Awardee: Maria Möller
Primary Artistic Medium: Visual Arts, 2 dimensional
As I write this proposal, art is being exhibited in the windows of the houses on my block. The exhibition that is on view is VOTE, a series that transforms protest photos I took in 2017 and 2018 into get-out-the-vote posters. (www.mariamoller.org/vote)
The experience of developing and installing this exhibition has been a rewarding one, and many of my neighbors also feel this way. We’ve created a shared experience. We’ve joined our voices together to shout about something we care about. We’ve met neighbors who live on the opposite end of the block – and realized we feel the same way about the current political moment. We’ve gathered outside in the street for an opening reception. We’ve done something that makes our block unique, and have invited all of Philadelphia to stroll down our street and look at the art. In these times of social distance, these hyper local connections and interactions become even more essential to building the fabric of a community.
Inspired by VOTE, I propose creating The Good Neighbor Gallery: a series of window exhibitions on small Philadelphia blocks. I would take the process that created VOTE and expand it. Instead the exhibitions being artist-initiated, they would be initiated, curated and installed by the block’s residents, with my support as a curator/manager. The exhibitions would feature the work of Philadelphia area artists, giving local artists exposure at a time of more limited exhibition opportunities. In terms of content and structure, The Good Neighbor Gallery can be adapted to elevate the unique voices of residents and to suit the preferences of each block. One block might exhibit the work of an artist who lives on their block; another might issue a call for artists and curate a group show; another might focus on traditional, self-taught or outsider artists living in their community. Scale can also be sized up or down – prints can range in size, and the number of prints and the number of participating houses can vary.
My artwork is based in social practice, and so I would approach The Good Neighbor Gallery with the enthusiasm of an artist whose work is about participation and interactivity. Community engagement, artist selection, and art installation would also be guided by my many years of work as a project manager and curator with Mural Arts Philadelphia. I’ve created and managed numerous projects using MAP’s robust techniques that harness the energy of community members, put the goals of the community at the forefront of decision-making, guide the selection of art and artists by folks who may have no background in the arts, and present public art that brings the community together.
Forging relationships with our neighbors is always important – but it feels imperative now. Art is always important – but it feels needed now more than ever. The Good Neighbor Gallery brings the two together, celebrating public art on the neighborhood level, and creating exhibitions that can be enjoyed by anyone who strolls down the street.