Watch how community members and artists used a court renovation as a catalyst to spark civic power.
Want to experience the full Home Court exhibit? Listen to audio, check out photography galleries, and browse a historical timeline of the Hartranft Basketball Courts online.
Visit the Home Court exhibit site at homecourt.villagearts.org.
THE QUESTION: How can we use the opportunity of a local basketball court renovation to re-activate networks of civic power and care, through art?
Our local basketball courts are a microcosm of our neighborhood’s joy, culture, guardianship — and history of disinvestment.
In 2018, the Hartranft Community Basketball courts were renovated by the Philadelphia Sixers and the City of Philadelphia, in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
The Village and our neighbors decided to use this opportunity to re-ignite civic engagement around the courts through art, and to catalyze neighborhood-wide organizing efforts in the future.
The result was “Home Court: The Hartranft Basketball Court Revival,” a 2,5000 square foot exhibit in photography, audio, and community artifacts that explores the past, present and future of the courts. The exhibit was open to the community only from May 20 to June 28 2018, open to the public until July 18, and now lives permanently as an online exhibit here: homecourt.villagearts.org
Together, we hope our work will create a powerful force field of safety and love around the courts for future generations. Already, the project has generated a new Parks and Recreation Advisory Council, an advocacy board made up of community members, and restarted the local summer basketball league with the support of the Philadelphia 76ers.
To lead this process, we connected Philadelphia-based artists at the top of their game — photographer Shawn Theodore, composer Michael McDermott, and musical collective Ill Doots — with neighborhood leaders Diane Bridges and Reggie Johnson. They created the following approach:
The team held months of story circles and in-person interviews with community members of all ages who grew up with the courts. They met the key “players” who cared, coached and organized at the courts, and began to understand the key challenges to the courts’ safe and ongoing use.
The team went over hours of transcripts and identified five themes of core concern to the courts’ revival: Play, Loss, Guardianship, Future, and Space.
CREATE AN EXHIBIT
Together, the team created an immersive art exhibit to express these themes through photography, music, and historical research. The exhibit served to honor and integrate fractured narratives of the past, and make room for movement towards the future. The design of the exhibit, and its plans for programming, was informed by community members.
NEIGHBORHOOD EXHIBIT ACTIVATION
For five weeks, the exhibit space was been open to neighbors only, to add their ideas and art to the exhibit as a whole. We worked to reactivate and engage the grid of care around the courts through artmaking and informational workshops, in preparation for the public opening.
CITYWIDE EXHIBIT OPENING
When the exhibit opened to the public, it was full of the contributions of community members. We even took portraits of community members and had them turned into giant banners down at the basketball courts. Emerging court stakeholders had time to develop questions and ideas to present to officials, investors and people in power. The exhibit space acted as a meeting space and civic power charging station to imagine and begin to create the next phase of the courts’ activities.
You might be going through something, but you forget all that in the playground. The kids need it more than anything. I can’t stress the fact, how much they need it. They don’t want that playground to be remodeled. They need it. — Kareem, 23, youth coach
PHOTOS FROM THE FIELD
The artistic process took our team from sharing pie with neighbors in living rooms to shooting baskets in the snow. Follow our progress as our team of artists built an immersive exhibit celebrating the courts’ past — and imagining their future.
Original music written and composed by Ill Doots and Mike McDermott for the Hartranft Courts Exhibit.
This project is supported by The Philadelphia 76ers, LISC, and The City of Philadelphia, with additional support from Artplace America
We thank Signarama of Center City Philadelphia for donating the printing of large mesh banners for our opening event.