A sculpture garden grows in Kensington

Kens­ing­ton's Little Ber­lin artists' col­lect­ive just re­ceived a grant to cre­ate a sculp­ture garden on a bar­ren lot.

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 hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

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.

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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