A panorama of Haas&Hahn's work in Colombia. Image by Haas&Hahn via Favela Painting
This post, written by Knight Foundation Arts Program Associate, Tatiana Hernandez, was originally published on the Americans for the Arts' Blog.
People have looked to the arts to help define their communities and create a sense of place for generations. So, why are we so excited about creative placemaking today? Perhaps it has something to do with context. In this digital world, many are reexamining the fundamental nature of “community” and our relationship to place. We now know, based on findings from the Knight Soul of the Community report, that social offerings, followed by openness and aesthetics explain why we love where we live. What does that tell us about the essential importance of our connection to place? “Vibrancy” is popping up as a way of describing the intangible nature of a neighborhood’s character. Here are three projects working to help define a sense of place in each of their communities.
Philadelphia has a strong tradition of mural work, and thanks to Mural Arts, artists and residents continue to come together to help define “home." As part of their Knight Arts Challenge project, Mural Arts brought two Dutch artists, Haas&Hahn, to North Philadelphia to live, work and engage the community around a large-scale mural that will span several blocks of Germantown Avenue. Known for their abstract, colorful work in Santa Marta (Rio de Janeiro), Haas&Hahn will involve residents in the actual painting. They will begin training “team leaders” this fall before tackling the challenge of painting Germantown Avenue. I recently spent a (wet!) morning in Philadelphia with Dre Urhahn. He explained to me why he and his partner, Jeroen Koolhaas, were attracted to abstract work. “Traditional [figurative] murals tend to tell the story of what a community is or has been, abstract images are more likely to inspire a community as to what it can be.”