Where a rusted old marquee hovered over a community center's run down lot in the neighborhood of Homewood, Pittsburgh, a glistening installation of solar panels now rises as a symbol of hope. As part of a six-week Art+Energy summer camp, a remarkable team of 20 local youths -- aged 8-17 -- successfully designed and installed a grouping of solar panels, entitled "Renaissance Gate." This is the first completed project led by the Land Art Generator Initiative, a nonprofit that aids in the development of large-scale public artworks that generate renewable energy.
The panels will produce around 6,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity for the 12,000-square-foot Homewood Community Center, and provide 24-hour public outlets for charging cell phones and other portable electronics. The students’ hands-on design came to fruition after extensively analyzing the existing sign structure, and then creating prototypes out of Popsicle sticks, clay and construction paper. Throughout it all, the group was encouraged make their own decisions, discuss their day-to-day experience in the neighborhood, and think about how the solar panels will impact the community.
As an embodiment of science and art, the Land Art Generator Initiative‘s collaboration with green buildings nonprofit Conservation Consultants Inc. and the Homewood Renaissance Association is a crucial learning opportunity for children who rarely get such chances in Homewood, regarded as one of America’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
As students Jordan Blackwell and DaVontae Garner rhyme “kilowatt-hour” in their original rap about the installation, 14-year-old DaVontae said the project truly represents a gateway to a new Homewood. “It means hope,” said Garner. “I’m hoping that it will change the way people have been acting, change the community, make it a bit nicer.”