Making wonderful curves

Inspired in part by reading Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, an artist has created a fruitful long-term creative partnership with the residents of an inner-city neighborhood in North Philadelphia.


Twenty years later, this area is still poor, with high unemployment but hope can be found at the Village of Arts and Humanities.  That’s what the small art park has grown into—a tangible symbol of renewal that covers more than 120 formerly abandoned lots with murals, sculpture gardens, mosaics, flowers, community gardens, playgrounds, performance spaces, basketball courts, art studios, even a tree farm. 

“The entire community seems to take part in the use of the spaces,” writes Kathleen McCarthy, who nominated the Village for Project for Public Space’s authoritative list of the world’s Great Public Spaces. “As we walked down the street, trying to find one of the parks, a man walking beside us directed us to the Park, and told us the history of it and the wonderful artist, Lily Yeh who started the park. He spoke with pride that this was a part of his community. We sat on the benches made of smashed tile and mirror, making wonderful curves and places to sit. Across from us, women sat and smiled, waved. Children ran over and asked us to hide them during a game of hide-and-seek…. I’ve never felt more welcomed in an unfamiliar place.”

from “An Artist Whose Masterpiece Is a Neighborhood Transformed,” by Jay Walljasper, Worldchanging, 7 January 2009

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