The vibrant arts and culture scene in Northwest Philadelphia will be celebrated Saturday, Sept. 9, when Allens Lane Art Center, West Mt. Airy Neighbors and Mt. Airy Porchfest present the Mt. Airy Arts Festival, a full day of artmaking, music and theatrical performances, arts vendors, exhibitors and food trucks at a variety of locations throughout the neighborhood.
The main event will take place between noon and 6 p.m. at Allens Lane Park on the corner of Allens Lane and McCallum Street in West Mt. Airy. According to Vita Litvak, executive director of Allens Lane Art Center (ALAC), more than 70 local art vendors, a special exhibit of children’s art and more will highlight the Allens Lane Art Center’s 70th anniversary and the local arts community.
“You can try your hand at a variety of artmaking stations,” she said, “including clay, painting outdoors, weaving, dyeing, screen-printing, collage, stage make-up and two collaborative projects with our distinguished team of teaching artists and guest artists.”
On stage, there will be a day of theatrical performances by ALAC actors and performers from local arts organizations such as Karen Smith on drums with storyteller Blew Kind and PJ Brown and Her Resistance. Inside the ALAC building there will be a Children’s Exhibition with artwork by young people from Northwest Philadelphia.
Outside ALAC, there will be a selection of food trucks and vendors. Local arts organizations will also be represented, including Mt. Airy Arts Garage, Woodmere Art Museum, Settlement Music School, The Philadelphia School of Circus Arts and Quintessence Theater.
One of the artists whose work will be on exhibit at Allens Lane Park is Muyiwa Togun, a Mt. Airy resident who was born and raised in Nigeria. A self-made artist, textile and fashion designer, he is the founder and CEO of Roy Urban Kollection, an African textile, art and fashion manufacturer and brand. He has won numerous awards, including the Comcast Rise Award 2022, Philadelphia Textile Exporter Award 2022 (Philadelphia Award Program) and African Fashion Designer of the year 2021.
“I am pulling inspiration from my Yoruba roots,” he explained, “and my lived experience as a Nigerian youth navigating poverty, systematic oppression and assimilation into a new culture as a recently immigrated resident to the U.S.”
Paul Carpenter, of Mt. Airy, a multi-disciplinary visual artist known for his graphic design, illustration, printmaking and painting and one of the region’s most prolific and creative t-shirt designers, will also have his wares on exhibit at ALAC.
Carpenter, who graduated from Springfield Township High School in 2003, has very fond memories of an art teacher, Chris Houston, who was “not only good at teaching the technical aspects of creating art, but he also made class fun. He would bring in his guitar and play for us. He taught more than art; he taught us about life, life skills and social situations.”
Also a talented wrestler in high school who played in a garage punk band with his friends, Carpenter graduated from the University of Delaware in 2007 with a BFA in Painting and Illustration. He was inspired by some magazine ads, covers of videotapes, posters and album art. “I decided that illustration would be something that not only would be fun,” he said, “but that I could do physically with success into my old age.”
Another exhibitor is Mt. Airy resident Akinseye Brown, an artist, illustrator and writer who uses African culture, science fiction and fantasy to create works of art as well as tell stories. “My mission,” he told us last week, “is to inspire and educate through art and storytelling. I have the pleasure of being raised by two artists; my father is a painter and my mother a clothing designer.
“I had an affinity for cartoons and superheroes at a young age, all the while watching my parents make art. I admired the design of TV characters and the stories they were in so much that I began imagining and designing my own. Multiple aspects of my work are informed by those old days.”
Madelyn Snow, a Germantown textile artist whose works will be shown at Allens Lane Park, has been teaching K-12 adult art classes since 2017. She and her studio partner will soon be hosting up-cycled workshops, sewing classes and more sustainable art education programming.
Each of her “Touch Threads” pieces is unique, carefully sourced from local thrifts and predominantly natural fibers. “I then dye, block print, hand paint, mend or alter the garment so it’s better than I found it,” she told us. “My illustrations are based on local flora and fauna, heavily influenced by American folk art.”
As part of The Mt. Airy Arts Festival, the neighborhood will be holding its second annual Porchfest on Sept. 9, with a rain date of Sept. 10, 1-7 p.m, with a party to follow. Porchfest is a volunteer-led music festival that brings the local community together to stroll the neighborhood and experience all kinds of musical acts, using residents' porches as venues. The first Porchfest started in 2007 in Ithaca, NY, and now there are more than 125 Porchfests across North America.
For a map of porch locations, visit mtairyporchfest.com. For more information, visit allenslane.org. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.