The Trust for Public Land Announces Selection of Artists to Develop Neighborhood Public Art Works for its Heat Response Project

The Trust for Public Land today announced its selection of four local artists who will work with community members in three Philadelphia neighborhoods to express their experiences of extreme urban heat through public art.

The artists, Linda Fernandez, Keir Johnston, Jenna Robb, and José Ortiz- Pagán, will work alongside seven community leads in Fairhill, Grays Ferry and Southeast Philadelphia to creatively express the individual neighborhood experiences with extreme heat caused by climate change. Their work, from outreach to design, will span a total of two years and be supported by nationally renowned artist Eve Mosher.

“We are thrilled to welcome these local artists to the team and officially kick off our project, ‘Heat Response: Creative action for Philly’s rising temperatures,’” said Owen Franklin, Pennsylvania State Director, The Trust for Public Land.  “This announcement comes at a unique moment in our city and country as tens of thousands are calling for an end to systemic racism and its injustices – of which urban heat is one. Because of generational disinvestment in our cities, low-income Philadelphians – often communities of color – face disproportionately dangerous and sometimes deadly impacts of heat and rising temperatures. High quality parks are a key tool for addressing this inequity. They cool the air, provide a safe space to get outside, and help connect people to each other and find support during times of difficulty. The Heat Response project provides a stage for residents to share stories with each other, service providers, and policymakers to bring new solutions for addressing urban heat.”

The Trust for Public Land is the industry leader in creating data and mapping tools such as ParkScore, which can empower cities and communities to understand where parks are needed most. In the last six years, The Trust for Public Land has built or improved 11 parks and schoolyards across Philadelphia, with help from 6,000 neighbors contributing their perspectives to design these new parks. More than 200,000 people in Pennsylvania live within a 10 minute walk of parks created or land protected by The Trust for Public Land.

The Trust for Public Land Heat Response  project was launched to create public art that addresses the question: “Why should we care about urban heat and what can we do about it?” The organization, along with its team of artists and community leads,  will help elevate community voices and  creatively amplify their lived experiences to drive policy change and achieve equity across Philadelphia neighborhoods in response to rising temperatures. 

“Across Philadelphia, extreme heat disproportionately impacts lower-income and vulnerable communities, which we know thanks to years of data collection,” said Eve Mosher, Lead Artist, Trust for Public Land Heat Response  Project. “ We want to bring that data to life by creating a space for those affected by extreme heat to share their experiences in a way that stirs decision makers to action. Art is one more way we can share the community’s hard-earned knowledge and perspective more widely.”

The artists will spend the first year conducting community outreach and collecting neighbors’ stories of what it is like to live in three very distinct Philadelphia neighborhoods that are battling climate change effects daily. During the second year, they will focus on creating a work of public art for each neighborhood that will be a unique expression of the residents’ relationship to extreme heat, with the overarching goal of building more resilient communities and strengthening their ability to advocate for themselves.

Each of the artists brings a host of experience to the project both in terms of artistic repertoire and community engagement. Previous work with marginalized populations and past success using art as a powerful tool to drive social change has prepared the artists for this unique role.

Keir Johnston is a  community practice public creator raised in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood who will be working with the Fairhill community on the Heat Response project. “Communities of color have always borne the brunt of the impacts of climate change and extreme heat,” Johnston said. “As someone who is fortunate to live near a Philadelphia park that provides a cooling and creative refuge, I know firsthand the value of green space. I bring my passion for empowering communities through the collective expression of art to Heat Response and the endeavor to find equitable and sustainable climate solutions.”

“The cacophony of alarming climate statistics and disastrous predictions that bombard us daily tends to stifle personal voices and undermines hope and power to act,” said Jenna Rob, artist for the Grays Ferry community Heat Response Project. “Heat Response  is an opportunity to instead amplify those voices and create space for advocacy and solutions on a human scale. When we are allowed to express ourselves freely and without judgement, that is when we get to know ourselves, get to know each other, and get to act collectively.”

The artists’ work and the bulk of the two-year campaign is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.