Red Bull Art of Can mixes energy and innovation

Red Bull is giving flight to artistic innovation in the City of Brotherly Love this fall with the Art of Can exhibit. Philadelphia is home of the fifth U.S. Red Bull Art of Can exhibit,

Red Bull is giving flight to artistic innovation in the City of Brotherly Love this fall with the Art of Can exhibit.

Philadelphia is home of the fifth U.S. Red Bull Art of Can exhibit, a worldwide contest in search of the most creative Red Bull-inspired artwork. This year, the exhibit is being held in F.U.E.L. Art Gallery in Old City.

“The city of Philadelphia has seen resurgence in the art scene,” Red Bull representative Nyla Hassell said. “Old City is at the heart of this movement.”

The Red Bull Art of Can exhibit is open to anyone who can create an inspired masterpiece out of aluminum. People interested in art – painters, sculptors and the like – are welcome to participate and there are no restrictions. All you need to enter are creativity, imagination and a surge of Red Bull-induced energy.

Since 1997, Austria, Germany, Holland, Switzerland and South Africa have hosted the exhibit. In 2005, the first event took place in the United States in Boston.

Philadelphia attracted 265 artists from 25 states and 14 different countries to participate in the contest. It’s no surprise that students from Temple wanted to contribute.

Roberta Nicolini, 19, recently enrolled at Temple. She comes from an artistically talented family: growing up in Chile, her father was a television icon and her mother was a designer. Her father brought the first animation pieces to Chile and worked in children’s television. Nicolini grew up in the arts – performing in plays, musicals and working with her father on TV shows. When she wasn’t busy with her studies, Nicolini experimented with the visual arts.

“I used to paint graffiti for awhile,” Nicolini said. “And I started to paint murals.”

Nicolini’s entry into the exhibit is a Red Bull purse, which she spent three nights creating. Initially, she wanted to construct a dress, but figured that other contestants have the same idea, so she decided to try something unique. Using a needle, some thread and super glue, she created her Red Bull masterpiece.

Nicolini cut her hands a few times during the arduous process but said she still thinks it was worth her time.

“I didn’t have a lot of experience with cans and working with the medium,” Nicolini said. “I was attracted to this exhibit because I wanted an opportunity to expand my world.”

Nicolini said sculpture is rare in her culture and isn’t appreciated the way it is in the U.S., especially Philadelphia. She said she entered the contest because she needed to do something with her hands. Studying English at Temple, she misses the artistic side of life that she experienced at home.

Not all of the Red Bull sculptures are as identifiable as purses, however.

“I enjoyed the rules that I could make whatever I chose to make as long as I included a Red Bull can in the piece,” said Chad Chaney, 20, a student at the Tyler School of Art. “[Art of the Can] left it open-ended and allowed me free range to do whatever.”

Chaney is a double major in glass and sculpture and first heard about the exhibit through Alicia Ridder, a friend of his from Tyler who promotes the event. His glass piece, Tedious, took about two-and-a-half weeks to finish.

Tyler student Victoria Kuchuk, 23, entered her work Spark into the exhibit. Kuchuk’s piece is a reconstruction of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, a collage made of Red Bull cans.

“My perception of Red Bull and the colors of the cans served as inspiration,” Kuchuk said. “For this piece, I think it was just a combination of everything from my past and present.”

F.U.E.L. had a private opening for the exhibit last Friday, hosted by popular spoken word artist Ursula Rucker. This week, there will be several surprises and special guests visiting the gallery. The exhibit closes on Nov. 2, the next First Friday.

“The exhibit is filled with innovative and compelling pieces as well as some light-hearted whimsical pieces that are sure to bring a smile to your face,” Hassell said. “With large-scale and intricate sculptures and interactive pieces, people of all ages and appreciations for pop art will enjoy the exhibit.”

Melanie Menkevich can be reached at

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