‘We Here’ gets the community involved with its art

We Here

This summer marks the start of a new community-engaged art project from Mural Arts Philadelphia and local artist Roberto Lugo. 

Titled ‘We Here’, this two-year project was spearheaded by Mural Arts’ Porch Light program in a collaborative effort with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, and it was all largely inspired by Lugo’s journey as a professional artist growing up in Kensington. 

This new immersive art initiative aims to inspire local youth through pottery, and it all begins with pattern-making and pottery workshops designed to actively involve local school groups and members of the community. The outdoor sculptures from the classes will then be unveiled over the summer in different spots around Kensington.

Workshops will be led by Lugo and collaborating artists—including Yinka Orafidiya and Nitza Walesca, and there will also be immersive experiences accompanying the installations, like public programs, tours and a symposium from June to October. 

“I’m a firm believer that art brings about healing, and I’m here because I believe in what we’re doing with Roberto,” says CAC member Brenda Mosley, founder and executive director of the Kensington-based nonprofit By Faith Health and Healing, Inc in a statement. 

Mosley continued: “A lot of people in Kensington are dealing with tragedy and trauma and loss, and Roberto’s art provides the joy that’s needed in healing. What’s really important is that Kensington residents know who Roberto is and all that he has come from, and how he has established himself. He’s a true vision of hope that people can connect with.”

In conjunction with ‘We Here’, Mural Arts will also publish a children’s book based on the story of Lugo’s discovery of art, a release notes. Co-developed by Lugo and acclaimed children’s book author Frank Berrios, the bilingual (English-Spanish) illustrated book will be distributed to families in Kensington for free. Along with Lugo and the project team, ‘We Here’ is led by a Community Advisory Committee consisting of Kensington residents Daisie Cardona, Margarita Gonzalez, Tyler Kline, Brenda Mosley, Sunny Phanthavong, Neyda Rios, Claire Sitarz, Drew Spence, Katelyn Stoler, John Walsh, and J.C. Zerbe.

we here

“With the larger-than-life vessel sculptures that will be installed in the neighborhood, my goal is for folks to take pride in our community and see themselves as artists in the colorful patterns derived from and inspired by Kensington that will adorn the artwork,” said Lugo in a statement. 

The artist also notes that the sculptures themselves are an invitation for the community to interact and by stepping inside, participants complete the artwork’s vignette as the portrait subject. 

“I was inspired to create these sculptures and debut them in the community that raised me after taking notice of the stigma surrounding people taking selfies or photos with artwork. Above the criticism, I saw the natural inclination of people yearning to be reflected in something beautiful. With ‘We Here’, I’m bringing art back to my neighborhood and urging the people of my community to step into their absolute talent and creativity.”

We Here embodies the essence of Kensington’s resilience and creativity, transforming the neighborhood into a living canvas,” added Jane Golden, Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia. “Through Roberto Lugo’s inspiring work and our collaborative community efforts, we’re not just making art – we’re weaving a vibrant tapestry of hope and unity. This project is a powerful testament to the transformative role of art in community building.”

To learn more information about ‘We Here’, Mural Arts Philadelphia and Robert Lugo, visit muralarts.org