Watch CBS News

New project honors victims of gun violence in Philadelphia region

Project honors victims of gun violence in Philadelphia area
Project honors victims of gun violence in Philadelphia area 02:10

ELKINS PARK, Pa. (CBS) -- A new project honors victims of gun violence in the Philadelphia region.

The project is called "The House of the Living" and it etches the faces of the victims into the walls of a greenhouse.

Rovella Davis said her 20-year-old son Aasir was shot in the head in West Kensington seven years ago. His murder remains unsolved.

"I can't have closure in terms of you know, finding the person who did this, but what I can find peace in is that my son continues to live on," Davis said.   


Aasir is one of 90 murder victims whose faces are engraved in glass at a greenhouse on Elkins Estate – a visual representation of Philadelphia's gun violence epidemic.

Originally, the greenhouse was overgrown with vines.

Swarthmore photography professor Ron Tarver was walking his dog when he got the idea to transform it into "The House of the Living."

"The intent is to really give a place for the families to come and find some peace and solace and support," Tarver said.

Farmerjawn CEO Christa Barfield manages the greenhouse and said all the organic food grown will be provided to communities of color.

"We start seeds here and we transplant them onto the actual field on our farm so they can grow into full mature crops such as lettuces, kales, even tomatoes," Barfield said.  


The idea is that the light shining through the portraits will nourish the plants growing inside. For Rovella Davis, it's a comforting thought.

"This whole concept, The House of the Living, I have chills just now thinking about it," Rovella Davis.

Swarthmore art students spent months etching the glass and installing the panels. The Emir Healing Center represents the families that wanted to take part in the project.

"With the hundreds of families that walk through our doors, we were very honored that some said that they will take a shot at it," Chantay Love, the president of the Emir Healing Center, said.

Swarthmore is working to get $300,000 in additional funding to install 320 more portraits for a total of 410. Donations can be submitted at

Davis said the greenhouse is a gift that continues to give.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.