Video, Book Arts and a Super Creature Sculpture Come Together at 'Commotion' Public Art Fest

Groundbreaking faculty-led project connects UArts students, alums with local communities

Super Creature of Energy and Power

July 3, 2012

As the Commotion Festival drew to a close on June 30, University of the Arts Sculpture students Olivia Diehl '12, Trey Dunlap '12 and Aimee Goldsmith '12 could be found in the Point Breeze section of Philadelphia erecting a 20-foot tall Frankenstein-like sculpture called the "Super Creature of Energy and Power." Local artist Jebney Lewis headed up the sculpture raising and block party, one of the featured events at the two-week long festival held June 16 – 30.

Led by University of the Arts faculty member John JH Phillips, Commotion was developed as a partnership with energy company PECO and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA). The $250,000 project, funded by PECO through the PRA's Percent for Art program, included the development of a new curriculum for UArts students focused on exploring the history and impact of art in local communities.

A groundbreaking approach to public art, Commotion began in January 2012 with a series of hands-on workshops held in various South Philadelphia neighborhoods that invited the community to "interact and explore their neighborhoods in new and unexpected ways."

"Getting people involved in this process, they realize it's not just being plopped down in their neighborhood. They had some relationship to it," Phillips told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Diehl, Dunlap and Goldsmith participated in some of those workshops, working with schools in the project area like Audenried High School, where they taught electrical engineering students to build parts for the Super Creature, and Steven Girard Elementary School, where students were taught to nurture plants that were incorporated into the temporary sculpture.

While creating his sound and video installation "Night Ferry" – another featured Commotion event held June 30 – Phillips hosted free video-making workshops for the community. Collaborators on this large-scale, interactive art project included Dejha Ti BFA '08 (Multimedia), Derek Scull '13 (Communications) and Andrew Zahn BFA '11 (Multimedia).

Visual artist and Liberal Arts Senior Lecturer Tim Fitts also held workshops where local residents could share stories. Those tales inspired the creation of a 70-page book of his photography titled 46-45 Verandering, which was created in collaboration with Zahn, Scull, Goldsmith, Tyler Bailey BFA '12 (Multidisciplinary Fine Arts) and Maxwell VanHook BFA '12 (Multimedia). The graphic art book was handed out at all Commotion events.

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