On Community Building and Displacement

Lectures and conversations about empowering communities through art and architecture


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Comm. Development
  • Design
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, Andrew Zitcer

Opens to public



Houston Hall
University of Pennsylvania

4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Modern and
Contemporary Wing
Philadelphia Museum of Art


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "On Community Building and Displacement," a series of events exploring artistic and architectural agency. This series, featuring distinguished designers and community advocates, raises questions about socio-political responsibility and art and architecture as communal and collaborative processes.

In February 2002, Lily Yeh, founding director and lead artist of The Village of Arts and Humanities, will present on her work. "The Village" is a community of volunteers and paid workers that turns abandoned lots in North Philadelphia into community gardens, arts centers and parks. "I've come to conceive of The Village as a living piece of sculpture," she explains, "in which sculpture is a communal event. The walls are shaped and touched by people's hands, including as many people from the community as possible." The Village's primary focus has always been the North Philadelphia area, but Yeh has also taken the work to Nairobi, Kenya and has plans for "Village" projects in Ecuador and China.

A later event in this series took place in December 2010 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in conjunction with the exhibition Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974 and Michelangelo Pistoletto: Cittadelarte. Structured as an informal conversation between Lorene Cary, founder of Art Sanctuary, and Aaron Levy, Executive Director of Slought, it took place around one of Michelangelo Pistoletto's mirror tables and addressed issues related to contemporary models of collaborative and community-based art practices as carried out by the two organizations.

The first event in the series featured architects Deborah Gans and Matthew Jelacic lecturing on disaster relief housing and the process of designing for homeless, refugees, and displaced populations. These dialogues continue to inform the development of Slought as an institution.

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Lorene Cary founded Art Sanctuary, a unique non-profit lecture and performance series that brings black thinkers and artists to speak and perform at the Church of the Advocate, a National Historic Landmark Building in North Philadelphia, in 1998; a diverse audience of 10,000 participates each year. The Church of the Advocate was built as a memorial to George W. South (1799-1884), a wealthy merchant and a Philadelphia County Treasurer. In 1968, the Advocate hosted the city's Black Power Conference; in 1974, the first women priests in the Episcopal Church were ordained there. Today, the Advocate is a small, but active and activist, congregation that houses an after school program, a soup kitchen, social work, food cupboard, clothes closet and summer camp. The Advocate's ongoing justice ministry and its sophisticated understanding of the life-giving power of black art have made it Art Sanctuary's first and closest partner. It remains Art Sanctuary's home venue for large-scale performances - and their community touchstone.

Lily Yeh is an internationally celebrated artist. Born in Kueizhou, China, Yeh studied traditional Chinese painting in Taiwan before immigrating to the United States in 1963. Under her leadership as founder, executive director and lead artist from 1968 to 2004, Yeh helped make The Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia a national model of community building through the arts. In 2003, Lily Yeh founded the non-profit organization Barefoot Artists an international initiative that works to train and empower local residents, organize communities, and take action to use the power of art to transform impoverished communities.

Deborah Gans and Matthew Jelacic are partners in the office Gans & Jelacic, Architecture and Design. Their recent investigation into disaster relief housing has won international awards and a grant for development from the Johnny Walker Fund. Both Gans and Jelacic are Professors in architecture at Pratt Institute in New York. Gans is the author of The Le Corbusier Guide (Princeton Architectural Press) and the editor of The Organic Approach (Architecture/John Wiley- London).

Associated Exhibition

Slought, the Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania, and the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance are pleased to announce "Show for the City," an exhibition of work by youth from West Philadelphia schools, on display June 4-August 4, 2003.

"Show for the city" showcases the arts and culture efforts of youth from neighborhoods adjacent to Slought. This exhibition has been organized around the 2003 budget hearings, which will reduce or altogether eliminate funding at area schools. It also responds to growing concerns about the lack of access to quality public education in Philadelphia, and the problematic place of arts education in the curriculum, which serves to discourage those interested in exploring careers in the arts.

Participating schools include: Charles R. Drew Elementary ( 38th and Powelton), University City High School (36th and Filbert), Shaw Middle School (54th and Warrington), West Philadelphia High School ( 47th and Walnut), William L. Sayre Middle School (58th and Walnut), and Alexander Wilson School (46th and Woodland).

The exhibition is curated by art Instructors from West Philadelphia Schools, including Ronald DeCecco, Amanda Johnson, Glenn Miller, Mtukutu Mtumaini-El, Robin Townsend, and Diane Vaughn. A live performance by the West Philadelphia High Jazz Ensemble will accompany the exhibition opening.