of this would have been possible without a three-year Community Development Investments grant from ArtPlace America.

Here are eight arts and culture highlights of 2018:

The 1st artist residency at Hatfield House

Hatfield House, a vacant historic property at the corner of Girard Avenue and 33rd Street, was activated in 2018 as a venue for events, exhibitions and performances and most importantly as an accessible space for the surrounding community. Through a Community Catalyst artist residency supported by ArtPlace America, Amber Art & Design (the artists in residence), used Hatfield House as a home base to engage with residents and leaders of Strawberry Mansion and hosted monthly events to showcase neighborhood arts, facilitate discussion, and gather ideas – events that included dance parties, home repair workshops and free haircuts on the porch.

Ep. 2 – Community Catalyst Residency_Amber Art and Design from Fairmount Park Conservancy on Vimeo. Video by MING Media.

Mapping Strawberry Mansion’s history through playing cards

One of the goals of the artist residency at Hatfield House was to collect stories from long-time residents of Strawberry Mansion so that future generations could know and share the legacy of the community.  This work, known as “cultural asset mapping,” resulted in the creation of a deck of Strawberry Mansion-themed playing cards, featuring cultural institutions, places, and people who are iconic to the neighborhood.

To create this cultural assets tool, we collaborated with Amber Art & Design, Beth Uzwiak of Ethnologica, and community members who generously shared stories and memories about their neighborhood.

Read more about the Strawberry Mansion playing cards here

Ep.1 – Strawberry Mansion Today from Fairmount Park Conservancy on Vimeo. Video by MING Media.

Capturing the neighborhood through the lens of Strawberry Mansion youth

This summer, 11 students spent six weeks exploring Fairmount Park and Strawberry Mansion, cameras in hand snapping away at their surroundings. They were a part of My Park, My Neighborhood, a new program that offered local youth a chance to learn digital photography and storytelling techniques while exploring the nature and history of the park and their neighborhood. My Park, My Neighborhood was developed by Fairmount Park Conservancy in partnership with the Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center, the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center, and the East Park Revitalization Alliance.

The program culminated with a student photo exhibition at the Hatfield House.

Read more about the Youth Photography Camp here.


Reimagining Mander Playground and Rec Center 

In October 2018, the Conservancy in partnership with Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation (CDC) launched the planning process with Strawberry Mansion residents for the future of Mander Playground and Recreation Center and its connections to the Boxers’ Trail, Randolph Creek, and the Schuylkill River in East Fairmount Park.

The design and engagement process, which included two community events in 2018, will lead to a comprehensive, phased plan for future improvements at Mander Playground and selected areas of East Fairmount Park in 2019.

Read more about the community engagement process here.

Ep.4 – The Lost and Found Story of Joseph E. Mander from Fairmount Park Conservancy on Vimeo. Video by MING Media.

Fringe in LOVE Park

With the reopening of one of Philly’s most iconic public spaces, the Conservancy sought to make LOVE Park accessible and inclusive–a truly public space for our citizens. One effort brought arts and culture programming to LOVE Park, including the first-ever series of site-specific free performances during the FringeArts Festival in September, featuring Chichi Chip (an ode to the Gnarly), An Unofficial, Unauthorized Tour of LOVE Park, and Same Picture Different Poses.


Performers dancing in LOVE Park
Chichi Chip (an ode to the Gnarly) by Philly Kerplop. Photo by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

The biggest West Park Arts Fest ever

West Park Arts Fest returned for the 11th year to West Fairmount Park, celebrating its largest footprint to date along Concourse Avenue and in the newly opened Phase 1 of the Centennial Commons. This year, the Conservancy partnered with West Park Cultural Center and, for the first time, Mural Arts Philadelphia, to bring the free arts festival back to the park. Three commissioned artists also created site-specific works inspired by the area’s Centennial history and cultural identity. Their artwork was featured in various locations throughout the festival, in addition to art vendors and dance and musical performances. Get to know the three artists here.


Photos by Albert Yee

Stretching The Oval+ down the Parkway

In addition to an expanded main space at Eakins Oval, where immersive installations and the biggest structures yet animated the 56,000 square foot ground mural, a portion of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was closed to cars – for the first time ever in the history of The Oval. This offered pedestrians and cyclists a way to enjoy the Parkway free of vehicles for the duration of the installation. From 21st Street to Art Museum Drive, pedestrians were able to enjoy The Canopy at the Barnes, as well as a garden bar at the Rodin Museum before making their way to Eakins Oval. The response was incredibly positive – more than 120,000 people from across Philadelphia and around the world visited The Oval+ over six weeks, and our opening night was by far the busiest ever.


Photos by Albert Yee

Open House at Hatfield House

The Conservancy celebrated the ArtPlace CDI program and three years of partnerships with artists and communities with an open house at the Hatfield House. The rooms of the house were filled with art, photographs, and exhibitions featuring the projects of the past three years, while partners and artists returned to help represent the work. Lyz Crane from ArtPlace America, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, and the Conservancy’s own Jamie Gauthier made remarks on the power of arts and culture to make Philadelphia’s parks stronger and more equitable. Attendees also enjoyed live jazz curated by the Philadelphia Jazz Project, food and drinks, and the premiere of MING Media’s short film The Lost & Found Story of Joseph E. Mander.


Photos by Albert Yee

What’s in store for 2019?

The ArtPlace grant came to a close in 2018, but the Conservancy’s goals to bring arts and culture into all of our work continues. Thanks to a $75,000 grant from Knight Foundation, Fairmount Park Conservancy will be able to continue making Hatfield House a cultural hub for community-driven programming in the new year.

Also in 2019, you’ll be able to experience Fairmount Park like never before when In Motion, In Place: Trisha Brown Dance Company comes to Philadelphia in fall 2019! The Conservancy received a $300,000 grant from Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in 2018, which will bring three free performances to the rooftops of Logan Square, the reservoir at the Discovery Center, and the lawn at Mount Pleasant Mansion. Learn more about that project here.