An urban education model that responds to the crisis in community participation and political representation by circulating different ways of thinking and making


A Social Atlas of the Mile

A project exploring the relationships between people, issues and places in West Philadelphia

Fields of Knowledge
  • Comm. Development
  • Design
  • Memory
  • Politics / Economics
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, People's Emergency Center, and Village Amp


Jeannine Cook, Aaron Levy, Phil Waller


Hasinah Abdul-Rahman, Nyshai Benson, Michelle Byrnes, Dominique Easley, Isaiah Hawkins, Shanna Henderson, Meridian Lowe, Andre Simmons

Process initiated


Opens to public





Mixplace Studio
4017 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104


50% Formal - 50% Informal

Mixplace Studio is pleased to announce "A Social Atlas of the Mile," a project exploring the relationships between people, issues and places in West Philadelphia. The project, which brings together Slought, People's Emergency Center, the University of Pennsylvania and Village Amp in collaboration, features the work of youth from People's Emergency Center's Teen Technology Network program.

Our work together began in October 2015, and explored topics including addiction, gun violence, music and LGTBQ identity. It and will culminate with an open house this Thursday, December 17, 2015 from 4-6pm, with special guest photographer Devin Allen of Baltimore, and drafts of our forthcoming publication, designed by Jonatan Eriksson of Finnish design agency Tsto.

Historical atlases such as Wm. G. Baist's Atlas of West Philadelphia (1886), sought to provide an awareness of place and to help Philadelphia residents locate themselves and their property in the city and the world. Yet, in the desire to map places and territories, social relations were abstracted and rendered invisible.

Our social atlas re-conceptualizes what an atlas can be and foregrounds the people of West Philadelphia and the issues that matter to us. Our project is informed by questions of representation, such as: Who is represented in society, and how? How can we challenge existing modes of representation? How does representation relate to questions of social justice and fairness? Through questions such as these, we are committed to visualizing and actualizing the human dimension around us.

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About the Featured Projects

"I'm interested in the Black Lives Matter movement and the conversation around police brutality... In our project, we've been photographing in relation to gun violence, like memorials, police tape, and things that are usually related to crime scenes. I think mainstream society needs to pay more attention to this issue because it affects everyone in our community... whether everyone realizes it or not."

– Hasinah Abdul-Rahman, on Empty Barrels, which explores gun violence

"We focused on the conversation between the musician and the audience, and how the musician gains influence from the audience and the audience takes away a message from the musician. We were trying to demonstrate how important it is for the artist to project messages that can help the community grow and bring to the surface issues that we would otherwise not see."

– Michelle Byrnes, on Music on the Margins, which explores music and empowerment

"I focused on addicts who are in recovery and make art, their journey through recovery, and how that influences creativity. There's this push and pull between addiction dampening the creative process and feeling like it enhances it. A lot of where the issue lies is in a lack of resources for recovery, and the silence that surrounds it. What's talked about is what you see in the media... this romanticized vision of the junky artist -- but that's not reality. The reality is that drugs play a really intense role... and this really hits home for me."

– Meridian Lowe, on Bookstrap Junk, which explores addiction and creativity

"I focused on... gay and lesbian out-bringing, the way people address us and the way people see us not being like them, so to speak... We need to provide knowledge about what queer out- bringing feels like, and own that and focus on that. I think people in general... should focus on this issue but also its relationship to topics like homelessness."

– Nyshai Benson, on Queer Out-Bringing, which explores gay and lesbian identity

About the Linear Mile

Our Social Atlas will focus on ten blocks in West Philadelphia that extend from 40th and Walnut Street to 40th and Brown Street that we refer to as "the linear mile." We understand the uneven distribution of economic opportunity, institutional access, and social relations along these ten blocks as a metaphor for the divisions that define Philadelphia.

More than just a spatial concept, this "linear mile" is a psychological device and a visual tool that focuses our attention on questions of equality and co-existence.

We hope our attentiveness to these questions fosters community participation and political representation on the linear mile and beyond.

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About our Curriculum

Mixplace Studio is a process-based learning environment that balances structured and unstructured learning through facilitated conversation and collaboration. A primary goal of the studio is for participants to develop a sense of social agency, interpersonal trust, and digital literacy.

Our activities are guided by the creation of social contracts, which are short films that articulate mutual responsibilities and expectations among the various individuals and institutions involved.

The curriculum is designed in the form of a menu. Our focus this year is on the people, issues and places of West Philadelphia.

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"The city [is] an immense social experience of lacking a place -- an experience that is [...] compensated for by the relationships and intersections [...] that intertwine and create an urban fabric."

-- Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 1968

"The map is open and connectable in all its dimensions. [...] It can be drawn on the wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation."

-- Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 1987

Download the Social Atlas