Homewood is Home | The Homewood Experience Comes to Life at Unveiling Event

Oct 5, 2021

On September 19, The Homewood Experience team hosted an incredible unveiling event showcasing the two-year planning and creation process of the Positive Image Campaign: Homewood is Home.

You could sense the energy all around you–the nostalgia and honor felt by long-time residents and community activists, the joy and excitement felt by the attendees–visitors and residents alike–from experiencing this neighborhood in a new and different light. This event was more than just the unveiling of an image campaign, it was a celebration of a community’s past, present and future. 

When we launched into this project, we emphasized  the community’s goal for Homewood to be recognized and reinvigorated as an African American cultural destination, a community that celebrates neighborhood assets and pride with a focus on retaining and uplifting long-term residents. In November of 2019, alongside the Homewood Collaborative, we released a request for proposals seeking consultants to engage and work with local Homewood residents and stakeholders in the development of creating and launching a large-scale branding, messaging and public relations campaign for the community and by the community.

This request couldn’t merely be responded to with a list of deliverables or with a normal rebranding plan, like creating a new website and marketing materials. This project called for connection, passion, and service to the community, especially the Black community. In came Soleil and Sadik of Soleil Branding Essentials and Pyramid PGH–the team behind what evolved into The Homewood Experience –an interactive and intentional experience that is reinvigorating the history and pride that runs deep through the Homewood community.  

Intended to be a 4 month immersive campaign, the Homewood Experience team challenged the resistance posed by COVID-19 with a fervent commitment to uplifting the Homewood community and following through on the robust community engagement plan. After almost a year and a half, the deliverables have been safely met, and the entire team was thrilled to celebrate this journey with the Homewood community.

The unveiling event brought the community together to appreciate what they’d helped build. The official unveiling celebration and block party included:

  • The Homewood Experience ribbon cutting ceremony (Celebrating the official opening of the Homewood Walk of Fame, Art Walk, soundtrack and docu short film.)
  • The Homewood Walk of Fame (Fourteen street pole banners that honor and recognize individuals from or who lived in Homewood, as voted on by the neighborhood. The banners reflect the neighborhood branding and showcase the talent and impact that has come from the neighborhood.  At the event, we heard from many of the family members of those featured in the Walk of Fame)
  • The Homewood Art Walk (Tour with artist Cameron “Camo” Nesbit, an extraordinarily talented Homewood native who created and co-created four murals along with two paw prints throughout Homewood at local businesses and other neighborhood spaces.)
  • The Homewood Experience Soundtrack (Written and produced specifically for this campaign and performed live at the event by the Homewood YMCA Lighthouse Project)
  • The Homewood Experience docu short film (A short film delivering personal histories of Homewood through the eyes and work of local Homewood changemakers)
  • The Homewood Experience Website (Created using community elected branding and highlighting the above features so residents and visitors alike can have constant access to this information)

While we introduced this formal branding imagining campaign just a year and a half ago, its pieces have been years (generations, perhaps) in the making. Homewood is and always has been a vibrant community with much to offer — our trusted Homewood Experience team simply brought time, resources, perspective and passion to aid residents in uplifting all that their neighborhood is and can be. Homewood has many beautiful murals — we simply created the means for lead artist Camo Nesbit and others to produce more using input from community members; Homewood has a plethora of resident and organizational leaders — we just honored all of their great work by sharing their stories; Homewood has many talented youth at the YMCA Lighthouse Project — we simply asked them to use their voices to craft original songs about their neighborhood; Homewood has many amazing residents, past and present — we just helped bring their stories to life through banners lining North Homewood Avenue; and so much more. 

One particular aspect of the project that has been in the works for years is the Walk of Fame. Ten years ago, Elwin Green and Dawn Webb-Turner sat down to discuss creating street banners that highlighted famous Homewood residents. They never gave up on their vision, and now they are seeing their idea come to life. In fact, Mr. Donald Paterson, who has since passed, was also a part of the banner team 10 years ago, is now honored as one of the individuals on the banners.

“As grateful as I am to Neighborhood Allies and R.K. Mellon and all of the other folks who have chipped in to actually make this happen, I want to remind every single one of you out there right now that everything begins with an idea. If you have an idea to lift up your neighbors, to lift up your community, to lift up the lives of those you care about, and you don’t know how it can possibly be executed, don’t let that make you give up on your idea. Because everything begins with an idea.”

– Mr. Elwin Green, part of the original banner team that began planning in 2011. 

We believe the elimination of barriers begins with uplifting creative community ideas; that’s why Neighborhood Allies shows up with the tools and resources needed to expand opportunity for transformative community change.

Thank you to the RK Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this work. Thank you to the Homewood Collaborative for your partnership and dedication. Thank you to Soleil Branding Essentials and Pyramid PGH for your creativity and passion. And, thank you to Homewood for being home. 

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA