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How Dancing Arches in Our Park Could Make it a Welcoming Gathering Place

Our neighborhood in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a mix of young families and older folks that have lived here their whole lives. There are newcomers, including refugees from Bhutan and Nepal, Ethiopia, and Vietnam. There are also large African American and Latino communities. Rodney Park is a small public playground nearby surrounded by old row houses in a neighborhood referred to as Cabbage Hill, for the German immigrants that planted cabbage patches in their yards in the 1900s.

I’ve worked in the city for the past 20 years, but had never seen Rodney Park. When I started my job as public art manager at Lancaster Arts and drove to the park for the first time, it was rundown and no one was in it. Now that the park has been renovated with new playground equipment, a splash pool and new landscaping, it’s becoming a gathering place for families. People in the neighborhood still cannot believe that improvements are being made for them.

Now, we have a plan to build a sculpture for Rodney Park. “Dancing Arches” is a colorful series of varying tubular metal arches that celebrate Rodney Park’s renewed vitality and serve as a gateway to welcome the community into the park. The colors represent the variety of ethnic groups in the neighborhood and their passage to a new life in the United States. The arch forms are symbolic of the many arches found in Lancaster’s architecture and in the Conestoga wagon that originated in Lancaster. The varying sizes express the energy, activity, and motion that are always present in the park. This sculpture will expand the field of art in Lancaster City and make it more accessible to everyone who lives here. We’re also hoping the neighborhood will see art as an important investment that benefits everyone in the city.

In the last few months we have witnessed the growing sense of pride in this neighborhood. There is an increase in the number of people going to the park. There are also positive conversations on Facebook about the decrease in gangs hanging out in the neighborhood and the increase in families interacting with each other in the newly renovated outdoor space.

The City of Lancaster is committed to the arts and their strategic plan includes public art projects to be incorporated into all parks, streetscapes, and public spaces. We have active committees for a variety of art projects that are taking place in all areas of the city. We're creating a mural in the Ewell Gantz playground depicting African American Olympic track and field medalist Barney Ewell and Head Start community activist Ida Gantz. Artists are designing bike racks, as well as an environmentally-friendly, educational bronze and stainless steel sculpture that uses rainwater drawn from an underground well at Crystal Park. We're also installing major public art at gateway entrances to the city and the new Lititz Pike Bridge. If you’d like to continue bringing public art to our parks, starting with Rodney Park, check out our Kickstarter campaign.

This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.

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