‘‘There is no good reason to bury a child. There is no justification for why this unnatural act has become normal in Hazelwood. Here, we recognize the countless individuals who have felt the pain of saying goodbye to loved ones whose lives were cut short by street violence. Their stories of loss encourage us to share our own, and through this exchange, we take part in something bigger than ourselves. We become a community empowered by vulnerability, strengthened from our compassion, and engaged with the issues that matter to us. This exhibit describes the journey of Hazelwood and asks us how we have arrived to a world with such systemic loss. We question the larger forces in our society, as we strive to find peace in our personal histories. We look for opportunities for positive change, and recognize the power of this community many people call home: Hazelwood.”
ABOUT Hazelwood and The Center of Life:
Hazelwood was once an important part of Pittsburgh’s steel industry, which provided jobs for thousands of workers in the vibrant community. With the closing of the mills, however, Hazelwood’s resources, economy, and population declined. The Center of Life was established in the community to provide skills-building, academic, artistic, and athletic programs to strengthen the community and its families.
WHAT WE WERE ASKED TO DO:
As a group, the Carnegie Mellon Design class of 2017 was approached by Tim Smith, the President and Executive Director of the Center of Life, to create an exhibit in its church/community space commemorating lives lost due to gun violence in Hazelwood. Not only was the exhibit to provide a safe space for grief in the community, but also to highlight many of the systemic issues that continued to contribute to the lack of resources as well as accentuate the strength and resilience of the community members.
WHAT WE DID:
We amplified the Center of Life by transforming the church and community space into a center where greater Pittsburgh, and beyond, can learn about Hazelwood and its inhabitants. As a class, we worked with the community to tell its story, sharing its history, aspirations, dreams, grief, and hardships.
SPACES WE SHARED
A community cannot grow without spaces to call its own. Although Hazelwood used to be a thriving neighborhood, it lost countless resources like schools, grocery stores, and jobs when the steel mills closed. Neighborhood treasures like ice cream shops and community swimming pools are now fading memories. By looking at artifacts from Hazelwood’s past, we reflect on what this neighborhood used to be.
ASPIRATIONS WE HOLD
The people of Hazelwood are living and breathing stories of inspiration and resilience. From Olympic medalists to entrepreneurs, the community is filled with champions of hard work and talent. However, amongst these bright stars are also quieter voices whose stories of compassion and determination remain untold.
TOGETHER WE REMEMBER
There are times when it is difficult to remember the loss of our loved ones because the pain is too great. However, when we can voice our grief to others, suddenly we are no longer alone. The countless individual stories of young lives cut short in Hazelwoodbuild a larger narrative of urban street violence. Coming together over this shared experience creates a system for support and healing.
UNITED WE WILL
Hazelwood is a beautiful mosaic made up of unique individuals who each play a role in the community. Whether they are artists, activists, leaders, role models, or supporters, these people all share the desire to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Through the years, Hazelwood’s strength has rested on its ability to come together in difficult times.
SYSTEMS WE SEE
As Americans, we are promised the rights of freedom, justice, and equality. But how are these rights fulfilled if communities struggle to put food on the table and keep their children safe? Battling systemic issues like poverty, racial inequality, and urban violence starts with open eyes and honest conversations.
WHAT I DID:
At the start of the project, I worked with a team to develop research tools to learn about the community and its needs, and developed ideas to further engage and represent the community with possible exhibit installations.
Ultimately, I was on the team in charge of telling the history of Hazelwood - Spaces We Shared - and curated artifacts and stories to help share this history.
Related to infrastructure and build-out, I helped develop the artifact display system used throughout the exhibit, helped manage and facilitated the CAD model for prototyping the exhibit, and often served as a liaison between my class members, project professors, and the Center of Life.
More links and articles about the project: