Let the Hidden City Festival be your guide on a treasure hunt to discover incredible site-specific art installations within nine of Philadelphia’s oft-forgotten architectural gems.
Running through June 30, 10 projects by visionary artists will be exhibited at nine locations in a wide array of neighborhoods including Center City, Germantown, Frankford, South Philadelphia and University City.
The ambitious, multifaceted festival — now in its second turn after a successful 2009 event — exemplifies a flourishing new breed of art, “social practice art,” which pushes the creative scope beyond painting, sculpting or installing in favor of creating mindful exhibitions, spurring social initiatives and sponsoring forward-thinking dialogues.
Each of the nine festival sites not only spotlight under-appreciated destinations, but also activate the spaces with progressive artists and curious audiences. That mix is intended to spark visitor interaction.
So be prepared — better yet, get excited! — to participate in thought-provoking dialogue, join a knitting circle or have a spot of tea while taking in the awe-inspiring sights at each of the nine locations.
Let your curiosity get the better of you and venture out to take part in this incredible and innovative event.
Read on for our guide, organized by city region, to the nine sites, tickets and events of the Hidden City Festival. For even more information and event times, check out the complete festival calendar online.
Tickets and Donations
Festival passes are available online, and ticketing options include a single-day pass for $20, a weekend pass for $40 or an all-festival pass for $70.
Hidden City members receive a 25-percent discount off of festivals passes, discounts on all Hidden City tours and invitations to members-only Hidden City happenings and events. Memberships start at just $25 a year. To become a member, register here.
To support a project individually, funding and financial donations for this year’s festival are being crowdsourced via Hidden City’s website. Check out the projects support status online, and give back if you’d like to make a contribution.
Inspired to get involved and go behind the scenes? The festival still needs volunteers to help with ticketing, ushering and prepping at sites. Learn more here.
What To Know Before You Go
All festival sites require a festival pass (see ticketing info above) and are open May 23 through June 30, Thursday to Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.
The Hidden City Festival sites are located in neighborhoods throughout the city, and all are accessible by public transit with the exception of Fort Mifflin.
As many of the sites are intentionally well off the beaten path, though, we recommend mapping out your destination before you go. An interactive map of the nine festival sites is available here.
In West Philadelphia
• Hawthorne Hall: Known for installations of epic scale, Rabid Hands Art Collective is well practiced at taking over abandoned spaces and installing widely varying, site-specific performance and visual works.
In Society Of Pythagoras, the collective overtakes a deserted clubhouse and theater in the Powelton neighborhood of West Philadelphia and invites audiences inside to join a secret society. After pledging an oath, expect an immersive experience with interactive sounds, sights and performances.
In Fairmount and Old City
• Kelly Natatorium: Adjacent to the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, artist collective Camp Little Hope has constructed Bibotorium in the Kelly Natatorium, a cavernous space that once housed an aquarium and a public swimming pool, but has long been closed to the public.
Visitors will be welcomed into an educational saloon, wherein the five-person collective has created a research-based installation of three water-filtering boats examining three possible futures for water usage in Philadelphia. Throughout the festival, the installation will evolve and festival goers are invited to discuss their visions over Third World-inspired tea service.
• John Grass Wood Turning Company: In Wood Shop, visitors will enjoy a firsthand view of art-making and explore Philadelphia’s history as a center of manufacturing at the John Grass Wood Turning Company in Old City, which was founded in 1863 and closed in 2003.
See handcrafted woodworking created throughout the company’s 160-year history, found lathe-turned products transformed by artist Joe McTeague and a mobile pop-up modern wood-turning operation run by artisans from The Center For Art In Wood. Docent-led tours depart from the site on Friday and Saturday afternoons throughout the festival.
• Athenaeum of Philadelphia: Inspired by the incredible literary collection of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia — and specifically a single tome analyzing the paint colors of the Edgar Allan Poe house, but containing no images — artist Ruth Scott Blackson presents Through The Pale Door.
For her project, Scott Blackson is creating three complementary books in response to the 1984 Poe paint analysis, each book referencing a different room in the Poe house. Based in literary research of Poe’s works, Scott Blackson aims to recreate the colors described in the source book and hopes to introduce a new element to the canon of works on Edgar Allan Poe.
In addition to an open house and artist presentation on June 13 at 5:30 p.m., Philadelphia-based Poe authority and writer Edward G. Pettit is set to speak on May 30 at 5:30 p.m. and literary and public historian Hilary Iris Lowe will speak on June 6 at 5:30 p.m.
For more on the Hidden City Festival in South and North Philadelphia, see below.
In South Philadelphia and Beyond
• Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel: Within a 100-year-old storefront synagogue, two festival projects take shape. In ADMK Knit Lab, textile designer Andrew Dahlgren invites visitors to join him in remembering early Jewish immigrant textile workers by lending a hand in the knitting of a gigantic sweater.
Throughout the festival, Dahlgren will host at Knit Lab on Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. Stop in to try your hand at operating the artist’s contemporary knitting machinery, then look out for the finished sweater to yarn-bomb the synagogue during the final week of the festival.
In addition to the visual arts project, Philadelphia’s nonprofit jazz and experimental music presenters Ars Nova Workshop host Radical Jewish Music: A Concert Series and associated programming at the synagogue.
The music, part of John Zorn’s Masada Book Two-The Book of Angels commemorates Zorn’s 60th birthday and features the ensemble work of Mycale and Abraxas, and solo cellist Erik Friedlander. In addition to the concerts, return for a lecture on oral history, Sunday, May 26 at 10 a.m. and the documentary Punk Jews on June 20 at 7 p.m.
• Fort Mifflin: South of Center City, near the Philadelphia International Airport, local artists Ben Neiditz and Zach Webber have created Ruins at High Battery, a pop-up settlement on the Delaware River at a historic Revolutionary War site.
Crafted from scavenged and salvaged materials, the installation of makeshift structures intends to call to mind the shacks, shantytowns and informal settlements that have populated the riverfront since the 18th century, and also to take a look towards impromptu housing of the future.
Meet the artists and help gather driftwood and washed-up materials during the project’s open houses, slated for Sundays, 2-4 p.m. through June 16. On June 15, meet in Rittenhouse Square at 11 a.m. to join in a 10-mile bike ride to the site. Finally, at 2 p.m. on May 26 and June 16, trek through the marshlands surrounding the installation with botanical arts team We The Weeds.
In Germantown and North Philadelphia
• Germantown Town Hall: In northwest Philadelphia, Germantown Town Hall transforms into Germantown City Hall under the eye of Oakland-based artist Jacob Wick in partnership with Germantown collaborative the Think Tank that has yet to be named. Vacant since 1997, Germantown Town Hall never actually served as a town hall for Germantown, but will now welcome the public to the space with a performance and meeting area, a reading room/lending library and an office/copy center.
Wick and the Think Tank that has yet to be named will be in residency in Germantown for the duration of the festival, presenting programming and engaging in research on the community’s sense of identity, its infrastructure and its hopes for the future.
In addition to its daily hours, on-site events already on the calendar include a weekly City Hall Meeting on an Independent Germantown, Saturdays at 3 p.m., and an Independent Germantown flagmaking workshop, which is available any time during the run of the festival on a drop-in basis.
• Frankford Historical Society: Record label, events producer and online journal Data Garden set up shop in the basement museum and performance space of the Frankford Historical Society for A/V Archaeology, a project that is both art installation and performance.
Creating an A/V archive, Data Garden employs modern and outdated audio tech to produce a wired sound installation that will allow the public to “play” and mix the sound of the historic museum and its artifacts.
Musical performances are set for May 31, when Heritage Electronics performs on early electronic instruments. Then, on June 15, see Contemporary Archives make music from media in digital archives.
• Globe Dye Works: In a former yarn-dying factory in North Philadelphia, renowned visual artists the Dufala Brothers (Steven and Billy Blaise Dufala) have created an installation dubbed Oil & Water, which examines the historic use of factory space and the trajectory of industrial infrastructure.
The artists employ the existing bones of the crumbling industrial space, and re-imagine the space to build what might have been with faux ductwork and other industrial components.
At 1 p.m. on opening day, Thursday, May 23 and on June 30, the artists will be on hand to offer an overview of the project, give away project secrets and answer any burning questions.
Stay tuned for more Hidden City Festival secrets to be revealed as the festival continues.
Hidden City Festival 2013
When: May 23-June 30
Where: Various locations
More info: www.hiddencityphila.org