Feb 12, 2013

Southeast by Southeast Valentine’s Event

by: Joshua Spielman

As I walked down Snyder Avenue on a sunny Sunday afternoon to my first event as an intern for Mural Arts Philadelphia, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that the Southeast by Southeast project integrates art workshops with engaging activities for new Philadelphians (immigrants) who have recently resettled in America.

Within minutes of arriving at the project’s storefront in Southeast Philly, the room filled with rambunctious kids, teens and adults, ready to paint. Everyone suited up in smocks and gloves, as lead artist Shira Walinsky unveiled a huge canvas that had many spaces to be filled. The kids got to work immediately; a team tackled the giant heart, using graceful brush strokes as a unit to create a masterpiece. I even got a couple strokes in, although I think the girls may have noticed how nervous I was, as painting is not exactly in my skill set. Other participants made touching cards with markers, crayons, heart doilies and anything they could get their hands on.

During the course of the afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak with Nawdoh, a woman whose name means “older sister” in Burmese. Nawdoh explained to me the challenges young Burmese girls face growing up in Burma, and how they are very proud to now live in America. “The community activity [ESL classes, etc] helps the kids so much with the language,” she said. Nawdoh laughed after mentioning she needs the language help as well. “It’s so good to see the girls expressing themselves together.”

To say I learned a lot about the strength of a community in one afternoon is a sore understatement. It was enlightening to witness these small but strong South Philadelphia Burmese and Bhutanese communities come together and embrace a common appreciation for art, while they are so far away from home. Living in any city can be difficult. However, with the introduction of community projects like Southeast by Southeast, the weight of foreign life seems significantly lighter.

For more information on Southeast by Southeast, visit:

Last updated: Mar 21, 2016

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