Heat Response PHL: Collaborating for Change

With January behind us, The Trust for Public Land Heat Response initiative is excited to look ahead at all that is still to come this year: connecting with neighbors in Grays Ferry, Southeast Philadelphia and Fairhill; our broader citywide creative campaign; and unveiling the art imagined and produced by community members. Collaboration and community listening will continue to guide our work throughout each phase.

Collaboration has been at the heart of our efforts. Our artists have been hard at work getting to know these communities, and connecting with neighborhood activists and organizations. They’ve built relationships with these trusted voices to ensure their work would not only have deep impact, but also include input from those who are most impacted by climate change and extreme heat.

In Grays Ferry, artist Jenna Robb is working with youth non-profit Young Chances and neighborhood nursing homes to connect different generations around extreme urban heat. The conversations between elderly community residents who shared memories and traditions and the children who dreamed up new heat-busting inventions generated new ideas for collaboration and solutions that bridged the difference in ages.

In Fairhill, Amber Arts is working with community leader Charito Morales to engage community members in poetry workshops that have produced words and imagery conveying both personal and community-wide experiences living with extreme heat. And in Southeast Philadelphia, artist Jose Ortiz-Pagan is hosting immigrant communities and small business owners at virtual townhalls, open only to members of the community to encourage a comfortable, safe space for conversation.

It is only through gathering different perspectives that the Heat Response project can get a full picture of the situation in Philadelphia and push for solutions to cool neighborhoods in the face of deadly rising temperatures. Urban heat is detrimental to public health. Studies have shown that urban heat can exacerbate minor illness, increase the risk of hospitalization, and even worsen mental health. That is why we made sure to invite local leading health experts, including those focused on public health to be part of our advisory committee. These individuals provide valuable insight on how to best address the impacts of climate change upon whole-community health.

Going forward, the Heat Response project will continue to learn valuable lessons from individuals impacted and elevate their voices, through public art, to bring about policy change. None of this work could be done without input from the neighbors we’ve gotten to know, our advisory committee made up of notable individuals from various organizations across Philadelphia and most recently, our new presenting partner, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

There’s so much more to come. Stay tuned!

Don’t miss Heat Response in the news

Read this op-ed that Heat Response Southeast Philadelphia artist Jose Ortiz-Pagan and Trust for Public Land Pennsylvania State Director Owen Franklin collaborated to write for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Extreme heat in Philly should be a year-round concern | Opinion