ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Neighborhoods known for violence overshadow the beauty that still may lie within them. The Photovoz exhibit at The Strong National Museum of Play showcases neighborhoods that were once a place where children did not have a safe place to play and are now a place they are calling home. 

What You Need To Know

  • Despite facing challenges like gun violence and drug-related activities, people like Luz Colon are determined to create safer neighborhoods for their children

  • With support from organizations like Commonground Health, residents have embarked on initiatives to repurpose once-vacant lots

  • The "Photovox" exhibit showcases stories of resilience and transformation through photographs and narratives within overlooked neighborhoods

Treyer Street, in the heart of inner-city Rochester, has long been associated with gun violence and drug-related activity, according to crime data.

"When my kids were two and three I wanted to move. My house got shot up and the house over there too, thank God nobody was outside," said Luz Colon, a resident of Treyer Street.

For years Luz Colon and her neighbors on Treyer Street have not felt safe allowing their children to play outside.

"Our data shows that 82% of kids don't play in traditional parks and playgrounds. They're playing in everyday spaces like vacant lots on the street and community organizations," said Jenn Beideman, director of Whole Child Health Advocacy for Commonground Health.

It's pushing residents to step up to the challenge to reclaim the once-vacant lot from the city. 

"At one point, this empty lot had about 20 people selling drugs," Colon added. 

Now, it's being transformed into a children's garden, providing kids in their neighborhood with a space they can truly call their own, and reshaping the landscape of Treyer Street. Residents collaborated with Jenn Beideman and her team at Commonground Health to bring the vision to life. 

"We supported with funding to build out this lot. It is where it is today because of the dedication to make their neighborhood a little bit better," Beideman added.

"We provide for them games. They can do arts and crafts, they can do challenges they were provided lunch and snacks, and on the warmer days we pull out the water hose and do water balloon fights," Colon explained.

But it's not just about play — it's about building connections and fostering a sense of belonging.

"It's to keep them safe, to know there is a place where they can go and just be a kid," said Jenny Cuesta, a resident of Treyer Street. 

"Once this came along, it brought a lot of positivity, and our street is quiet," Colon added.  

The Photovoz exhibit will be on display at The Strong National Museum of Play until June 30.