Join South Philadelphia neighborhood stakeholders and community members, local and international activists, planners, curators, artists, and politicians, for a working convening to explore questions of cooperation, civic engagement, and gentrification.

Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge is an action-research project by Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra) and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Begun in October 2014, Playgrounds investigates the social, economic, and political conditions inherent to South Philadelphia that make it a uniquely diverse community in a process of rapid gentrification and a potential site for collaborative artistic production and urban transformation.

The convening will begin with an in-depth presentation of CohStra’s research report, followed by round tables with local and international practitioners, combining their expertise to facilitate new imaginings of solutions to enduring problems.

Speakers and participants include: Lucia Babina, Kirtrina Baxter, Christi Clark, Cynthia F. Figueroa, Emiliano Gandolfi, Jane Golden, Sovannary Heang, Shari Hersh, Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, Leela Kuikel, Beth McConnell, Leah Murphy, Thoai Nguyen, Pepón Osorio, Marjetica Potrč, Gabriela Rendón, Damon Rich, Miguel Robles-Durán, Carlos Pascual Sanchez, Lucía Sanromán, Daniel Tucker, Beth Uzwiak, Shira Walinsky, and Rebecca Wanner.


9:00 — 9:30 a.m. Coffee and sign-in

9:30 — 10:00 a.m. Welcome & Introductions
Jane Golden
, Executive Director, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Shari Hersh, Senior Project Manager Restored Spaces Initiative
Lucía Sanromán, Curator

10:00 — 10:15 a.m. Playing with Useful Knowledge
Introduction on the work of CohStra in Philly.
Emiliano Gandolfi, co-founder, CohStra

10:15 — 10:30 a.m. CohStra report
CohStra’s pilot project is a community-based experimental urban platform that uses play, games, and performance to reveal, share, and celebrate local knowledge produced in South Philadelphia, an area known for its rich cultural and ethnic diversity. This research report is focused on unearthing holistic understandings of the area’s social, economic, and environmental ecology. It uses data and action-research to propose more resilient and sustainable methodologies for the implementation of future Restored Spaces Initiative projects in South Philadelphia.
Gabriela Rendón, co-founder, CohStra

10:30 — 10:40 a.m. Break, coffee

10:40 — 11:20 p.m. Useful Knowledge in the Neighborhood, Four Perspectives
What is “useful knowledge”? What is to be done with knowledge as an asset? Partners of Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge participate in a playful conversation on their experience of this project: how have they been affected by each other’s inputs and capacities during the Mifflin Square Alliance Festival process? How do they envision a future and sustainable development of this collective experiment?
Moderated by Lucia Babina and Beth Uzwiak
Carlos Pascual Sanchez
, Community Latina FAMbassador, Fleisher Art Memorial; Puentes de Salud
Sovannary Heang, owner, Friendly Market
Rebecca Wanner, member, Friends of Mifflin Square
Leela Kuikel, Executive Director and Program Manager, Bhutanese American Organization-Philadelphia

11:20 — 12:05 p.m. Action Research as a Radical Cultural Tool: Playgrounds and Development Opportunities for Vacant Lots
In recent years, the City of Philadelphia has passed important legislation concerning the use, transfer, sale, and acquisition of land, whether for green spaces, public infrastructure, affordable housing, or community services. This opens up opportunities for public-to-city partnerships towards the reclaiming of vacant land in the service of the community needs and wants. This session will ask how the community can begin to take advantage of such legislation, what is to be done to improve public engagement in decision-making, and how to develop non-profit alliances that better serve Philadelphia’s inhabitants.
Miguel Robles-Durán, co-founder, CohStra
Beth McConnell, Policy Director, Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations
Christi Clark, Organizing Director, Women’s Community Revitalization Project

12:05 — 12:20 p.m. Q&A

12:20 — 1:30 p.m. Lunch

1:30 — 1:40 p.m. Introduction
Lucía Sanromán
, Curator

1:40 — 2:30 p.m. Session 1: Pandora’s Box
Institutions often work within cultural, intellectual, and procedural siloes, but extra-disciplinary practices in both artistic and social arenas are developing methodologies that break with these traditions. This session aims to explore the unusual role of arts in the community, particularly in cases where artistic and social organizations, together with city government, join forces to redress systemic conditions. What are the challenges and opportunities of expanding the impact of cultural institutions into social services and urban restoration and improvement?
Moderator: Daniel Tucker, Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director in Social and Studio Practices at Moore College of Art & Design
Pepón Osorio, Artist/Professor Tyler School of Art
Cynthia Figueroa, Executive Director of Congreso de Latinos Unidos
Shira Walinsky, Lead Artist Southeast by Southeast

2:30 — 3:15 p.m. Session 2: Owning Neighborhood / Owning Self
What are the issues related to ownership and belonging, in relation to both space and local economies, in historically marginalized communities undergoing rapid re-development? How can local communities participate in that process without contributing to their own displacement? What is the role of arts and artists in gentrification and how can art contribute positively to social and urban transformation? What specific strategies can be implemented by artists and arts organizations in a responsible and ethical way to redress these issues?
Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, Urban Planning & Community Policy Specialist
Thoai Nguyen,CEO, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition
Damon Rich, Designer, Urban Planner, and Artist

3:15 — 3:25 p.m. Break, coffee

3:25 — 4:10 p.m. Session 3: Environmental Innovation and Space Restored
Can communities redress urban plans that are influenced by developers? What is the role of artists, designers and planners in this equation? Is innovative design in itself a form of restoration? How can environmental degradation elements in urban environments marked by chronic disinvestment be addressed in a systemic way when starting from the seed of the neighborhood? How can artistic projects and green space initiatives engage in responsible ways, including mediating between marginalized communities and government?
Moderator: Leah Murphy, Principal Urban Designer and Planner, Interface Studio
Kirtrina Baxter, Community Organizer, Garden Justice Legal Initiative, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Marjetica Potrč, Artist

4:10 — 4:30 p.m. Wrap-up

4:30 — 5:30 p.m. Reception

The Mill
2115 8th St., 2nd floor
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Friday, November 13, 2015
9:00 a.m. — 5:45 p.m.

Click here to reserve your spot.

Lucia Babina
Kirtrina Baxter
Christi Clark
Cynthia F. Figueroa
Emiliano Gandolfi
Jane Golden
Sovannary Heang
Shari Hersh
Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson
Leela Kuikel
Beth McConnell
Leah Murphy
Thoai Nguyen
Pepón Osorio
Marjetica Potrč
Gabriela Rendón
Damon Rich
Miguel Robles-Durán
Carlos Pascual Sanchez
Lucía Sanromán
Daniel Tucker
Beth Uzwiak
Shira Walinsky
Rebecca Wanner

Major support for Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.