Artist collective Amber Art & Design experienced a 1-year community catalyst residency in East Fairmount Park, working out of the historic Hatfield House at 33rd and Girard and utilizing it as a community, event, exhibition, and performance space.

Under the framework of this residency, the first of its kind in Fairmount Park, Fairmount Park Conservancy partnered with Amber Art & Design to embark on a long-term community initiative in the neighborhood of Strawberry Mansion, which borders East Fairmount Park along the 33rd St. corridor.

Using the Hatfield House as a primary base of operations and events, Amber Art & Design founders and artists Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez led a multi-layered process of cultural asset mapping, social engagement, and community building with residents and leaders of Strawberry Mansion. This process informed the identification of potential investments in the park and neighborhood, and help shape the development of a gateway at Mander Recreation Center – ensuring that these future projects are grounded in community conversations and priorities.

Throughout 2018, Amber Art & Design, in collaboration with the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and a number of creative and community partners, hosted monthly community events to showcase neighborhood arts, facilitate discussion, and gather ideas. In Amber’s own words:

“As artists and activists we are initiating a community-based process in partnership with the Fairmount Park Conservancy (FPC) to gather neighborhood input on the future of this neighborhood gem and surrounding park grounds.  Over the next year we will be hosting monthly community events to showcase neighborhood arts, host discussion, and gather ideas…We have spent the past two years in conversation and facilitation with FPC, during which community coalitions of supporting organizations and neighbor involvement were created and sustained.”

Read about Amber Art’s December event at the Hatfield House here.

About Amber Art & Design

Keir Johnston studied fine art at California State University at Northridge, and painted his first mural at the age of 18. He found the immense standing of the social impact and the profound community involvement an ideal way to express creative ideals to a broader reaching audience. Becoming an advocate on many social issues and community groups, he has worked collaboratively in the production of murals with life inmates at state penitentiaries, elderly, college students, youth in detention centers, elementary and high school students, mentally and physically disabled and the general public through teaching workshops.

Ernel Martinez was born in the small country Belize, and was raised in South Central Los Angeles and Detroit. His introduction to art was through the underground world of graffiti. He studied art at Pratt Institute; attained his BFA from the Kutztown University; and in 2004 he received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. Since then, Ernel has worked with myriad partners on producing murals and public art in Philadelphia and around the U.S.

Keir and Ernel have collaborated on many recent social practice projects around the United States. They regularly advise on and facilitate art and culture-driven processes between institutions and communities, and participated in national conversations around art, culture, and ethical redevelopment (specifically with Chicago’s PlaceLAB). Last year they worked with the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a city-wide performance for summer 2017 as part of Jeanne van Heeswijk’s PHL Assembled, which activated various parts of the city around Economic Sovereignty, Sanctuary, and Reconstructions. In addition, they are working with the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York, on a thorough community process for public art-making. They are committed to pushing the boundaries of public art, community practice, and community engagement in visual, performance-based, and event-based work.

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