The community of Whispering Pines is about five miles out of the city center of Phoenix, Arizona. It is a large affordable housing community of about 700 people ranging in age from infant to senior citizen. There are many family households but there are also many single adults living alone or with roommates. With its location close to downtown and near several shopping centers, many of the residents of Whispering Pines work in local service industry jobs. The median income of a household in this community is just over $17,000 making it very difficult for residents to have any money left over for recreational activities.
At Whispering Pines Apartments, our Creatives-in-Residence program has engaged with more than 100 residents since the residency began in September of 2014. Our Creative, Erin, has had great success reaching out to the youth in the Whispering Pines community. Erin has been described as a community mentor -providing focused and productive activities including tutoring, healthy living choices that encourage sportsmanship, athleticism and nutrition, conscious living through community pride, and the creation of shared aesthetic actions and spaces.
The community has been participating together with Erin to create areas of aesthetic pride at Whispering Pines. She and the children created two garden sitting areas with wooden fences designed by the children. The first is a bird and butterfly themed garden the second is a Wish Garden with an accompanying chalk Wish Wall. In addition to the gardens, the children designed and painted trash cans for the property to help keep their playground area clean.
After school, Erin works with the children to develop positive study habits and encourage academic success. The kids work on homework as well as read from a selection of fiction. If they do not have homework, sports such as kickball and badminton are encouraged or organized games such as Uno, Candyland or Battleship.
Aesthetic activities range from learning about photography and image making, to pottery, designing t-shirts, repairing old bicycles, painting and creating backdrops for holiday portraits. Erin and the residents of Whispering Pines try to celebrate birthdays and holidays and note other special occasions of importance such as report cards and band concerts.
The social dialogue with adult members of the community has involved the creation of a book borrow program in the leasing office, a monthly bingo night and a monthly outdoor movie night. These activities have created a positive and dynamic relationship between the residents and the community staff members. Everyone enjoys getting together to share in the creativity.
Whispering Pines features a social service center staffed by the nonprofit organization Project Access. In collaboration with Project Access, our Creatives-in-Residence program has organized off-site field trips to the Arizona Science Center, the Phoenix Art Museum and a Diamondbacks baseball game. Erin is always looking for ways to partner with local organizations so that the community of Whispering Pines may explore and engage with the spaces and people of Phoenix.