South Philly Food Co-op, the neighborhood’s only supermarket exclusively owned and operated by South Philadelphia citizens, is building a mosaic with local artist Danielle Brief alongside volunteers representing the district’s food, culture and heritage.
South Philly Food Co-op first opened its doors in December 2020, and offers fair-trade and sustainable grocery items sourced both locally and regionally at reasonable costs.
Earlier this summer, Brief was shopping in the store and envisioned creating a tile mosaic piece for the co-op centered around South Philadelphia’s diverse population, traditions and Italian culinary dishes. She inquired if there were any plans in place to put artwork on the back wall, and thereby was introduced to the General Manager, Lori Burge, to pitch her idea.
“We always had an unspoken wish to have a mural at the store but it wasn't until Danielle came in with a vision and offered her services that we were able to make it a reality,” said Burge.
Following the early planning stages, Brief and Marketing Manager, Kerri Sitrin, conducted a survey among South Philly Food Co-op’s members and employees to ensure the mosaic would be representative of the region.
South Philly Food Co-op also reached out to members of the community through Instagram to gain insight into what they would like to see expressed in the mosaic ranging from memorable food experiences, South Philadelphia eateries and popular culinary recipes and dishes.
Subsequently, Brief drafted a design, and Burge began soliciting donations for recycled items such as plates, mugs, utensils and glassware.
The store also began recruiting volunteers to help create the mural during a sequence of workshops.
“The donations of glass and ceramic materials makes this project not just for the community, but by the community. I love the enthusiasm of our mosaic mural workshop volunteers and the fact that the process lends itself to collaboration rather than just my singular vision,” said Brief.
According to Burge, the mural expresses the store’s vision of community, pride and belonging in South Philadelphia’s neighborhood.
Looking down the road, Burge hopes that South Philly Food Co-op will be able to welcome student groups for tours in the future to expand their knowledge on food and job opportunities in the retail industry as well as the cultural significance of art projects and community building.
“Current and future generations will be able to look back and think about our community coming together during a time of face masks and social distancing to open our community-owned grocery store, and then again to make this lovely mosaic together,” said Burge. “It will be a beautiful representation of the fact that we truly are stronger together.
South Philly Food Co-op is still accepting monetary donations and material contributions for this project. Visit this link to donate online. Donations are also accepted in-store at the register. To donate mugs and glassware items, there is a collection box located at the back of the store.
Check out Brief’s Instagram account to learn more about her artwork and to stay up to date on her journey of creating this mosaic.
South Philly Food Co-op is located at 2031 S Juniper St, Philadelphia, PA 19148.
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