AMP ALIVE! - A Living Amphitheater

AMP ALIVE! - A Living Amphitheater

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A dynamic space of inspiration, and a monumental site for local youth and the community-at-large. An outdoor, sculpted-earth amphitheater will provide a flexible arena for a variety of events, speaking for those who help design and construct it, and speaking to those who will gather within its bounds. The amphitheater will be the product of a community-based process commencing with forums to gather input from kids, teens and community members to reflect the needs and aspirations of our youth population. Ideas will be generated thru workshops with a landscape architect, designers, and Wilkinsburg’s youth and community members. These workshops will include a presentation of the site plan, the inherent challenges, and how the hurdles of location and budget can often be overcome with good design. At the initial forums, youth from Wilkinsburg area schools will be encouraged to discuss the daily happenings of their lives and how this can shape changes they would like to see in the community and in the world. Visits to the site and educational hands-on projects will guide design opportunities, encouraging an interweaving of ideas to create a space of interaction, ensuring participation of kids and teens at every step along the way. Youth participants will then be inspired by local volunteer artists to explore their creativity and ideas thru public art using recycled materials. Together their ideas will build upon one another and the recycled works of art created by youth will speak to the community by serving as permanent art features in the amphitheater.

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What is your idea? What makes your project innovative? Why is it important?

The amphitheater will represent the living elements in our community by incorporating interactive, natural components such as raised bed planters and water features. It will manage storm water retention thru sculpted-earth design, rain catchment systems, a rain garden, and permeable turf and landscaped surfaces. Raised bed plantings will accommodate a variety of organically grown, edible plants including berry-producing bushes, sensory herbs, vegetables, and vibrant flowers. Vining gourds cultivated to become musical instruments will have the added benefit of a pleasing aesthetic during the growing season. Fruit trees will be woven together, eventually providing a naturally shaded cove encouraging contemplation of goals achieved and motivation for future projects. Students with technical inclinations may be interested in creating art that harnesses nature’s renewable resources, such as a solar powered LED security light. The amphitheater is innovative in that it will be a living organism providing our youth a much-needed reconnection with nature. By inheriting a space that will continue to grow and evolve thru the years largely because of their efforts, Wilkinsburg’s youth will awaken a sense of pride in themselves as stewards of the community and the planet. To further cement youth ownership and responsibility, progress will be documented photographically by kids and teens, then posted to a website. As volunteers from the Wilkinsburg community step forward to mentor our youth, it is our hope we will instill a desire for those touched by our efforts to continue the legacy.

What will be the impact of your idea?

Wilkinsburg has been challenged in terms of providing our kids with engaging after-school and summer activities. The amphitheater project will offer a comprehensive plan to provide an underserved youth population with a nurturing urban oasis of beauty, creativity and most importantly, a place to be heard. Students may be engaged at any or all parts of the design process and installation, gaining a sense of accomplishment, ownership and motivation. The amphitheater has the flexibility to be utilized in a number of different ways to give youth a voice, such as music and dance performances, art exhibitions, and community feasts celebrating the edibles grown onsite. Maintenance is normally seen as a challenge, but we view it as a chance to foster a sense of ownership and pride, as well as an opportunity for students to gain skills that may benefit them as they seek jobs. Ultimately, our community group envisions a significant indoor/outdoor art and garden facility in Wilkinsburg that will allow community mentoring to flourish by providing a haven for creativity and green job training. The living amphitheater is the seed to catalyze our goal of revolutionary community development.

What will it take to launch your idea? How will you secure community support and youth participation?

We see this project as a powerful opportunity to involve all levels of community. A grassroots campaign will recruit volunteers of all artistic disciplines, as well as community members and members of government who may contribute mentoring abilities to the development of our youth. To get the word out for this all-inclusive call to arms, we will seek local television coverage and online/print exposure in local news media. Acquiring students from the schools will come from interaction with teachers and administrators, and presentations directly to the students when possible. Community meetings will be held to organize a roster of volunteer talent and to encourage collaboration of cross-disciplines. Additionally, we intend to capitalize upon a great movement currently occurring with Wilkinsburg Borough, spearheaded by the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC). The WCDC recently partnered with Burt Hill Architects and Delta Development to create a master plan for the business district corridor along Penn Avenue. Wilkinsburg Borough is also working with the Office of Public Art to establish guidelines and procedures and to implement a public art education program.

We are looking for ideas from people who can make them happen. Tell us about yourself or your team.

We are primarily a group of Wilkinsburg residents and business owners passionate about progressing our borough toward an economically and environmentally sustainable future. Nine Mile Run Watershed Association will serve as our fiscal agent. Bob Bingham, a Professor of Art specializing in environmental issues at Carnegie Mellon University, joins as a consultant/collaborator for the design of the amphitheater. Bob is currently completing a rain garden project in Wilkinsburg with CMU students and a community gardening program in Alabama. Tracy Myers, Curator of Architecture at Carnegie Museum of Art, has over the last decade participated in and/or served as an advisor or consultant to numerous community-based projects, in addition to regularly participating in reviews and critiques at CMU’s School of Architecture. Kelly Ogrodnik is the Sustainable Design and Programs Manager at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Her background in landscape architecture, restorative design and education are inspired by her desire to connect community and environment. Mindy Schwartz of Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery is also the founder of the Institute for Ecological Innovation.