As I sat in the Lillian Marrero branch of the free library in Fairhill, I couldn’t help but notice a girl, not much older than myself, hunched over her sketchpad with a furrowed brow, deep in concentration. Her hand moved quickly across the page, scribbling an almost identical portrait of the man sitting in front of us. Tempted by this out of place character in the setting of a quiet library, I had to find out more about this girl and where she came from.
Lauren McKennly is a Kutztown University graduate who dedicates her life to her art. Finding inspiration in her surroundings, McKennly can’t help but return to Fairhill every chance she gets.
“I love it here,” she said, after pausing briefly from her work to look up at me. “The area is so culturally rich, it would be impossible to not draw inspiration from the neighborhood. It’s a very diverse part of Philadelphia, not like North Philly, or Center City. Fairhill is truly one of a kind and there isn’t anything like it in the city.”
From the murals on each street, to the music always playing from somewhere, McKennly is inspired by the cultural vibrancy of the neighborhood. Despite the reputation of Fairhill being rundown, mostly abandoned and unsafe territory, its unexpected presence of art is one that can’t be beat.
“I used to only go to Center City or South Philly, but once I discovered Fairhill for myself, I’m here every chance I get. There is just so much to get out of the neighborhood. I would live here if I only had the money,” she said, chuckling lightly. “It’s just an amazing place for anyone with a creative bone in their body.”