The City of Philadelphia set a goal to plant 300,000 new trees by 2015 as part of Greenworks Philadelphia. Drexel University joined the cause in 2011 by sponsoring, in partnership with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and University City Green, a pilot "tree giveaway" program for Drexel faculty and professional staff living within the city limits. As part of the first event, more than 50 Drexel employees received a free tree to plant on their own property.
Trees, green building, recycling, and development of public open space are critical to Drexel's commitment to promote environmental sustainability. Drexel's sponsorship of this program will make a great impact on the campus and city in expanding the University's environmental outreach and working towards its sustainability goals.
LOOK Art Project
Urban revitalization would not be complete without arts and culture. In 2011, Drexel University partnered with University City District, the People's Emergency Center, and Powelton-Mantua community arts groups for LOOK!, a public art project designed to restore the West Philadelphia Lancaster Avenue corridor. The project was funded in part by a $30,000 grant from the City of Philadelphia's "Restore Corridors through Art" program.
The multifaceted art project included group art shows and public performances in existing galleries and public spaces along the Lancaster Avenue corridor. More than 200 artists competed to be among the 16 selected for the storefront/window installation projects. A work by Paul Schultz, a Professor with the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, was featured in the exhibit.
The goal of the project was to cultivate an important sense of civic pride and community spirit among the residents of the neighborhood, and also serve as a catalyst for business and culture along the Lancaster Avenue corridor.
Drexel students paired up with local residents of the Lancaster Avenue neighborhood to create Augmented Avenue: Memories of Lancaster, a collaborative art project for creative urban engagement that offers visitors a new way to experience the neighborhood. As part of a course with the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, students worked in partnership with members of the community who narrated their stories and memories, together co-authoring a dynamic portrait of local history. Each student interpreted the experiences and co-created a photo and sound collage available through a smartphone.
The project invited students to examine the city as a virtual and mixed reality space, and investigate the complex means by which cell phones, GPS, mobile recording devices, and social network games affect their knowledge of and relation to lived space. Using mobile web 2.0 applications, students constructed parallel realities, mediated representations, sound maps, and installations that integrated radio and other communications technology, and networked audio/visual tags to create new community histories that capture life in their neighborhoods.
The project was led by Hana Iverson, a visitor scholar with the Institute for Women and Art at Rutgers University and director of Neighborhood Narratives, an international education project that explores the issues that surface when new ideas made possible by locative media technologies are applied to space and place.
By creating an internationally networked learning environment linking students in the United States with students in Rome, London, and Tokyo, Neighborhood Narratives is a mechanism though which students can explore neighborhoods across the globe while developing transnational connections. By examining the similarities and the differences of their "neighborhood narratives," students begin to develop heightened understandings of the effects of globalization both at home and in other nations.
The Drexel-PECO Community Education Collaborative was developed to improve public school options for families in West Philadelphia. The five-year program, backed by a $1 million grant from PECO, includes investment in local schools, development of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program for school students and an inclusive planning process to create a blueprint for education in the neighborhood.
A community education and enrichment plan, to be developed collaboratively with community stakeholders in Powelton Village and Mantua, will assess educational needs and resources and lay the groundwork for a coordinated network of strong schools in these neighborhoods.
The STEM program will follow youth from the Powelton Village and Mantua neighborhoods through a series of summer workshops that build on their interest in STEM fields, helping students choose an appropriate high school program and furthering their pursuit of a STEM career.