Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge Neighborhood Convening
About the Project
Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge was a pilot project which transformed transformed a vacant lot at 632 Jackson Street in South Philadelphia into a community space and a strategic hub for cooperative thinking, spatial inventiveness, and environmental restoration. Synergizing the seemingly contradictory terms “play” and “use” into a tool of joyful learning, Playgrounds offered a platform to share collective and individual knowledge produced in an area marked as much by its diversity as by the cultural distance and lack of communication between the populations that inhabit it today. Conceived by Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra) as a platform for elevating everyday individual and community wisdom into engines of urban change at the scale of the neighborhood, Playgrounds centered on the appropriation of land in a moment when South Philadelphia is undergoing extremely rapid urban development, with its associated consequences of displacement, overdevelopment and land speculation. CohStra collaborated with a variety of neighborhood partners to re-imagine together their community and more actively participate in the shaping of the city. The project speculated on the formation of a long-term community-led playground of ideas for urban and social restoration.
ACTION ONE: SHARING KNOWLEDGE
Action 1 was the first public gathering of the Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge. A storytelling session over light dinner was led by Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra) in collaboration with Philadelphia-based actors and performers. Community members and representatives of local organization were invited to share their knowledge, experiences and vision of the area through the exchange and performance of stories and personal narratives. Committees were be formed to address urgent local issues emerging from these conversations.
ACTION 2: A SPACE FOR URBAN REAPPROPRIATION
Action 2 transformed the Playground for Useful Knowledge into a public interactive environment where neighbors presented their aspirations for the urban development of the area. Led by neighborhood committees and Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra), participants shared new practices, skills, and transferable knowledge through interactive games and performance under the guidance of Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed. The event brought forth alternative ways to address social and urban issues prevalent in South Philadelphia
ACTION 3: MIFFLIN SQUARE ALLIANCE FESTIVAL
The Mifflin Square Alliance Festival was a community-organized celebration, inspired by a growing alliance of South Philly’s diverse cultures, featuring performances, exhibitions, and knowledge shares by all of Playgrounds‘ community partners.
- Live music, talk shows, dance, and storytelling on the PowerHouse Performance Stage
- Fun and creative hands-on activities for kids
- Tips from Trash Academy on keeping the neighborhood clean
- Workshops for idea-sharing with local community organizations
- A wildly successful South Philly Food Contest
Major support for Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The Environmental Justice Initiative is made possible by visionary support from PTS Foundation. Additional support to Environmental Justice is provided by City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services, FAO Schwarz Family Foundation, Fondation d’entreprise Hermés, and Surdna Foundation.