If Philadelphia’s organizations could be personified, On the Ground would be known as a drifter. But for the past three months, this pilot organization of the publication Flying Kite has called 4017 Lancaster Ave. home.
Flying Kite is a weekly online magazine, which covers growth and what’s next in Philadelphia. It covers the people, the places and the companies moving the region forward.
In the past few months Flying Kite has launched a pilot initiative called On the Ground, where there is extensive coverage of transformation in a neighborhood in transition.
“We engage with the community through events and social media and we also get involved with various initiatives through out the neighborhood,” Managing Editor Joe Petrucci said.
The Powelton Village and Mantua areas were the first to receive funding for On the Ground, but the organizers said they see their venture there as the first of many.
Every three months, On the Ground will establish a temporary media hub in a vacant or underused storefront in a different neighborhood and activate it with art, events, community info and resources. The mother publication provides extensive coverage of events and hopeful transformation.
The group is based out of the most recently renovated building on Lancaster Avenue. The modern stainless steel exterior and LEED certification brought life to an area of old construction.
“So part of our hope it that we activated the space, we brought it to life through a variety of ways,” Petrucci said.
Local business owner David Groverman has owned an antique and artwork gallery called Reseller’s Central Marketplace on the 3900 block of Lancaster Avenue for almost 20 years.
“When (Petrucci) came here in the spring and set up his little offices he acted to gather different people who are involved in the community–in our case, a lot of merchants–to come up with plans to help promote the area… It’s really getting people together and helping us clarify our goals and starting the process to really change a community,” Groverman said.
Petrucci saw Groverman as a great asset to the Lancaster Avenue community.
“We’ve written about his business and his belief in Lancaster Avenue. He believes it can once again be a great commercial corridor and I think he believes that he can help get it there. That’s certainly one business owner who’s really made an impact on the neighborhood,” Petrucci said.
On the Ground also used the space to gather local organizations, such as the People’s Emergency Center and Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association.
The purpose was not only to bring them together but also to incite ideas in bringing Powelton Village’s Second Friday back to life. Together, it happened.
Like Center City’s First Friday events, Second Friday brings positive attention to what’s happening in the West Philadelphia arts community. Lancaster Avenue has often been regarded as a magnet for the art community.
To kick off its time on Lancaster Avenue, On the Ground opened an exhibition called, “19104” with help from artists from that zip code. The walls were adorned with paintings, sculptures, photography and puppets. The opening was purposefully exhibited on the return of Second Friday.
“What we found was with a little effort and a little bit of coordination, people started to come out for Second Friday,” Petrucci said.
“We wanted people to get comfortable with putting merchandise on the sidewalk. We wanted people to be comfortable coming out of their homes and spending an evening on Lancaster Avenue,” Petrucci said.
Just three months ago, Petrucci had his own skewed reservations about the neighborhood.
“For the last few years, I’ve driven Lancaster Avenue from where I live in Ardmore to Center City. I would generally lock my doors when I drove through this section of Lancaster Avenue. Now, I’m waving to people that I know when I drive by. For me personally, that was really powerful. I feel like we made a lot of deep and lasting connections that will keep us connected to a lot of important stories of transformation here.”
The organization is already moving on. By the end of the week, On the Ground will have made a full transition from their space on Lancaster Avenue to a place on Frankford Avenue. The goal is to connect intimately with as many neighborhoods as possible.
Although the Lancaster project has ended, On the Ground will continue to work with the West Philadelphia community. The main hope of the organization is to maintain a strong relationship and foothold in the all the neighborhoods it ventures into and out of.
Flying Kite is currently seeking funding to foster consistent community maintenance through monthly events.
Petrucci said he saw his own experience on Lancaster as a positive first encounter.
“Being on this block at 40th and Lancaster with a store front with a full view of the street and an open door is a powerful thing. We’ve met and wrote about people that we would never meet and that we would never know about had we not been here, on the ground.”