What is West?  is a socially engaged, culturally competent effort to redistribute agency in an often misrepresentative and one-sided narrative of the neighborhood. This series of collaborative, civilian-controlled public art installations will give the authority and tools to define West Philadelphia as it exists for its community. Recognizing lived experience as expertise while utilizing public art as a means of exploration, this project will allow our neighbors to move towards collective healing and justice. 

West Philadelphia is a large area made up of many different neighborhoods, each with its own unique identity. Historically, West Philly has been documented for its issues rather than its  ​​neighborly warmth, diversity, and collective optimism. Over the course of three years The Arts League alongside Lead Artists, Selina Carrera and angel shanel edwards, will work with two partner sites. The first being Francis Myers Recreation Center located at 58th & Kingsessing Ave and second being Malcolm X Park located at 5100 Pine St. The project will culminate with a short documentary, directed by award-winning journalist Sofiya Ballin, chronicling the programs, events, art-making, and relationships cultivated throughout the project. 

To learn more or to get involved please email our Project Coordinator, Rose, at whatiswest@ucartsleague.org .

What is West? has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Year 2: Archive with Malcolm X Park


angel shanel Edwards is a multi hyphenate artist based in Philadelphia leading free photography workshops and pop up photography events alongside Malcolm X Park and the surrounding West Philadelphia community. The program is Seeking to archive west Philadelphia through photographic and land based explorations. 

Year 1: Dream Big with Francis Myers Rec Center

2022 – 2023

Over the course of one year (2022-2023), Philadelphia-based musician, artist and educator Selina Carrera (Cagebird) worked with the community of Francis Myers Rec Center to explore the prompt “What is West?” through music, creative writing, and poetry. In this first year of the project we had the pleasure of hosting 30+ workshops and events engaging with nearly 250 community members. This playlist is a sample of the in-progress works created by students.