SAVANNAH, Georgia—Deep Center hosted a free and public West Side Block Party and Dramatic Reading, on Sept. 18, 3 to 7 p.m., at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum.

Celebrating the stories, history and culture of Savannah’s West Side, the work of young writers who participated in Deep’s Block by Block program along with the works of Savannah’s leading adult artists were featured in a book and showcased throughout the event.

At 3 p.m. inside the museum annex, Deep youth kicked off the event with dramatic readings of their creative writing, inspired by their research of the history and culture of the city’s West Side, the seat of its Civil Rights movement. These same stories were included in a full color, 170-page book featuring the writing and artwork of the participants in the Block by Block program.

Following the young writers’ performance, the block of Wayne Street across from the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil rights museum came alive, featuring live music, food trucks, public art, and creative activities for all ages.

“This party marks the joyful culmination of a year’s worth of research, play, and hard work by a team of Savannah’s brightest young people, as well as artists, parents, and many community leaders,” explained Dare Dukes, Deep Center’s executive director. “The creative writing and art on display at the block party reminds Savannah how much there is to celebrate about the vivid past and present of the West Side, one of our city’s most storied neighborhoods.”

Deep recruited local artists José Ray and Jerome Meadows to create original public art inspired by and in collaboration with the young authors. Local artist Panhandle Slim also shared painted portraits of the 25 Block by Block participants, which are now on tour around the 19 Live Oak Public Libraries for 3-6 months at a time, starting with the central branch on Bull Street.

The Savannah Development and Renewal Authority also exhibited results from a collaborative workshop with the Deep Center in the form of a temporary standing MLK Marketplace. At this booth, Block by Block youth “sold” innovative ideas gathered during a Block by Block workshop last June focused on investigating Savannah’s the I-16 flyover with community leaders, historians, parents, and their fellow classmates, gathering more data on the types of ideas the community were in most support of regarding future plans to renovate the MLK corridor.

“In many ways, my art has always been about perceiving, understanding and conveying the rich and complicated truths that communities celebrate and sometimes hide,” said artist Jerome Meadows. “It is in this way and for this reason that I am delighted to have been provided the opportunity to design and create the two sculptural works anchored the West Side Block Party. My close relationship with Deep’s young authors has been immensely inspiring. Through getting to know them, and by way of their insightful words, they have served as compelling collaborators for me throughout this process.”

After thunderous applause of 400+ community members, families, and friends, Block by Block youth kicked off a Block Party to remember in front of the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum.