Fine Art made its way into the Kensington community last Saturday at the Trenton Avenue Arts Fest. The weather was indecisive, the hand-crafted goods and local music were abundant, and two Kensington-area Artist Communities were on the scene: Little Berlin and FLUXspace. Both groups put together installations for the festival, and found their own unique way to engage the community through their creative act.
FLUXspace set-up turf right near the southern sound-stage, with a patch of grass boasting their brand to recline on while taking-in some tunes.
They also had quite a pile of art supplies and were encouraging youngsters to dive-in to the materials. With the help of the artists, the kids transformed themselves into cardboard robots. Someone in the FLUX group had the idea to equip packs of kiddies withFLUXspace flyers and colorful fake flowers and set them loose across the fair to spread the word about FLUX. What more powerful introduction to the community could any artspace ask for than the sweet smile of a jubilant youngster?
Little Berlin’s installation was much more elaborate, multi-level and multi-tasking, reflecting a kind of ‘self-portrait’ of the collective.
One could interact with the installation through a variety of means including spray-painting on the ‘Tag Wall’, complete with an array of colorful spray-paint cans to choose from.
Or getting your Polaroid taken in the ‘People Wrapped in Blankets’ photo-booth.
Other activities throughout the day included face painting by Little Berlin’s friendly artist crew, a panty-toss, paper airplane launch, and at the end of the festival under a sunny summer-like sky a refreshingly-cool water balloon fight broke out.
This installation was clearly more fun than theoretical, but certain elements of the ideas on display showed the true diversity of the work being produced by the members of Little Berlin. For example, the ‘People Wrapped in Blankets’ photobooth was a rather cheeky attempt by one of the artists in the group, my good friend Beth Heinly, to engage passers-by in the satirical handmade aesthetic of her work.
People seemed somewhat hesitant to approach the booth, yet each time someone chose to step-up an audience of passers-bys gathered to watch the spectacle. With the sun beating down on them, pairs of participants selected their blanket of choice and got comfy together. The subtle way in which the piece toyed with both audience and participant’s expectations brought the work to life. The absurd-dated visual style of the resulting Polaroids capture the performance’s essence – a snapshot of temporary intimacy and the awkwardness that is revealed in this everyday act when forced in front of a makeshift audience.
For those who chose to engage the work, the piece became a lighthearted performance between audience, participator, and the artist herself – everyone who played along had fun. The diversity of this work thrives as it goes outside of the space of the Gallery, out into the community, gets poked and prodded. As a wrap, a take-away piece is produced that becomes an addition to the artist’s collection of ironic displacements-of-the-everyday that make up the larger body of her work.
The success of these two groups’ interactions with their surrounding community is extremely uplifting. Their presence in the middle of a local craft and music festival might lead one to wonder they had up for sale? Since neither group had actual goods for sale, the answer must lie in the exposure of the community to their creative act. In other words, their ideas were up for grabs.
Many of the members of the community who encountered the artists outside in the street last weekend might never cross through the gallery walls, the sanctuary where these ideas are typically displayed, and thus would never have an opportunity to engage the work. This focus on community participation speaks to the diversity and heart of art in Philadelphia.