To be a “commonwealth,” your subject must embrace – be a part of – a political community founded for the common good, with mutual interests and serving singular missions or concerns.
From now until January of 2021, “Commonwealth,” is a public project displayed in multiple forms as a partnership between three arts organizations in three cities: Beta-Local in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, and Philadelphia Contemporary, the latter being the now-five-year-old visual art, performance art, and spoken word art organization. While the three will share in several programs, on and offline, two outdoor public art installations and a substantial neighborhood regranting initiative are what we can expect for Philly.
In particular, the project centers around West Philadelphia’s famed Lancaster Avenue corridor and includes a billboard, a series of light post banners, and a regranting program meant to maintain certain aspects of each gallery, museum and local organization.
“As one of the facilitators of the Philadelphia Contemporary Community Council, I am extremely grateful to the Community Council members for their dedication to the project over the past year,” said Nicole Pollard, the Program Coordinator from Philadelphia Contemporary. “I’m very excited for the reveal of the billboard at the CEC and the light post banners along Lancaster Avenue because they both were conceptualized during our meetings, and after the many changes to the project that were made as a result of COVID-19, they still represent the inherent values of Commonwealth that we’ve discussed all along.”
As for the regranting initiative, Pollard stated that this program, “allocated some of the funds we received from the William Penn Foundation to various arts and culture organizations in the neighborhood that we felt upheld the values of Commonwealth within their missions.”
Starting with the newly commissioned billboard by artist Firelei Baez, the oversized advertisement features a high-resolution reproduction of a new painting by Baez, overlaying painted imagery over historic atlas plates from various periods of West Philadelphia’s history. The billboard will be on view outside the Community Education Center at 3500 Lancaster Avenue through January 10, 2021. A series of banners, illustrated and designed by Noa Denmon, commissioned by the Commonwealth Community Council, is installed on light posts along Lancaster Avenue from 35th Street to 40th Street, until January 2021.
And like the banners, the regranting program has been spearheaded by the museum’s Commonwealth Community Council and identifies six West Philadelphia arts and culture organizations along the Lower Lancaster Avenue business corridor that embodied the values of “commonwealth”: Al Bustan Seeds of Culture, Neighborhood Bike Works, Scribe Video Center, Spiral Q, Tiberino Museum, and Tiny WPA. A total of $45,000 from the William Penn Foundation was regranted to these organizations to help support and maintain the continuation of their individual and collective programs, and make much needed repairs.