Organizers of the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival and Kensington Kine-tic Sculpture Derby are restoring the neighborhood to its former prowess as a place where products — and ideas — are created.
“Kensington has always been a neighborhood where things are built, going back to the 1700s,” says Henry Pyatt of the New Kensington CDC, which launched the Derby seven years ago with about 100 spectators watching a dozen human-powered sculptures — from decked-out bicycles to a huge six-person spaceship — parading by.
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“We not only have a lot of those [larger] manufacturers, but are starting to see smaller scale manufacturers,” Pyatt says. “We thought with all of the artists and makers in the neighborhood, this would be a great way to show off what they’re doing.”
This year’s event is expected to include 25 to 30 sculptures and more than 12,000 attendees from 80 different zip codes.
The sculpture derby is held in concert with the adjacent Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, which celebrates local art, music and food. “It was an idea by the neighborhood association to highlight some of the nicer lots of East Kensington,” says Justin Russell of the East Kensington Neighborhood Association.
He says the festival has raised the neighborhood’s profile among artists, drawing a new creative class.
“Brian Dwyer, who recently opened Pizza Brain, he moved into the neighborhood because of the arts festival,” Russell says. “So we’re talking about the Pizza Brain guys, the Little Baby’s Ice Cream guys — the festival has drawn people into the neighborhood. It’s a lightning rod for creatives.”
Both events are seeking to combat negative stereotypes of Kensington by showcasing local talent and feeding profits back into neighborhood development projects.
“It goes back to creating this impression in people from outside our neighborhood of what is happening here,” Russell says. “We want to create an impression of creativity and the ability to build things, and also a neighborhood that’s well organized, likes to come together and has fun.”
New for this year
Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby is adding:
- A longer, straighter route along commercial corridors to provide space for more spectators
- A partnership with the Comcast initiative Philly in Focus to film the event for future viewing and project the derby on Jumbotrons during the event
And the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival:
- Has been expanded by about two blocks and increased the number of vendors from 150 to 200
- Will include a dedicated section called Builder’s Square, featuring live demonstrations of metal casting, welding, woodworking and possibly some live shows by the Franklin Institute