Monday, February 25, 2008

The Past Honoring the Present

In an interesting project is being conducted by the Friends of the Laurel Hill Cemetary in Philadelphia. The historic Cemetery is Part of a program in responce to Philadelphia residence changing their urban environment in a very personal way. Here is the write up from the Laurel Hill Cemetary.

"Urban Mourning: An Important and Timely Project

The Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery is thrilled to annouce the receipt of a $99,900 Planning Grant, awarded by the Heritage Philadelphia Program for the development of the Urban Mourning Project.

The Urban Mourning Project has evolved in response to the rising levels of violence throughout the city of Philadelphia and, correspondingly, to the increasing appearance of spontaneous urban memorials, spray-painted RIP murals, commemorative t-shirts, car decals and tattoos. Laurel Hill Cemetery has over 170 years of experience in dealing with mourning rituals and, although the memorials have changed over time, the impetus behind them remains the same and continues to connect human beings across time and cultures. The rich historical and aesthetic resources at Laurel Hill place us in a unique position to help children better understand the history, meaning and necessity of healthy mourning rituals.

The Urban Mourning Project will combine art, education and psychological support to help youth: 1) better understand their personal grief and loss so that they might channel this pain into productive, creative and healing outlets of self and community expression; and 2) raise awareness of the mourning process as a conscious demonstration of cultural, historical and humanistic necessity. The program will not only introduce children to the historic mourning rituals that have been lost over time, but also discover the new rituals emerging in themselves, their families and their communities. Ultimately, this program has the potential to be transformative for participants, enabling them to move away from the pain and anger so often resultant of violent crime, and toward a greater respect and value for life. By offering a powerful, nonviolent outlet in the form of artistic expression, we will help children realize alternative means for channeling their grief, thus steering them away from reacting violently in the future.

The Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery is now in the process of developing the program, guided by our new Project Director and experienced educator, Antonia Bonds, and supported by a broad and impressive committee of stakeholders that includes experts from a range of disciplines in the arts, history, healthcare and community service. The enthusiasm and support with which the Urban Mourning Project has been met are testament to the significance of and need for such a program in Philadelphia. The Friends are eager to open up honest, constructive and long-overdue discussions about the real causes of and meanings behind such violence.

This planning project is supported by a grant from the Heritage Philadelphia Program, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by the University of the Arts."

Even those untrained in the classical arts still express themselves in a timeless way. I apploud this orginization of realizing how this can be a very healing process.

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