COSACOSA celebrates its 20 year anniversary. COSACOSA takes its name from the Spanish term “la cosa que es la cosa”, which translates into “the thing that is the thing”. COSACOSA founder Kim Niemela says her non-profit group’s role is to return art and civic dialogue to the center of communities in Philadelphia and beyond. And to celebrate COSACOSA’s 20-year anniversary, Niemela has enlisted 20 local and international artists to convene with their respective communities and create art in an ongoing project known as “Change in the Making”. Israeli-born photographer Sharon Gershoni is the most recent artist to be featured in COSACOSA’s “Change in the Making”. Her exhibit, “Change of State: Creating Dialogue in Israel and Palestine” highlights the images she captured in Israel with Israeli and Palestinian volunteer organizations. Gershoni, who has lived in Israel, the United States and Japan during the last 20 years, recalls a mutual sense of euphoria in her native country while Yitzhak Rabin served as prime minister. “It felt like peace was just around the corner,” she says. But violence and turmoil plagued her country following Rabin’s assassination in 1995, and Gershoni admits to almost losing faith in the power of photography to change people’s minds after she saw news coverage that sensationalized the bloodshed instead of exploring ways to achieve peace. So Gerhsoni documented groups of Israeli and Palestinian volunteers working towards peace within their communities. “I wanted to photograph both sides working together to correct the wrongs done to people by government administrations,” she says. “It’s not political to visit and bring water and supplies to Palestinian people in hospitals because check points prevent their families from doing it, it’s neighborly.” One organization took a group of Palestinian kids to the ocean, which they have never had access to because of check points. Another group hosted a mixed soccer team of Israeli and Palestinian coaches and players.Echoing the tone of Gersoni’s exhibit, maintaining a creative conversation with youngsters around Philadelphia has been one of COSACOSA’s main goals. Though Niemela’s group is headquartered on Main Street in Manayunk, Niemela is at large in the city most of the time. Most recently, she’s been creating art based on sun mythologies from around the world at the Andrew Jackson School in South Philadelphia – a school with more than 25 nationalities within its halls.
“It’s all part of a service learning curriculum,” says Niemela of her outreach programs with the Philadelphia School District. “It builds consensus and community unity in their neighborhoods.”
Sharon Gershoni’s “Change of State” exhibit runs unil June 10.