Cheltenham Art TourLocal residents and businesses of Cheltenham Township have created the blueprint for redeveloping and revitalizing neighborhoods that is pro-growth, pro-business, and pro-environment—reversing  neighborhood blight and promoting the arts.

Years ago when the previous Cheltenham High School closed, this huge community resource became a decrepit, vandalized site that became a magnet for all the bad things that can happen to a community, according to Sandy Rosenberg, former president of Friends of High School Park.

Rosemary Porter, another former president of Friends of High School Park, noted:

“The first thing that happened was serious pilfering. They stripped the building of anything of value. This property was sitting and became littered with– school desks, chairs, empty tin cans. The school gymnasium became a place where vagrants would camp out, build little fires in the auditorium or gym to warm themselves.”

Born from the ashes of the burned out building, Friends of High School Park arose, a non-profit grassroots organization, to create a little oasis in the middle of Cheltenham Township. Member Jennifer Sherwood said High School Park is being restored to its native habitat and animals can use it to live there. It has become a place to congregate for events such as “Arts in the Park” and “Turtle Artisan Tours” –

Another way to restore communities is to embrace the arts. The Turtle Artisan Tour co- founded by Amy Ragsdale, a metal smith who fashions modern jewelry, and Denise Shardlow, an eco-friendly fiber artist/fashion designer, in partnership with the Cheltenham Center for the Arts(CCA) and Friends of High School Park, was designed to promote the arts through a self-guided tour. Visit the studios of select artists during this free, self-guided tour through Cheltenham Township. Spend time with family, witness the creative process, encourage local prosperity, meet talented neighbors, and reduce environmental impact.

All are welcome  to attend  the March 19th meeting including artists and those interested in volunteering, to be held  from 7 to 8pm at the CCA, 439 Ashbourne Road, to finalize the details regarding the Turtle Tour scheduled for Saturday May 5th  from 11AM-6PM and Sunday, May 6th from 11AM-5PM.

On the tour, Meei Ling Ng, a local sculptor who primarily uses recycled materials, will be installing an outdoor nature- inspired sculpture in her garden. Also Friends of High School Park invites families to create side-walk art in the park. The widow of the late Tom Steigerwald is opening her home and his former studio during the Arts Tour.

CCA is a designation on the tour that you must see. They have art classes; student, adult, and faculty exhibitions; theater programs; and concerts. Their philosophy is “the arts offer to all ages a means to broaden horizons, learn new skills, and explore ways of seeing the world.” Their mission is to “provide a creative environment to nurture that process.”

Sponsors are beginning to emerge for the event: Diana Weiner, restoration manager of Friends of High School Park; Bill Mettler from Transition Town, which began to find eco-friendly ways to live better, healthier lives, creating less pollution and waste and using sustainable resources; local restaurants on the tour such as Elcy’s Café at Glenside train station, Linda Jean’s Gene’s Grille in Wyncote, and Under the Oak Café in Oak Lane; and local businesses such as Dovetail Artisans in Glenside; and Marsha Ray, jewelry artist/fundraiser.

More are needed to raise awareness, get the word out, and provide signs and street banners to make this a spectacular event, a boon for Cheltenham and surrounding townships.

Watercolor by Bonnie Mettler - a participating artist

Imagine a community where art matters. According to Ragsdale, Philadelphia and Bucks County are reaping the benefit of promoting the arts, a little bit of attention has created lots of revenue. Everyone has a stake in keeping communities viable. Turtle Artisan Tours needs a little attention,  as well as more corporate and local sponsors to promote it and more artists to participate.

If you are interested in participating as an artist, volunteer, or sponsor, contact Amy Ragsdale or Denise Shardlow at [email protected] .

*Article & information provided by Lynda Dell


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