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Thursday, June 8 • 3:30pm - 3:50pm
House of the Living

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House of the Living is a collaborative, socially engaged artwork between Swarthmore College and FarmerJawn, a Philadelphia-based, black-led food justice and urban agriculture organization. The project foregrounds social justice and critical making by using the intersection of art and agriculture to transform FarmerJawn’s greenhouse into a community memorial honoring individuals lost to the growing gun violence crisis in Philadelphia. Over the course of the project, the greenhouse will be transformed by over 400 photographic portraits laser etched onto plexiglass that will be installed as panels at the greenhouse. Upon completion, House of the Living will become a working monument; a functional space used for growing plants, a place of healing and regeneration for visitors, and a site for for violence prevention programing.

House of the Living is multi-year endeavor with many phases of planning and making. During summer 2022, we received funding from the Engaged Humanities Studio at Swarthmore College’s Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. This support has enabled us to develop a second community partnership with EMIR (Every Murder is Real) Healing Center, co-design the the memorial site with victims’ families, and fabricate the installation at pilot scale.
EMIR Healing Center is a Philadelphia-based organization that supports and advocates for families who are co-victims of homicide. With EMIR, we have held a series of participatory design meetings with families engaged in the project. Thus far, families’ responses to House of the Living have been overwhelmingly positive. Many have spoken to the idea that visiting the greenhouse will offer a more uplifting, forward-looking way to spend time remembering their loved one, because the site is focused on growing food and nuturing community. We are also working with families to envision and co-design future programming at the site. So far, participants have suggested planting sessions led by FarmerJawn at the greenhouse, art workshops to paint ceramic pots for landscaping the surrounding site, and poetry readings. FarmerJawn currently offers a number of violence prevention programs with PowerCorps and Urgent360, and plans to expand this programming in the future.

In addition to social justice, critical making, and participatory design, House of the Living also engages progressive pedagogy. Since receiving initial funding in summer 2022, two Swarthmore classes “Monuments and Public Space” and “Sculpture and the Environment” have been involved in the project. In these courses, we are critically applying technology available in our campus MakerSpace towards the project. This semester “Sculpture and the Environment” students are meeting with community partners, making three site visits to FarmerJawn, and creating 60 portrait panels, which we will install at the greenhouse at the end of the semester. Through using the laser cutter to create portrait panels, students are embodying critical making. After the class installs the first 60 panels at the greenhouse in May, a private opening for participating families is planned for summer 2023, with a public opening to follow in fall 2023. We are currently applying to national grants to complete the project at full-scale and begin programming on site with EMIR Healing Center during 2024.


Jody Joyner

Assistant Professor of Art, Swarthmore College

Ron Tarver

Swarthmore College, United States of America

Brandon Ritter

FarmerJawn and Friends Foundation Fund, Philadelphia PA

Thursday June 8, 2023 3:30pm - 3:50pm EDT
PS 405 (Design Center)