For the two months, visitors to City Hall will be stepping into a dream world. In the Northeast stairwell—the visitors entrance—the grand octagonal spiral has added a four-cornered cascading layer of fabric: Dream Flags.
Inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes and modeled on Himalayan prayer flags, the Dream Flag project started in 2003 as a task for Jeff Harlan’s sixth grade English class at the Agnes Irwin School in Bryn Mawr. After reading Hughes’ dream poetry, students wrote their own dream poems, printed them on cloth, and tied them together, embellished by art. In the ten years since, schools from across the country and globe have written their own dreams and the flags have been exhibited in schools, hospitals, libraries, the Kimmel Center, and Cira Centre.
Stairway of Dreams, the City Hall installation, features the poetry of students from Belize, Zambia, Nepal, Texas, and of course Philadelphia. As the project aims to inspire hope, it’s no coincidence that the installation’s run, through September 27, will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28th. (Incidentally, that same day, City Hall will host native son Kurt Vile for a free performance in the Courtyard.)