In the Lower Northwest area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania lies a town called Manayunk, which is a splash of “urban experience” and “small town charm.” And if you’ve heard of it, you probably know that, but if you haven’t - here is the scoop.
One of the most important pieces of Manayunk’s history is the Manayunk Canal along the Schuylkill River. Listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic places, Manayunk’s Main Street area is a historic district that was initially created to connect the area of Philadelphia with places like New York to assist with collecting supplies needed from agricultural lands and mineral resources. The canals itself helped make the area one of the hardest working cities in Philly, and according to Manayunk’s website, employed thousands of workers and producing millions of dollars of goods a year, earning the nickname “the Manchester of America.”
Interested in the arts, as well as activities for it’s citizens, Manayunk is constantly adding more things to do to enrich it’s Historic District. Just recently, the city hosted another Annual Manayunk Arts Festival, which is the tri-state's largest outdoor, juried arts festival, wrangling in over 200,000 visitors of all different interests. The area has summer block parties from June through August, and even has an event this year set up to bring out the waggily dog tails of the town.
Since this area cultivates such an open environment from the arts, I was asked by EventNext, representing Jeep/Chrysler/Dodge/RAM to live paint in their booth. Simply put, over 2 days it was 16 hours of painting 2, 4'x6' canvases. Day one, was supposed to be a rainy one, so I was tucked under a tent behind the display. Although there wasn't a ton of foot traffic, I was able to meet many interested festival-goers as well as complete a full painting!
Day two was a much brighter (and hotter!) day. I was placed in front of the exhibit, and had much more foot traffic. Friendly faces stopped all day to take in the painting I was working on. There were some great questions, and feedback all around. At the end of the Festival, everybody from EventNext and the Chrysler team were happy to have me out. I believe it was a very successful weekend.
My style of painting is frequently a mash up of imagery with geometric shapes, and textures. This style worked very well for the event because I could pull in Iconic imagery of Manayunk and Philadelphia that really resonated with the patrons of the festival, and of course to keep Jeep/Chrysler happy, I included images of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. For those curious of exactly what I chose, or who want a bit of history lesson, these were my image references.
The Liberty Bell - Probably one of the most iconic pieces of Pennsylvania History, the Liberty Bell, formerly known as The State House bell, resided in the tower of Independence Hall. According to the Liberty Bell’s official website, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly Isaac Norris first ordered a bell for the bell tower in 1751, and that bell cracked on the first test ring. “Local metalworkers John Pass and John Stow melted down that bell and cast a new one,” and the bell called lawmakers to their meetings. Yes, even the meeting that resulted in the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Ben Franklin - Speaking of the Declaration of Independence, one of the most prominently known men of Philadelphia was Mr. Ben Franklin. One of the founding fathers of the United States, Franklin was known for many things, including being one of the wisest men in the room in 1776, as well as being an inventor of many things. On top of the Declaration, he helped draft the U.S. Constitution and the 1783 Treaty of Paris. He also invented Bifocal glasses, the stove, and did experiments that lended information to creating Electricity. Many people who don’t know their history always mistake him for a President since he’s on the $100, but he never was elected to that position.
The Printing Press - As a writer long before the printing press came to be, Benjamin Franklin dabbled in “the press” by working for his brother James who published the ‘New England Courant,’ and Franklin wrote the Silence Dogood Letters under that pen name. He wanted to open his own shop, but his dad wouldn’t front him the money for investment, so he went to London to try and procure some equipment. That didn’t quite work out for Ben, as he didn’t have the right documentation and credit to do so, and so he worked in print shops to learn all about printing so he could bring it back to America. Franklin then entered a partnership with Hugh Meredith, whose father helped them rent a house and import equipment to begin a printing company. He then began running newspapers and many other forms of literature, which ended up making Franklin’s Printing Press the official printer of Pennsylvania in the 1730’s.
The LOVE Sculpture - Influenced by cubist artwork, Robert Indiana created the sculpture dubbed “The LOVE Sculpture,” which is formulated with all four letters of the word “love” stacked on top of each other in a square like format. Known primarily as a painter prior to this sculpture, Indiana was able to create multiple designs of the sculpture, which his site describes as “American identity and symbolism” as well as the excitement of Love. The sculptures have been placed in multiple places in the country for exhibits and installations, but are generally associated with Pennsylvania, despite Robert’s origins of Indiana. His site quotes an interview with Susan Elizabeth Ryan, Ph.D. saying the following:
“. . . what I’m doing is equating my paintings with my poetry. In other words they are concrete. The LOVE is a concrete poem as far as I’m concerned. Just a one word poem. Repeated so endlessly by myself, and it’s a little bit like, shall we say, like Gertrude Stein. Just don’t stop using a word, you see . . . Remember there’s another aspect about love and of course this really comes through in [the poem] Wherefore the Punctuation of the Heart. Love is a noun and a verb and so one must decide what my love is. It’s a command, love, and it’s a subject, love. It is an exercise, and grammar is one of my favorite subjects.”
The Lion Fighter Sculpture - Created by Albert Wolff, the historical statue is a companion piece to August Kiss’s ‘Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther’ and according to The Association for Public Art, “When returned to Philadelphia, it was installed on a “jutting rock” on East River Drive. It was moved to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1929, where – as in Berlin – it accompanies a bronze cast of the Amazon.” It’s original origin was cast locally by the Bureau Brothers in 1892, for the intention of exhibition at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Ultimately it was a great weekend! I was able to complete two large paintings! Day One painting was shipped back to EventNext's warehouse, while Day Two painting was left with the Manayunk team to eventually be raffled off for a local charity. If your interested in potentially purchasing a ticket for this raffle, follow me on Facebook, and I will post details as soon as they come up.
For behind the scenes footage from day one, check out our Vlog: