I’Mani Sellers: Lost Childhood

empty urban playground snow covered

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on April 20, 2015 by I’Mani Sellers

I went back home for spring break and realized how fast all the children in my life are growing up and I decided to go to one of the parks closest to me. I have noticed, that in my hometown, a lot of children do not spend their time in the park with their friends. When I was younger, we lived to be able to go to the park and still swing on the swings, and even now when we’re trying to channel our childhood, we will go back to the parks late at night.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

urban park late afternoon snowfall.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

In my town, children have a lot of responsibilities, besides just being a student; it goes way beyond chores. Most children back at home, end up taking the roles of parents and having to leave their childhood behind, and with that they leave the parks behind also. Having fun is a lost art at home, when you’re younger. They are not allowed to relax and enjoy their childhood anymore.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

playground toy with snow

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

I wanted to capture the park when there was snow on the ground, because I believe it went with the attitude children have towards the parks, cold. The park only feels warmth from the sun, and the stray animals that scamper through it.  I wanted people to see the conditions that the park is left in. It is abandoned, not maintained, the equipment is rusting and losing it color.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

sliding board with snow

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Parks still cause me to feel nostalgic, and it makes me want to find a way to find the lost childhoods of the generation after mine.

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Photography and Text by I’Mani Sellers, Copyright 2015

 

About the Author: I’Mani Sellers is a sophomore with a focus on the field of STEM,  College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2017.

Anna Griffiths: Aftermath

Philadelphia city street

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on April 18, 2015 by Anna Griffith

Philadelphia, once the ‘Workshop of the World’, has always been of huge economic importance to the United States.  Its influence in global financial and industrial markets made it the third most prominent city in the British Empire in the late eighteenth century and this world prominence has remained until today.  It is now the fifth largest metropolitan city in the United States.

It is no surprise that due to Philadelphia’s global importance, it surely would have been affected severely by the Great Recession. However Philadelphia was in fact one of the few cities to not be heavily impacted by the economic downturn. Or so they claim…

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

With announcements of rising strength in the US economy in the recent year, it seems that the effects of this recession should be starting to alleviate, especially in cities like Philadelphia, that were not as deeply affected.  However, walking around some of the busiest streets in Philadelphia indicates the impacts are still very apparent.

I am relatively new to this city, and it really struck me how, even five years on, the recession has still left  its mark all over the city.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

street scene Philadelphia 2015

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

There are an estimated 2,200 pedestrians per hour on the 1300 block of Market Street, the 1600 block of Chestnut Street and the 1700 block of Walnut Street.  In other emerging retail areas, counts range from 1,100 to 1,700 pedestrians per hour.  It is difficult to imagine how retail could possibly die out in the light of these statistics.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

But in the past five years Philly has seen hundreds of shop closures – businesses that finally lost their battle with the downturn.  Whilst the economy may be getting back on its feet, with falling unemployment, and indeed expanding infrastructure all over the city, the long term impacts from the recent recession has left a scar o the streets of Philadelphia  which no one can ignore.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Photography and Text by Anna Griffiths, Copyright 2015

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About the Author: Anna Griffiths is a junior exchange student from Scotland enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania.

Victoria Meyer: Have a Good Life

THE ARTIST ISAIAH ZAGAR AT THE PHILADELPHIA MAGIC GARDEN

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on April 16, 2015 by Victoria Meyer

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Isaiah Zagar –first through his mosaics, and later face-to-face. Our first introduction was on a sunny day in February. For the first time in weeks, the sun peeked through the grey sky and batted a lash towards spring. Having survived my first winter in Philadelphia since living in sunny Naples, Florida for five years, I felt inspired to explore South Street, an energetic part of the city I only pass through to go downtown at night.

I heard a lot of buzz about a place called Philadelphia Magic Gardens (PMG), on 11th and South Street, so I decided to make it my first stop. When I pulled up to the winding, vibrant mosaic that rests on a typical city street, between average city buildings, I immediately knew I’d be spending hours exploring the mosaic, making it my only stop before returning to the real world and going to class.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Zagar’s mosaic is an alternate reality. Immersed in a chaotic structure of broken tiles, bicycle wheels, paint, bottles, and mirrors, I feel unusually calm. Stress slips away and I embrace the curiosity and awe of his world. Through his art, he shares with me parts of his life, and I reflect on mine. In his mosaic anything is possible. And standing there, I can’t help but feel like the same is true for me.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

The second time I met Isaiah, he was mosaicking a bathroom that had been redone in the indoor portion of PMG. I was hoping to meet him in person after my professor shared with me that he is a personal friend. I poke my head around the wall, and carefully enter the roped off space in which he is working. With one foot through the door I introduce myself as my professors student and ask if I may speak to him and photograph him working.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

He accepts with energy and warmth, without ceasing to pack the green grout between tiles. Feverishly working he encourages me to keep pushing boundaries to get behind closed doors. Just as I had connected his work to my experience before, he draws a parallel from mine to his. When he and his wife were in the Peace Corps they found the local art fascinating. He tells me they pushed the boundaries of their mandate to work with local artists, encouraging me to continue using mutual friends and other connections to work my way into otherwise off-limits situations. Jokingly he adds the benefit being a pretty, young woman to the list of tools for entry.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Isaiah’s eccentric personality and witty banter is evident in person and in his work. On my way out, I thanked him and wished him well. Through his thick grey beard he called out, “Have a good,” –and where I was expecting to hear “day” he continued–  “life!” And until we meet again, that’s the Isaiah I know, full of vibrancy, levity, and surprise.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Photography and Text by Victoria Meyer, Copyright 2015

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About the Author:  Victoria Meyer is a freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018.

Elizabeth Ames: Tabernacle

black lives matter banner hanging on a philadelphia church

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on April , 13, 2015 by Elizabeth Ames

Tabernacle United Church of Christ is located in a beautiful building on the corner of 37th and Chestnut streets, Philadelphia.   The building is incredibly old; construction on it was completed in 1884.  The structure is everything one would expect from a 19th century church: weathered, grey stone; spires spiking the sky; tall gothic towers; stained glass windows; ornate gates; and countless arches.  It simultaneously commands attention from passerby while somehow fitting into the modern, urban setting that encompasses it.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

church outdoor arches

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

elaborate iron gate at 19th century church Philadelphia

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

At a glance, the church looks like a castle that belongs in a far away place.  But the small details show how the city has changed it.  Flags and banners touting against racism and prejudice hang from the front of the building.  There are security cameras over every door, and electric lights are drilled into the outside walls.  Dingy trash cans hide in the shadows.  A harsh black fence blocks the back of the building from the alleyway.  The inside is dark and dusty, but through the ornate windows, skyscrapers can be seen.  The church has slowly morphed into a representation of  life in today’s world.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

The juxtaposition of old and new is what makes the building so intriguing.  It truly tells the story of the building from when it was first built in up-and-coming Philadelphia to present day.  Looking at the security cameras and lights,  you can see the compromise between the need for security and the desire to maintain the beauty of the structure.  The facade has become a stunning platform for justice in the modern activist world.  Today, the building shows that it is not simply a house for a church, but an adoptive landmark that will be a part of University City for many years to come.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

old church with fence in front of it

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Photography and Text by Elizabeth Ames, Copyright 2015

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About the Author: Elizabeth Ames is a senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2015.

Jinxiang Wu: Miami and Key West

eccentric man wearing g-string at Miami Beach

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on April 9, 2015 by Jinxiang Wu

Miami is an incredibly diverse and multicultural city. I had the chance to travel to Miami recently to witness the beautiful  scenery and I realized how gorgeous the place is.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Palm trees south beach , Miami Florida 

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

 The clear blue water and the white sand beach is a must-see. Under the warm spring sunshine, the waves are lapping at your feet and you can relax on an endless expanse of beautiful white sand. The colorful and unique stands used by Miami Beach’s lifeguards is a unique aesthetic attribute of South Beach. South Beach is also a major entertainment destination with lots of nightclubs and boutiques. The streets are  ablaze with lights in the evening, and there is an extraordinary excitement in the  air that attracts thousands of people.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Miami Beach life guard stand

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

South beach is one of the most picturesque spots in Miami. Beautiful beaches and popular nightlife comes together in just a few blocks.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Ocean Drive, South beach at night

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

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cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Little Havana is also a very well known place to visit. From my perspective, the best characteristic of Miami is it’s Cuban food. Whether you’re looking for a gourmet meal prepared by an internationally esteemed chef or a cheap but authentic meal prepared at a hole in the wall, the Cuban food of Little Havana is one of the best and tastiest parts.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Little Havanna, Miami

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Key West is Florida’s southernmost subtropical paradise, a unique confluence of history, climate, natural beauty and cultural diversity. The main attraction in Key West is a natural one – the sunsets. While you wait for the brilliant orange sun to sink into the sea, street performers of every type abound, you will find a beautiful landscape is complemented by a beautiful artist performance.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

street performer, Key West Florida

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Miami and Key West.  It was a trip I have been dreaming of. I will go back soon no doubt.

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About the Author: Jinxiang Wu is a graduate student enrolled in the MLA  program with a  Cinema Studies concentration at the University of Pennsylvania.