Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge: Action-Research Report Offers Insights on Community-Driven Project

12 Feb 2016


Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge Action-Research Report. Photography by Steve Weinik, design by Heidi Chisholm. Courtesy of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

From May to November 2015, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra)—a collective of urban designers and cultural activists—collaborated on the Center-funded Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge. The community-driven project brought a series of urban interventions, including games, performances, and workshops, to South Philadelphia neighborhoods to explore questions of civic engagement, community activism, land use, and gentrification. The effort sought to reimagine "urban spaces by promoting new social relations across cultural and economic divides, with the objective of generating just and sustainable forms of collective inhabiting," according to CohStra [footnote].

A comprehensive "action-research report" charting CohStra's process, key findings, and recommendations for the future of Mural Arts' community-based urban programs is now available online. Read and download the full report here.>>

The publication reports: "The transformation of two private vacant lots into a neighborhood hub open to the entire community allowed us to confirm one of our initial premises: the urgency of creating neutral, communal, and safe spaces where community members from different backgrounds and with diverse languages can meet each other, work together, and learn from each other's needs, priorities, and visions for their district...The community needs are many, but so are the spaces available to house transformative programs."

>>Watch CohStra's Lucia Babina and Miguel Robles-Durán discuss the role of the arts in fostering social change.