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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NPU-V shows Atlanta the Dirty Truth

click to enlarge Two boys take in the Photovoice Project at Mechanicsville
  • Two boys take in the Photovoice Project at Mechanicsville

On July 25, Mechanicsville's Rosa Burney Park became the unlikely setting of a sprawling work of public art some three years in the making. Under a blazing sun and amid the pulse of blaring hip-hop, Neighborhood Planning Unit-V's Photovoice Project: Taking It to the Streets stood as the latest installment in an ongoing photography project documenting large swaths of the district, which comprises Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, Adair Park, Summerhill and Peoplestown. Since 2007, residents have steadily documented the area’s blighted, abandoned properties in hopes of making visible a quality-of-life problem invisible even to many within the communities it affects. According to the Neighborhood Data Advisory Group, 42 percent of NPU-V's properties sit vacant. The event was both a celebration of the work as well as a call to arms to change the character of a neighborhood.

The Dirty Truth Campaign — a grassroots community organization devoted to improving the neighborhoods' physical conditions — has been developing Photovoice since the project's inception. The group distributed cameras in schools and to neighborhood groups and cultivated the results. Working with artist Lisa Tuttle, the event’s organizers lined Rosa Burney Park's tennis courts with dozens of large-scale photos snapped mostly by neighborhood middle and high school youths. The photos told the often tragic, always dispiriting stories of tires strewn across front lawns and burned-out shells of homes claimed by garbage and weedy overgrowth. Many are near Parks Middle School in Pittsburgh, where the photographers pass them daily on their way to and from school.

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(Photo by Alan Friedman)

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