A group of young people is beautifying West Philly’s Lancaster Avenue, one design project at a time.
On Nov. 20, they’ll unveil a brightly-colored community message board at 42nd Street and Lancaster Avenue. It’s a project, organized by youth design organization Public Workshop with collaboration from the People’s Emergency Center, to unite the neighborhood through communication and news sharing.
At the Nov. 20, Public Workshop will host a flier-making workshop and youth will talk about their current and future projects.
Also on display at the Nov. 20 event will be Public Workshop’s Mobile Maker Cart, a tricycle turned workshop on wheels, designed and built by Public Workshop teens. The cart, which transports tools but also acts as a “rolling billboard” for Public Workshop and its parent org Department of Making + Doing, features an expandable workbench, a colorful canopy, a smartphone speaker and wooden handlebar grips, said Public Workshop founder Alex Gilliam.
The cart, as Gilliam puts it, is meant “to inspire other people to make and do great things.” He wrote in an email: “Every single part on the bike that could be has been replaced with custom wood parts designed and fabricated by our Building Heroes. The bike screams ‘handmade’ and ‘you can do this!'”
The teens behind the maker cart will teach classes this month on how to build parts of the maker cart. It’s an effort to show that this kind of “making” is accessible to everyone, according to a release.
Funded by an ArtPlace America grant, Public Workshop’s Lancaster Avenue projects are part of a local “maker” movement to get youth interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) via hands-on projects.
Public Workshop is specifically focused on design and community. Schools across the city are building makerspaces for students and earlier this week, the Free Library announced that it won a $500,000 federal grant to expand its own “Maker Jawn” after-school program.
In an email, Gilliam described the impact, so far, of the community message board:
Not long after they started, Anderson (age 7), his friends, other teens and adults such as Fajr started helping the team, temporarily transforming the lot into a vibrant maker space of building, learning and creative activity. Cars stopped in the midst of rush hour traffic and honked. Business owners asked to hire the team to help with other projects. Neighbors stopped by with ideas for other community improvements. People tried to buy the team’s picnic table. Individuals came seeking help with their inventions. Many stopped by just to say they wanted to see more projects in the neighborhood designed and built by teens/community members like the message board.