Artists John Stone and Lonnie Graham recently completed work on the Common Room and Community Archive for Project H.O.M.E. at 23rd and Berks Streets in North Philadelphia. These indoor elements are part of Common Ground (formerly titled Dwelling Place/Church Lot), a multi-part public art project created through the Art Association’s New•Land•Marks program in partnership with Project H.O.M.E., a nationally-recognized anti-homelessness agency.
Located on the “footprint” of St. Elizabeth’s Church, which was destroyed by fire in 1995, the project has been designed to meet the spiritual and practical needs of the neighborhood. The Common Room, which is located inside the former rectory of St. Elizabeth’s Church, has been painted two soothing shades of blue and has new custom designed light fixtures, including a large handmade chandelier. The chandelier, created by artist John Stone, hangs in the center of the room and is made from found objects that refer to the history of the community. A large white oak table, commissioned by the artists and crafted from a single plank of wood, fills the center of the room.
The artistic finishes of the Common Room pay tribute to the intergenerational nature of the project. Quotes from Ms. Miles, a local matriarch who Graham recorded while completing a series of interviews with elder community members, circle the room. Large sheer panels that have been printed with photographic images of hands belonging to women in the senior ceramics group that regularly meets in the space cover the window. Flanking the window, the artists have installed photomurals that depict the Foot Stompers, the neighborhood’s award-winning youth drill team.
The Community Archive, which occupies a corner of the Common Room, is a repository for photos, videos, and oral histories collected from the neighborhood. The artists have installed a new computer and scanner in the room, and neighborhood youths have been trained to help community members add their photos and stories. A renowned photographer, Graham has placed many portraits of the neighborhood in the Archive.
The outdoor elements of the project are currently underway. Pending construction approvals, the outdoor Sanctuary structure and Inspirational Fence will be installed in early 2009.