Heat Response project photo
(Photo credit: H’Abigail Mlo)

On a sweltering summer day, residents of the Grays Ferry neighborhood in Philadelphia fan themselves on their stoops, cool off in kiddie pools, and line up for a cold treat from the ice-cream truck.

Beating the heat can be hard.

“Grays Ferry lacks the investment that more affluent neighborhoods in Philly have, like air-conditioned housing, parks, tree cover,” says artist Jenna Robb.

As part of a project funded by the Trust for Public Land, Robb is inviting neighborhood residents to share their experiences of extreme heat.

She distributed postcards for neighborhood elders to record their memories of hot Philly summers. And she hosted art workshops where young people read these stories and brainstormed whimsical ways to help cool the neighborhood. Then they shared their designs with adults.

“The kids drew these big detailed beautiful drawings of tree-planting robots, … underwater water slides that bring you to an underground pool,” she says.

Robb says even though the kids’ ideas were fanciful, they provide an entry point to get people thinking about how heat affects Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. And they can inspire dialogue in Grays Ferry and beyond about practical solutions.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Arts & Culture, Youth