Phase 1

Notes From the Field

We know The Village of Arts and Humanities is a safe, even sacred place, for our community and that change to it can feel traumatic. In addition, the toxic tradition of gentrification and displacement in our neighborhoods is a reality that we confront daily. It makes constructing a new space on our existing building something that we want to be thoughtful and transparent about throughout the entire process. 

The story begins when The Village invited Afrofuturist Li Sumpter to create a research project for The Futures Gallery that represented the ethos of The Village’s home neighborhood, Fairhill-Hartranft — a historically disinvested and redlined section of North Philadelphia. Sumpter’s first step was to learn about the community’s most pressing issues — from past to present, and visions for the future.

Here are her notes:
OCT 12, 2022 @ 11:30am

This first meeting served as an introduction between the group and Futures Gallery facilitator (myself, Li Sumpter). It was also the group’s formal intro to the community-driven Research and Development they’ve been invited to support. Bringing The Futures Gallery vision to light through the voice and vision of the community is key. The VAH staff who met today felt very strongly about including the neighbors and noted local residents in the R+D process — many of which are already deeply engaged in VAH programming and community culture in some way.

The group had lots of great ideas–from the practical to the imaginative– and were vocal about them. It didn’t take long to warm up to sharing thoughts and suggestions. We look forward to hearing more stories and welcome more anecdotal research. Perhaps identifying a few members of the staff for one-on-one interviews is one way to bring these stories to the forefront.  We only got through the first 2 questions drafted for this session but will continue to further explore the proposed Qs in future meetings. An accumulative record of questions will be documented as they arise to offer some order and chronology to the ongoing process of inquiry. 

Many of the group’s responses/suggestions applied to multiple questions and overlapped in some areas showing that there are already some resonant and recurring ideas brewing. As we continue to investigate possibilities for the gallery, ideas that resonate most will be noted for deeper research and exploration with the group and additional communities identified to support this process. Clarified themes/topics identified as emergent will be used to spark upcoming conversations with artists and field experts who can offer insights and informed opinions on said themes/topics raised with this core VAH group.