In Fishtown, art and creativity extend beyond the canvas. Volunteers are painting the local community center, making it an inviting place that everyone can enjoy.
Fishtown Recreation Center, located at 1202 East Montgomery Avenue, is a multi-purpose facility that offers a variety of programs including ceramics, martial arts and yoga. The center also has basketball courts, a hockey rink and a playground, as well as other spaces for people to use.
In order to help keep the Fishtown Recreation Center looking good, Art Sphere, Inc. has been hosting cleanups since 2005. The organization has contributed to the facility’s beautification through yard work, litter collection and painting projects, making the center a more welcoming space.
Kristin Groenveld, executive director at Art Sphere, Inc., recognizes the impact that every community member, particularly the youth, can have on transforming the space around them. For instance, preschoolers created their own stencils to add a personal touch to the center’s mural.
“It’s the kids’ art, so they’re actually transforming their own space,” said Groenveld. “That’s really neat because preschool kids can beautiful their neighborhood.”
The Fishtown Recreation Center’s under-the-sea themed mural stretches around the exterior of the building and features hundreds of sea creatures painted by community members and volunteers of all ages.
Art Sphere, Inc., in conjunction with the 7th Annual Philly Spring Cleanup, worked to continue to spruce up and maintain the outside of the center, bringing together a group of dedicated volunteers. In total, the 7th Annual Philly Spring Cleanup had more than 14,000 volunteers, removed more than 970,000 pounds of trash and cleaned 14 parks and recreation centers, according to the Philadelphia Streets Department.
Ashka Patel, president of Arcadia University’s Art Therapy Club, is a returning volunteer who hopes that her participation will create a nicer place for children in Fishtown.
“It was inspiring for us to be like, ‘We’re making a change in children’s lives,’” said Patel. “In this society today, it’s so hard for child to stay just a child.”
“Everyone was really into what they were directly working on, whether it was an octopus or a fish,” said Grace Canaan, volunteer and graphic designer at Art Sphere. “Everyone also seemed to have a genuine interest in the bigger picture and what was going on. Everyone was really willing to help so it was great to be in a group of people where there’s that much enthusiasm and positivity.”
Art Sphere creates a personal space for the recreation center users while also personally impacting volunteers.
Volunteer Peter Cortner recognizes this impact.
“People volunteer for different reasons and not everyone is going to have the experience that I’ve had, but doing this kind of work, volunteering, and then specifically art, I feel like was a lifesaver for me,” said Cortner. “Volunteering lets you do all kinds of really great things that you are not likely to get the chance to do in the regular work world.”
As for the future of Art Sphere, Inc., Cortner hopes that their efforts will continue to flourish and inspire other volunteer activities.
“We just kind of want to be a tree that acorns fall from and they fall wide from the tree,” explained Cortner. “[Then] they grow into their own trees and do kind of the same thing.
– Text, images and video by Caitlin Cowan and Joanne Caruso.