A little-used and barren field in Kensington will get a new chance at life as the Little Berlin artist’s collective has targeted the plot for a creative renaissance as a sculpture garden.
The empty lot, located on the 2009-2011 E. York St. is just a few short steps from Little Berlin’s studio at 2430 Coral St.
According to Angela McQuillan, co-director of Little Berlin, the group has long wanted the lot, which they call the “Fairgrounds,” to be an amenity for the community where their artists could present their work – be it a sculpture, a performance or an outdoor art exhibit.
Thanks to a recent grant from the Knight Arts Foundation, McQuillan said that Little Berlin can finally begin rehabbing the lot.
“We really want to make this a place that people can come out to hang out,” she said. “We want people here to come to this park and feel safe.”
She said the artist collective is open to the public, but the group, which touts about 12 members, wants to improve its outreach and allow local residents to participate.
“Some people might be, sort of intimidated or feel like they don’t belong…I mean, I don’t want them to look at us and say ‘look at those crazy artists’,” said McQuillian, noting that the artist group doesn’t want their improvements to the lot to alienate local residents.
“This is going to be a space for everyone,” she continued. “We want everyone to feel included.”
Yet the plan for the site is still in its infancy, McQuillan said. She’d like to host community events like urban farms, flea markets, outdoor art gatherings and book fairs once the lot is improved, but the group needs to raise funds to match the $10,000 two-year grant they received from Knight Arts.
Knight Arts recently announced the recipients of the charitable organization’s Knight Arts Challenge, which delivers $9 million in incentive funding to a wide variety of creative projects throughout the city.
Little Berlin will soon host fundraising events to help reach its goal.
The final cost of renovations to the park is still uncertain, McQuillan said, as the group is just now looking at plans for how to turn the lot into a relaxed and enjoyable space.
For instance, she said, the group would like to do landscaping work in order to bring some form of urban garden to the lot. That could prove difficult as the ground at the property is filled with ruined bricks and concrete from a building that was imploded there years ago. She said the group would have to bring in dirt or dig it all up if they want to plant anything.
“That should be interesting,” she said.
The area where the lot is, along Boston Street, is a small, litter- filled roadway, with a huge warehouse complex on one side and rows of homes on the other.
For some time, McQuillan said, Little Berlin has been using the lot for art displays –the site currently hosts a self-portrait by artist Salvatore Cerceo – but they’ve had trouble with vandalism to the work they put there, as well as issues with drug use and prostitution in the lot.
“Right now, my first priority is lighting,” said McQuillan when asked how the group hopes to address concerns over criminal activity on the lot.
“We are studying it now and we have very, very little money,” she said. “But this is a great opportunity to create a place for art outside.”
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re going:
On May 5, Little Berlin will be holding a barbecue in the Fairgrounds lot, 2009-2011 E. York St., from 2 to 4 p.m. Neighbors are invited to share the day and meet the artists at Little Berlin.
The event will be held to raise matching funds needed to renovate an empty lot. The artists welcome questions, concerns and feedback from local residents as well as suggestions for what could happen there.
That evening, Little Berlin will launch a kickstarter fund in collaboration with Bands in the Backyard, BITBY (http://bandsinthebackyard.tumblr.com).
Money raised through that project will go toward producing a vinyl release of the first 13 bands involved in Bands in the Backyard during its first year, with one song from each of the actual backyard sessions.
BITBY has agreed to donate half of the proceeds from their kickstarter campaign to Little Berlin to fund the Fairgrounds project.
The BITBY event will start at 6 p.m., includes live music from various artists and will be in the Viking Mill Courtyard near the Fairgrounds lot.
Tickets to this all ages show cost $8. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the bands take the stage at 7 p.m.
There will be beers and margaritas available for those over 21 as well as other refreshments.
For more information on Little Berlin, visit www.littleberlin.org.