Despite an unfortunate forecast, WHYY’s Connections Festival attracted crowds to the Delaware River Waterfront on Sept. 8 and 9.
WHYY, Greater Philadelphia’s public media provider, joined forces with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation to spend the weekend celebrating the arts through film screenings, musical performances and visual art displays. The festivities began on Thursday with a kick-off event complete with art presentations and performances inspired by NewsWorks’ Creative Connectors, a prestigious group of Philadelphia area art leaders.
As the weekend continued, art lovers from all around visited the waterfront looking to educate themselves about art in the city and enjoyed the popular food trucks surrounding the events.
On Friday, films about art, such as “The Barnes Collection,” were screened outdoors at Penn’s Landing while the sun set and samples of cold brewed coffee from the La Colombe truck were sipped.
In collaboration with Southern Pennsylvania Coast Day, a day devoted to show Pennsylvanians their connection to the coast through free boat tours and displays on how the water system operates, Saturday began with kid friendly events such as face painting and hangouts with Sid from the popular PBS Kids’s show “Sid the Science Kid.”
Rosie Clark, a former intern for WHYY and present volunteer, is thankful that the Connections Festival joined forces with Coast Day because “it helps bring out a crowd that would not normally attend these events or even know about them.”
As kids sat patiently in chairs while whiskers were painted onto their cheeks, parents were able to wander to other booths that housed various Philadelphians promoting their involvement with the local art scene.
The Association for Public Art, the nation’s first private, nonprofit civic organization established in 1872, was present and telling passers-by of their various interactive art programs throughout the city and promoting their newest public art piece “Open Air,” a large-scale light installation run by the interaction of citizens willing to join the project.
Ashley Lippolis, the Program Assistant at the Association for Public Art, said she believes that WHYY’s Connections festival was a great way “to see those interested in art and explain our ‘Open Air’ project because it can be very complicated.”
The Connections Festival also gave local artists an opportunity to promote their most recent endeavors in the art community.
Author Bill Campbell sat behind a plastic folding table educating passers-by about his new book “Koontown Killing Kaper,” a tale of the struggle with violence in African-American areas of cities around America.
It was obvious that many Philadelphians were patiently waiting for Saturday evening when The Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing hosted musical performances by bands that would perk the ears of any music lover. Philly’s own The Lawsuits started the show and warmed up the crowd for the treats to follow while storm clouds began forming overhead, making the Delaware River look like a scene from “Moby Dick.” Following a short delay as the storm came and went, Chicago’s Maps and Atlases, serenaded the crowd and made it forget about the puddles.
In between acts, members of WHYY climbed on stage to remind those in attendance that they “are the future of public media” and the importance of supporting the local institutions that keep art and music alive.
While equipment was pushed and pulled on the stage, stories of fitting into communities were told by WHYY staff members and upheld the theme of connection that the festival promoted.
As the rain fell, the world of Twitter bustled with questions of the status of the show and the next act, England’s Frank Turner. Known for his recent performance during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Turner tweeted to Philadelphians to remind them that the rain could “not stop the rock.”
As Turner’s acoustic guitar rang clean, his backing band The Sleeping Souls brought the still-growing crowd to a cheer and promoted a dance-off with his new song “I Want to Dance.”
As the rain slowed to a stop, the attendance at the Great Plaza seemed to double for New Jersey’s own Yo La Tengo, an alternative rock band with years of experience. Touring for the promotion of their new release “Stupid Things,” due out Sept. 25, Yo La Tengo led the crowd to sing-alongs and swaying dance moves, while some were on a musical flashback and others an epiphany.
The many events of the Connections Festival helped remind Philadelphians of the importance of art in the city and showed them several ways to access it.
Jenine Pilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.