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?

THE PROJECT:

Our local basketball courts are a microcosm of our neighborhood’s joy, culture, guardianship — and history of disinvestment.    

This summer, the courts will be renovated by the Philadelphia Sixers and the City of Philadelphia, in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation. This external investment is an opportunity to flip the script.

The Village and our neighbors are using this opportunity to re-ignite civic engagement around the courts through art, and to catalyze neighborhood-wide organizing efforts in the future.

The result is “Home Court: The Hartranft Basketball Court Revival,” a 6,000 square foot exhibit in photography, audio, and community artifacts that explores the past, present and future of the courts. The exhibit is open to the community only from May 20 to June 28, and then will open to the public until July 18.

Together, we hope to create a powerful force field of safety and love around the courts for future generations.

Want to get involved? Text “COURTS” to 797979 to contact our exhibit team directly!

  • Get event updates
  • Ask to schedule a tour
  • Ask questions about the exhibit and programs

THE APPROACH:

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.

Together, the team has created an immersive art exhibit to express these themes through photography, music, and historical research. The exhibit serves 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, will be informed by community members.

For five weeks, the exhibit space has 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.

When the exhibit opens to the public, it will be full of the contributions of community members. Emerging court stakeholders will have had time to develop questions and ideas to present to officials, investors and people in power. The exhibit space will act 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 has taken our team from sharing pie with neighbors in living rooms to shooting baskets in the snow. Keep up with our progress as our team of artists builds an immersive exhibit celebrating the courts’ past  — and imagining their future.

COURTS SOUNDTRACK

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.

THE PEOPLE

Ill Doots

ILL DOOTS is a collective of artists, educators, and activists based in Philadelphia;
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Michael McDermott

Michael Reiley McDermott has created works in sound for film, dance, stage, installation, smartphones, multi-speaker arrays, pianos, and dreamers.
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Reggie Johnson

Reggie Johnson is a youth and community organizer, party promoter and father in North Philadelphia.
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Shawn Theodore

Shawn Theodore is a multidisciplinary Philadelphia-based artist working in photography, video, and collage.
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Jordan McCree

Jordan holds a degree in Jazz Drums from UArts in Philadelphia, PA. He is the drummer for the Philly-based group Ill Doots.
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