Color, rhythm and community spirit will be on full display this weekend as neighbors celebrate South Reading. On Saturday, July 8, residents in the city’s southside are invited to attend a celebration of the people and artists who make the city beautiful.
The area from Franklin Streets to Canal Street, between Second Street and Seventh Streets, is known as the South of Penn neighborhood. It is the target area for the neighbor empowerment effort known as the South of Penn initiative.
Jada Aviles is the coordinator for the South of Penn (SOP) initiative and also grew up on the southside. For Jada, she said the day means more than full stomachs and happy neighbors.
“The food tour celebrates our small business owners who are chasing their dreams,” Aviles said. “And the mural literally shows the faces of the people who have dedicated their lives to this neighborhood, who grew up here, who have raised children here, who bring joy to these streets.”
“This is a representation of not limiting yourself and if you believe and are passionate enough, dreams do come true,” Aviles added.
The mural adorns a plot of land dubbed “Lucky’s Lane,” a previously empty lot on the 300-block of South Seventh Street that was transformed into a hub of art activities by SOP and its allied community engagement organization, Barrio Alegría.
The city of Reading is also playing an important role in the revamping of Lucky’s Lane. The city helped level the lot to create an even surface for future performances and activities, it is adding in a small garden to bring greenery to the alleyway and it has enacted a memorandum of understanding with Barrio Alegría for the arts group to bring programming to the lot.
Muralist and Reading native Theron Cook designed the artwork to reflect prominent figures of the SOP community who established traditions that continue today.
“I have to say that this type of project is exactly why I pursue art,” Cook said. “People look at art and say ‘yes, it’s cute and beautiful,’ but really, it is a healing mechanism to display our visions and hopes, to bring people together.”
Cook said he was moved when he learned of an annual South Seventh Street tradition of a community Thanksgiving party.
“As a community, they stayed together to serve each other and look out for each other,” Cook said. “That was more than enough to inspire me. I’d love to do more of these projects because they are overlooked but they are very necessary in keeping the community together and creating culture.”
Barrio Alegría will provide food and an alleyway concert to celebrate the new addition to the neighborhood.
South of Penn Food Tour will take place from 2-3pm, the mural unveiling is scheduled for 3pm, and the free Alleyway Concert will begin at 4pm. Lucky’s Lane is located at 339 South Seventh Street in Reading. The event is free and open to the public. Rain date is planned for Saturday, July 15.