Case Study: Uprooted/ reRooted: A case study of socially engaged art practice and collaborative design for a more just future
About the Project
Since spring 2017, artist Marion Wilson has been embedded as an artist-in-residence at William Cramp Elementary in Fairhill, cultivating community stewardship and ecological learning as part of this new Environmental Justice project. One of the missions of Environmental Justice is to facilitate community capacity building. Wilson’s deeply collaborative design method is unique in the initiative’s work thus far, as she is collaborating intimately with a group of community members to transform a school courtyard.
Uprooted/reRooted began as an illustrated “herbarium,” made up of drawings of favorite or meaningful plants by students, teachers, and parents. Over the summer, the project evolved into a summer academy. Wilson worked with a Community Leadership and Design Team of dedicated parents and community members: Leidy Burgos, Lillian Fontanez, Agnes Ockovic, Delma Rodriguez, and Jose Villalobos. Collaboratively designing a curriculum for their academy, they studied, among other things, the work of contemporary Latin artists including Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Doris Salcedo. Wilson says that by doing this, they “doubled the number of artists in the room,” increasing their creative potential and knowledge base.
The primary outcome of this curriculum is the design for the school’s north courtyard space. The design reflects the value and culture of the community. Its aesthetic is that of a community garden, where diverse spaces can coexist and flow one into another. The space in its first iteration will be divided into three areas based on themes that have emerged from the design team:
- Culture Kitchen (food/water/life)
- Sensory Garden (empathy)
- Healing Garden (strife)
Wilson facilitated the painting of a botanical mural around the building, created by artist Eurhi Jones. This porous, evolutionary process at the school centers on community-held authorship and collaboration.
City of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Education
FAO Schwarz Family Foundation
Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Philadelphia Orchard Project
School District of Philadelphia