Heat Response: Community at the center

June 1, 2020

Even during the winter and colder spring months, the Trust for Public Land Heat Response artists have been busy. From meeting virtually with community members to organizing neighborhood clean-ups to leading an Open Studio session and more, the team has remained focused on creating space to hear directly from residents about their lived experiences with urban heat. 

On Earth Day, artists and community leads in Grays Ferry, Fairhill, and Southeast Philly held neighborhood clean-ups where residents were able to learn about the effects of climate change, share their stories on extreme urban heat, and use their hands to create art and help beautify their neighborhoods. This part of the two-year process of project –building authentic relationships with community members and helping to create opportunities to speak freely about their experiences while moving their bodies– is just as special as when the final artworks from Heat Response will be installed. 

Grays Ferry

Community at the centerPhoto credit: The Trust for Public Land Staff
Community at the centerPhoto credit: The Trust for Public Land Staff

In Grays Ferry, artist Jenna Robb got creative and incorporated a mini art workshop using vegetables as stamps (see above). Children designed their own Earth Day t-shirts, stamping tree leaves with broccoli, tree trunks with celery, and the sun with an orange. While the kids were busy testing their art skills, older residents picked up trash, planted greenery, and discussed how urban heat impacts their neighborhood.

Fairhill

Community at the centerPhoto credit: The Trust for Public Land Staff
Community at the centerPhoto credit: The Trust for Public Land Staff

The team in Fairhill has been focused on building trust with the local community and integrating environmental justice into all aspects of their work. Artists Keir Johnston and Linda Fernandez of Amber Arts and Design have been meeting virtually with students from Concilio to discuss how climate change affects them. Inspired by these conversations, many students showed up to Fairhill’s Earth Day community clean-up. Linda and Keir are also working with two students from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture to develop the custom Fairhill Heat Response coloring book, another way to reach the community with artmaking.

Southeast Philly

Community at the centerPhoto credit: The Trust for Public Land Staff
Community at the centerPhoto credit: The Trust for Public Land Staff

Heat Response artist Jose Ortiz-Pagan found innovative ways to engage community members despite not being able to meet face-to-face over the winter months. Jose understands the importance of meeting people where they are, routinely meeting with residents of Southeast Philadelphia over Zoom, holding one-on-one sessions, town halls, and informal conversations. To incorporate an interactive element, Jose sent residents a body heat reduction tea recipe that they all tried together during one of their virtual meetings. As a result of his engagement efforts, Southeast Philly had a great turnout for the Earth Day neighborhood clean-up, led in partnership with community member Sulay Sosa. 

Looking ahead to the summer months, Heat Response artists will continue to plan for large-scale community art projects in their respective neighborhoods. These projects will culminate two years of community building work across Grays Ferry, Fairhill and Southeast Philly and capture the voices of those who are experiencing the dangerous effects of urban heat and climate change right here, right now.

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