Whimsy and welders at PIFA’s street fair

Broad Street will become a "magical playground," complete with Ferris wheel.  Credit: Kimmel Center
Broad Street will become a “magical playground,” complete with Ferris wheel.
Credit: Kimmel Center

The month-long Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts is wrapping up this weekend and it’s going out with a bang — and with a dinosaur petting zoo, a swaying Spanish galleon, and a Ferris wheel, all lined up on Broad Street for the April 27 PIFA Street Fair. Our advice? Leave the car at home.

Broad will be closed to traffic and open to the eager masses from Chestnut to South Street. Fairgoers can go back to the future in a DeLorean with a flux capacitor, be rescued by a knight on a horse, and dance with robots. For the less adventurous — or those who worked up an appetite from all that robot dancing — plenty of food vendors will be on hand.

“We wanted to create a magical playground on the street,” says Jay Wahl of the Kimmel Center, which produced the festival. “We wanted the gates of time to open up, spill down Broad Street, and create this completely whimsical wonderland adventure for everyone.”

In keeping with PIFA’s time travel theme, Zo Prod, a group of French artists/welders, spent a day scavenging at local scrap-metal yards to find pieces for the two time machines they’ll create at the fair. They picked up hubcaps and car doors.

“I went to France last summer looking for unusual acts for the street fair.” said Wahl. “I found Zo Prod, which welded works of art as people watched. I asked them if they wanted to come to America — and now they’re performing for the first time in America.”

The group members usually work out of a former meat-processing plant in France, which also houses an art gallery and a theater.

“The reason that we use material that was previously used is more political than environmental. It is a tribute to the non-consumer,” says Zo Prod’s Julia Jeanne Henaud, who’ll be performing at the fair. “We want to show people beautiful things can be made from the what they discard.”


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