(Photo by Katie Pastuszek)
It takes a dozen questions to bring a city of more than a million a little closer together.
For Leadership Philadelphia and Mural Arts, at least, that’s the idea driving their collaborative project, Move in Closer.
Twelve self-reflective questions in 12 mini-murals have been separately designed and will be displayed around the city as three-by-three wheatpastes starting this month, said Jenn McCreary, the Mural Arts project manager.
“What’s the kindest thing someone has done for you today?” and “What do you love about your best friend?” are examples of the questions featured in Move in Closer. They come from “master classes” by Leadership Philadelphia, said Jackie Lewis, executive director for engagement for the nonprofit that offers cohort-based professional development for Philly-based business, government and nonprofit leaders.
Leadership Philadelphia began offering the classes in March to kick off a year-long celebration of the nonprofit’s 60th anniversary and foster “connectedness that will provide medicine for an ailing world,” Lewis said. Each class has the same structure but focuses on a different topic, such as common ground and empathy.
Lewis said 100 people of diverse age, race, economic status and background are invited to the class — ranging from CEOs to high school students — and then scattered across tables. A presentation about the topic of choice will be shown, and then participants are divided into pairs, given questions to ask one another and allotted time to talk and listen.
"My idea of Philadelphia is supporting one another to accomplish a common goal."
Since Leadership Philadelphia has history in the city, attendees of the classes trust the nonprofit and the mission of the classes, creating an “energy that is palpable,” Lewis said.
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“People feel seen and heard in a way that makes you realize how much we crave that and how little we get it,” she said. “Everyone has a story to tell, and the stories are very personal. … It’s very exciting to be in the room.”
Lewis hopes the wheatpastes expand the impact of the master classes and sparks tiny moments of reflection for Philadelphians. In addition to being pasted in Center City and some residential neighborhoods, cards with the questions printed on them will be distributed in Reading Terminal Market, and the designs will be posted on social media.
Artist Nilé Livingston rendered each of the questions with a photo taken somewhere in Philadelphia. For example, she laid the question “What do you love about your best friend?” over an image of the LOVE Statue.
Livingston is a native of Philadelphia. She said connection to others is ingrained in her experience in the city.
“When I think of other cities, and I think of New York, I think of competition,” she added. “My idea of Philadelphia is supporting one another to accomplish a common goal. That’s how I feel connected to the rest of the city.”
McCreary said the divisiveness and fast-paced nature of current times heightens the need for programs like Move in Closer.
“The goals of the project are to engage Philadelphians to stop and pause in their day and reflect on what’s happening in the world around them and what’s happening in their own lives,” she said.
“It’s creating this little, temporary snapshots of beauty,” McCreary added. “I think that that’s always of value.”
Full disclosure: Generocity Editor Julie Zeglen was a member of the Keepers 2018 class, several Technically Media-affiliated folks have been associated with the program in the past and CEO Chris Wink serves on Leadership’s board. Also, Jackie Lewis, the nonprofit’s executive director for engagement, is a Generocity member. Those relationships are unrelated to this story.-30-
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