On Friday, Germantown will join a worldwide movement to claim urban parking spaces for arts, culture, or simply a little relaxation — even if only for a day.
Through the work of the Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC), Germantown will join PARK(ing) Day, an annual, international one-day event, which overtakes metered parking spaces in cities across the world for day-long “open-sourced” makeovers.
Having launched in 2005 with a temporary “park” installed in a San Francisco parking space (lasting just two hours and complete with a bench, layer of sod and a potted tree), the event has been expanding ever since.
Last year, according to the PARK(ing) Day website, 975 mini-parks were created in 162 cities, encompassing 35 countries on six continents.
“One of the main missions of GUCDC is to improve and enhance our commercial corridors,” said board member Andy Trackman on the motivation to participate in this year’s PARK(ing) Day. “So, in a continued effort to bring additional vibrancy and positive attention to Germantown corridors, this is just one of the projects we’ve decided to undertake this year.”
GUCDC’s Megan Fitzpatrick has been spearheading the effort which will transform six public parking spaces throughout Germantown from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
The kind of teamwork which will see several community groups participating is “not as common as we’d all like,” Trackman said. “Hopefully, this will start more collaboration in our neighborhood.”
GUCDC is claiming two spaces on the 300 block of W. Chelten Ave. in front of Wired Beans Café in Chelten Plaza. Passersby will be invited to write their ideas for Germantown’s future on large chalkboards, which will also feature graphic displays of the recently released Central Germantown Business District Beautification Plan, drafted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
Two more spaces on the corner of Germantown Ave. and Armat St. are going to Historic Germantown. Its “Freedom’s Backyard” installation will feature an “inclusive” timeline of the neighborhood’s history that goes beyond the predominantly white Colonial narrative, highlighting events throughout the 20th century.
A single space at 35 W. Chelten Avenue, in front of the First Presbyterian Church, will be dedicated to the Germantown launch of the Streets Department’s Unlitter Us campaign.
But, the busiest space of all will belong to the Germantown Artists Roundtable, who will occupy a parking space at 115 W. Chelten Ave., in front of Sun’s Discount Store. Helmed by local photographer Tieshka Smith, the Roundtable’s offering has been christened “The Germantown PARK(ing) Day Pop-Up Street Gallery and Artist Showcase.”
Exhibiting artists and performers
“She is treating it large. I like that,” said participating artist Renny Molenaar, of iMPeRFeCT Gallery, on Smith’s approach to the Roundtable space.
Noted Smith, “We’re transforming that particular parking space at 115 W. Chelten into a spot where we’re going to attract passersby and share a little bit of Germantown influence and inspired creativity with the community.”
The space will include a street installation from Molenaar, inspired by last year’s found-barrettes “landscape” exhibit honoring victims of sexual abuse, titled “Little Girls seven and eight they lose their flowers every day.”
Smith will also be showing some of her work.
“I’m going to have a few pieces that tie into the idea of the [Germantown] corridor being the perfect place to walk around, bike around and shop,” she said.
In addition to exhibiting artists’ work, the Roundtable parking space will also feature an all-day roster of performances from local poets, musicians and vocalists.
Smith said she’s especially looking forward to spoken word performer Darius Lantz (on at 2:30 p.m.), who hosts Wired Beans’ Coffee After Dark events.
Another notable participant is the neighborhood’s own songwriter/vocalist Bethlehem Roberson, on at 12:30 p.m. Local photographer, sculptor and writer John Phillips will open the day with his poetry, and storyteller, drummer and poet Karen Smith will close out the day.
Tieshka Smith notes that Sept. 21 also happens to be the International Day of Peace, so all of the performances will have an anti-violence theme.
“We’re going to do our best to incorporate messages about non-violent conflict resolution and lessening drug violence. You know, peace, love, and hair grease,” Smith said. Of fitting everything into one parking space, she added, “I think we’ll make it work. Artists are pretty resourceful. It’s going to be fun.”