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Sian Sheu

2019 Champions   |   Philadelphia

I am a Kansas native proud to call Philadelphia home. With an academic and practice background in community development, I’m interested in how human-centered design can grow more equitable cities. At the Rail Park, I explore how this new public space interacts with people and social power through thoughtful curation of public programs and community engagement. I’m fascinated by the histories and identities of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and am passionate about using arts and culture to explore the intersection of race, power, urban development, and social justice.

Neighborhood Learning Lab

My idea is to encourage cross-cultural engagement between park visitors and neighborhood residents through participatory activities at the Rail Park. The “Neighborhood Learning Lab” will build on community assets by inviting community members to teach skills to their neighbors, decentralizing traditional barriers to learning and communication such as language, age, background, and socioeconomic status. We will invite diverse applicants to put their skills on display and provide supplies, outreach, and stipends to those who want to lead workshops.

Through spring and summer, the Rail Park will host a series of these workshops which could take many forms — a Mahjong tournament one weekend, a salsa dancing class another, even a spoken word poetry slam. Through the Learning Lab, we will highlight the diversity of cultures and talents that make this community unique. In this new kind of public space, we will encourage people to experiment, step outside their comfort zone, and share experiences with someone they don’t yet know.