The folks at Flying Kite Media have a novel idea: reactivate long abandoned storefronts by occupying said locations for 90 days, and using the space as a media hub and art gallery before moving on to another space for another 90 days. Their goal is to shine a light on spaces in neighborhoods juxtaposed between the brink of transformation and an often underutilized past. They hope to renew locals’ interest in revitalizing infrastructure and resources in their own neighborhoods.
This spring they launched On the Ground, the campaign that aims to establish deep connecting roots in various neighborhoods across the city, and are currently established at 4017 Lancaster Avenue in Mantua.
Last year, when FKM staff celebrated its one year anniversary in the former Beyond the Wall location, located at 415 South St. it generated a local buzz. People stopped in the long-vacant location and wondered what was happening.
“We don’t take much credit for that but we kind of saw the power of activating a space,” said FKM managing editor Joe Petrucci.
The staff had yet to participate in community engagement and wondered if it might be a good idea to set up in a community and change locations every three months. They brainstormed, communicated with various CDC’s and neighborhood groups and On The Ground was born.
Since occupying 4017 Lancaster Ave., the site has been transformed into an art gallery and FKM’s office for its crew of freelancers, and a small team of others. The FKM people recently announced another call for artists, this time seeking sculpture and performance art. In addition to providing a space for local artists, they plan to host community movie nights and journalism workshops and report on the area in which they are located while they’re there. Like this piece about the pastor of local LGBT church Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia.
“What we’re finding and what sort of validates our initial theory is there’s all sorts of events you can do out of this space,” said Petrucci.
And though they will leave the space behind in a month and a half, their aim is to assign a reporter to the areas where they’ve been so coverage continues. Their departures present the biggest obstacles to this initiative, aside from paying for utilities. And while each arrangement will be different, one way they’re paying for the space they occupy is by trading ad space on their site.
“We’re really still figuring this out as we go,” said Petrucci. “We really feel that we’re onto something here. Ultimately, we’re making media more accessible to neighborhoods … We’re not in some tower in Center City. We’re on the ground at 40th and Lancaster.”
Where to next? That’s yet to be determined, but six months from now we’ll check back in at 4017 Lancaster Ave. and see how this initiative might (or might not) have affected the area.