Widener University has been awarded a Barra Foundation Catalyst Fund grant to support the newly created Boundaries and Bridges Initiative.

Aimed to strengthen and support arts collaboration in Chester, the funding will assist with the plans for Culture and Arts Corridor from Widener University to Chester’s City Hall.

“The Chester Made story gatherings overwhelmingly showed that Chester residents value the arts and have a strong interest in making the Chester Culture and Arts Corridor a reality,” said Sharon Meagher of Widener University.

The Dean of Widener’s College of Arts and Sciences, Meagher, is collaborating with Chester resident and artist Devon Walls to fulfill the $211,000 grant requirements as primary investigators.

“Both residents and members of the university community often erect invisible walls that keep the other out and hamper collaborative possibilities,” said Meagher.

The Catalyst Fund award will allow for a range of collaborative arts and creative activities to break down the “invisible walls” during the course of 2016.

Members from Widener and the Greater Chester community will work with local artists and residents to identify boundaries that may be obstructions to achieve a deeper trust and stronger collaborations between the university and community.

The Boundaries and Bridges Initiative comes on the heels of the Chester Made initiative, which was part of a collaborative effort led by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council to support the Historic Chester Arts and Culture District, and the concept of a Chester Culture and Arts Corridor.

Creator of the Chester Made logo, Devon Walls is a firm believer that “any movement in the arts is important.”

Chester Made aims to frame the story of arts and culture and its place in the life of Chester through story gatherings. Highlighting last year’s initiative, Walls teamed up with another local resident, Kevin “The Iron Man” Davis, to create a large sculpture of an African mask constructed of iron.

Walls, founder of the Chester-based Artist Warehouse, was named a Widener Artist in Residence for the duration of the grant because of his investment in the community.

“I think that Chester’s artists are moving forward and trying to get a lot of things done that politics couldn’t get done over the years,” said Walls. “I just hope that more Chester artists are brought to the forefront and that their faces are visible.”

Workshops will continue to be offered to catalyze and encourage new collaborative possibilities. Funds will be made available for artistic interventions that strengthen or build new bridges.

Together, Walls and Meagher have assembled a diverse team of university and city leaders to help guide the Boundaries and Bridges Initiative activities.

“The series of workshops will bring Widener University faculty, staff and students together with artists from the Chester community to learn about civic arts methodologies and community organizing strategies that can be used to better understand urban issues and also create a vision for new policies and programs, including what the Culture and Arts Corridor might look like,” said Walls.

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