A pink tank sits in the middle of a green grass lot located between Susquehanna and Norris Street, along Frankford Avenue. It was originally created for the annual Kinetic Sculpture Derby, an event that the Kensington and surrounding areas look forward to each year. This particular device is a six-man, powered-operated machine that stands out for both its motor and bright camouflage pink display. Its exotic presence adds emphasis and beauty to a somewhat dreary area of the Fishtown neighborhood. Before the Pink Tank and green grass erupted in this small parcel of land, it stood there collecting trash and debris adding only more ugliness to an already somewhat run down area. Those passing through the very active avenue viewed the lot as just another abandoned space, which provided no use for the community.
However, does it really make a difference to invest all the time and financial funds in making an empty space easier on the eyes? To some, the tank stands there as a symbol for a better tomorrow for the community, but to others it’s just a waste of time. If everyone truly appreciated the beauty of this art, then why does this vehicle have graffiti scattered across its exterior? Unfortunately, many find the process of transforming abandoned lots into beautiful areas for the community silly and unnecessary.
Lifelong Port Richmond resident Lindsey Schloesser showed no sympathy for these abandoned lots. “I understand the intentions of trying to make it look better, but honestly what’s the point? There are drugs, violence and crime circling these areas and to focus on dressing up a lot seems idiotic. Like many other situations, people would rather focus on less serious issues, such as ugly abandoned lots than focus on the man who was killed around the corner from their house.”
Christina Harrigan, another lifelong Port Richmond resident, agreed. “People naively think making something more beautiful will make it better when in reality it just makes it look pretty from the outside. There will still be illegal acts going on in these lots, kids will still be getting drunk and high.”
Andrea Silva, president of a nonprofit organization called Positive Space, disagreed with Harrigan and Schloesser’s statement, believing that re-creating these small parcels of land makes all the difference. To her, it not only brightens the community but provides faith and hope for sometimes failing neighborhoods. Positive Space’s motto listed on its Web site at www.positivespace.net explains its goal is “to create a network of local artists for the exchange of ideas and resources.”
Back in April, Positive Space teamed up with graduate students from the Conway School of Landscape Design to throw around ideas for this parcel of land located at 2012-2018 Frankford Ave. The three-day intense brainstorming workshop stirred up three different plans to create more sustainable parcels of land. These different plans were referred to as “The Creative Commons,” the “Cistern and Extended Berm” and the “Garden Sculpture,” all of which figured out ways to manage the water difficulties that were being faced in this lot.
Silva mentioned at this meeting that “an overall picture is to make the land a positive space in our neighborhood.”
Director Kevin Adams explained, “We are hoping they (Conway Students) can take the space to a new level and make it a great thing.”
Dottie Kauterman, a former Juniata resident, agreed with both Adams and Silva. “I love the idea of turning abandoned lots into community gardens. They do benefit neighborhoods in Philly. Surprisingly, the community gardens as well as some art gardens have be a haven for good people in all neighborhoods.”
The archway in the entrance of the lot says it all. Different quotes are scattered throughout the signs with sayings such as “Together we are growing” and “When did we forget the love.” Beauty provides hope and inspiration in any situation, especially in the midst of falling communities. While drugs and crime are obviously evident in any urban Philadelphia neighborhood, much can be told of the murals and sculpture garden that are scattered throughout the city. It’s the war of which issues should be brought to life and which should be buried. And in this situation, no crime can come from beauty.