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ELGL events & activities: week of June 29, 2020

Common Ground – Community and Recovery in a Season of Social Distress

Posted on June 19, 2020


Common Ground Mural

What I’m reading: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

What I’m watching: The Fertile Ground Documentary (debuted on PBS last week)

Today’s morning buzz is brought to you by Jordan Rae Hillman, AICP, Director of Planning, City of Jackson Mississippi


This past weekend we @jxnplanning had the privilege of partnering through our Fertile Ground Project @_fertileground_ with artists and a neighborhood group to create expanded public space in the Fondren neighborhood. The project was both tactical urbanism and a public art installation.  This is one of our team’s favorite types of work because it is impactful and fun.

This installation is called “Common Ground” and was created by Casey Jennings, Ponderosa Drive, A Plus Signs and Creative, Inc. Photography is by Drew Dempsey. The project is part of the Fertile Ground Project funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies through the Public Art Challenge program.  The neighborhood organizer was the Fondren Renaissance Foundation.

Common Ground is designed to be an energetic invitation to the public to participate in the communal activity of dining in a space usually reserved for vehicular traffic. This mural visually transforms one of Fondren’s most bustling streets, reaching a wide audience of public viewers. Functionally, the ground mural assists in the practice of social distancing guidelines related to COVID-19. The mural acts as an extended outdoor space for local Fondren restaurants to utilize as they limit their capacity indoors.

The bright grid is composed of 8’ x 8’ squares, making it easy to gauge the distance between peers, while still enjoying community and food. This ground mural emphasizes the importance of community and recovery during a season of social distress. Common Ground evokes the restorative power of relationships that sprout as a result of southern food culture.

Common Ground Mural

Public art is a powerful way to capture the moment we are in as a society with the challenges of the pandemic, learning the new normal of living with the pandemic with reasonable caution, and supporting our business communities in new ways.  Tactical urbanism techniques can be used to design safe spaces for community gatherings to become possible again.

Our team is at again this afternoon with local artist Adrienne Domnick. Domnick, The Fertile Ground Project, and Black Lives Matter, MS @blmsip are holding a Black Joy as Resistance Juneteenth Celebration (masks required, don’t worry) to debut Adrienne’s Mama Rose Kitchen mural on Farish Street. This is another public art exhibit in the Fertile Ground project.

Using depictions of family and loved ones placed against a vibrant monochrome background, she explores the role of food in tradition. In doing so, the artist hopes not only to archive memories of tradition, but also to ignite the conversation about food access and its impact on contemporary society.

Mama Rose Kitchen

The Fertile Ground Project and all of its components began with the intent of using public art as a medium to inspire dialogue about food access in Jackson Mississippi. When we began this project we could not have imagined the pandemic and the way the pandemic would play out  – bringing issues of food scarcity, food access, and the fragility of our food system to mainstream conversation. The discussion of system racism and the legacy remaining from it in our food systems is entirely entwined and the exactly what the Fertile Ground Project set out to talk about. Mama Rose Kitchen mural is as timely as ever in creating dialogue around food access and its impact on society even during the pandemic.

These two projects are two of many in the Fertile Ground series and I look forward to continued exhibitions and installations creating space for community recovery in this season of social distress. I encourage others to consider investing in public art as a response to current challenges. The return on investment in creating community space is large. I see this work as economic opportunity development, not just public art.

More about Fertile Ground:

The Fertile Ground project uses public art as a medium to inspire dialogue about food access in Jackson Mississippi. The project is made up of physical installations deployed within food deserts across the city, a documentary about food access, community engagement sessions, a podcast series, performance art, a food policy roadmap, and a project EXPO in the spring of 2020. The project brings together an interdisciplinary network of people such as artists, designers, architects, farmers, chefs, nutritionists, policymakers, and community members to discuss the complexities of the city’s food  The Fertile Ground Project uses public art as a medium to inspire dialogue about food access in Jackson Mississippi. The project is made up of physical installations deployed within food deserts across the city, a documentary about food access, community engagement sessions, a podcast series, performance art, a food policy roadmap, and a project EXPO in the spring of 2020. The project brings together an interdisciplinary network of people such as artists, designers, architects, farmers, chefs, nutritionists, policymakers, and community members to discuss the complexities of the city’s food system.

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