Northern Liberties (4)
by Ava Olsen
Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.
In partnership with educator Joshua Block, students from Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy are creating and publishing their Philadelphia Field Notes. The fourth in a series of Street Notes on Northern Liberties, Ava Olsen is giving memories back to places in her neighborhood that have been changed or covered up as a result of gentrification.
This used to be an empty lot with three walls that was overgrown with grass, shrubs, and weeds. A wire fence closed the lot off to the public with a single door on the right side. One day, a group of artists came in and removed all of the greenery to replace it with artwork. Philadelphia is a place where murals and graffiti are common and tags are seen all over the place, so this was just another common occurrence. They stayed there for days, and everyday after school I would see them working hard to make their dream work and come to life. This piece of land was taken over by this group of artists, they set up their cans of paint and rollers, and got straight to work.
The floor was painted with swirls of pink and green, and different shades of white and black were churned into thousands of different designs. The brightest shades of neon and sky blue twisted into pictures and images that surrounded the three walls. This was the first time that I really learned to appreciate graffiti and the different things that it offered. The artwork was incredibly well done, and it was obvious that these artists expressed themselves through their paintings.
Now, this property completely consists of condominiums. People live in an area where a literal piece of art was destroyed to create housing for residents that will probably never know about the time spent to create something that would be appealing to passersby. I want to let people know that the people living in those condos are living over the ghost of a masterpiece that will forever be lost in the destruction and rubble that was turned into a place to live.