Artists will light up underpasses in Nicetown and Tioga as part of a sprawling project

Kirtrina Baxter speaks at Broad Street Ministry about the project, “Sovereignty,” during a press briefing announcing the citywide "Philadelphia Assembled" initiative. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

After three years of talking and gathering information and ideas from around the city, Dutch artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, along with a highly collaborative pickup team of artists, storytellers, gardeners, activists, and community residents numbering up to 150, is about to launch "Philadelphia Assembled," a sprawling project exploring memories, hopes, and visions of the city.

A slate of events tied to "Philadelphia Assembled" will begin in May. The project will then wrap with an exhibition opening Sept. 10 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose staff members are active collaborators.

The May 1 kickoff for the project will be the launch of the Mobile Futures Institute, a retrofitted shuttle bus that will travel different routes across the city, serving as a vehicle to explore different notions of race, economic justice, and colonization in the past and future.

“This is all about the ways we practice freedom,” said community organizer and activist Kirtrina Baxter, a project collaborator on the Mobile Futures Institute.

Baxter and others elaborated on their work at a briefing Friday at the Broad Street Ministry on South Broad Street.

Another segment of "Philadelphia Assembled" will feature the lighting of dark underpasses in Nicetown and Tioga on the evening of May 20. A house will be built at Fourth and Master Streets in South Kensington, to serve as a platform to explore economic dislocation, affordable housing, and gentrification.

Other projects involve storytelling, memory, gardening, sustainable development, and more. Events will occur all over the city throughout much of the summer. The elaborate schedule and more information can be found on the "Philadelphia Assembledwebsite, phlassembled.net.

“It’s a collaborative journey,” van Heeswijk said. Many answers emerge to a key question about Philadelphia communities, she said: "How do they survive?" 

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