Arts and crafts for all at Lehigh Ave. Arts Festival

The Le­high Ave. Arts Fest­iv­al, now in its fifth year, raised $5,000 for art schol­ar­ships for loc­al kids last week­end.

Now in its biggest year ever, the Le­high Av­en­ue Arts Fest­iv­al at­trac­ted over 50 arts vendors to Port Rich­mond last Sat­urday to peddle their in­vent­ive crafts and raise money for loc­al arts pro­grams.

The fest­iv­al raised $5,000 this year for art schol­ar­ships for neigh­bor­hood kids, who will take classes at the Port­side Arts Cen­ter at 2531 East Le­high Ave.

Not bad, con­sid­er­ing the fest­iv­al was launched by the arts cen­ter just five years ago with only 12 vendors, ac­cord­ing to Kim Creighton, dir­ect­or of Port­side and a fest­iv­al or­gan­izer.

The fest­iv­al has rap­idly gained sup­port in past years, she said, in­clud­ing from state rep­res­ent­at­ive John Taylor.

One main at­trac­tion dur­ing the crowded fest­iv­al Sat­urday was Plastic Fant­ast­ic, a pro-en­vir­on­ment art pro­ject that was in­spired by the doc­u­ment­ary film, “Waste­land.”

The film doc­u­ments the float­ing is­land of un-re­cycled plastic bottles and oth­er garbage that has formed a patch of waste twice the size of Texas in the North Pa­cific Ocean.

Diedra Krieger, lead artist of Plastic Fant­ast­ic, was at the Arts Fest­iv­al wear­ing a hat made of plastic bottle­caps and col­lect­ing plastic bottles for a gi­ant geodes­ic dome she plans to erect in a va­cant lot in West Phil­adelphia as a state­ment against waste.

Artists of all stripes – paint­ers, knit­ters, car­penters and gen­er­al cre­at­ors – also came from across Phil­adelphia and oth­er parts of the state for the fest­iv­al.

Rhoda Craw­ford, a Port­side com­mit­tee mem­ber, de­scribed her art as “my hobby – how I de­com­press at night.”

“I use found ob­jects and up-cycle them in­to wear­able art and jew­elry,” said Craw­ford, whose wares in­cluded ear­rings, neck­laces, and etch­ings.

“I star­ted do­ing it for my­self, and I ended up do­ing it to sell them,” said Mandy Re­in­hart, of Cute as a But­ton Boutique, who came from Al­lentown. Re­in­hart sells hand-made hair ac­cessor­ies that all in­clude old but­tons.

“My grand­fath­er used to col­lect them, and I just love but­tons,” she said.

Among the crafts on sale were canes and walk­ing sticks made from re­claimed wood har­ves­ted in the woods of Pennsylvania.

“Every one is so unique,” said Gary He­m­en­way, of Mans­field, the pro­pri­et­or of “Sylvan El­eg­ance,” about the walk­ing sticks and canes he spends hours smooth­ing and fin­ish­ing with the un­der­brush he finds in what he called “the end­less moun­tains of Pennsylvania.”

Spread­ing aware­ness about re­cyc­ling and en­vir­on­ment­al­ism is also an im­port­ant goal for the arts fest­iv­al – Creighton said that the ma­ter­i­als which make up Port­side Art Cen­ter are 90 per­cent re­cycled.

Out­side the cen­ter at the fest­iv­al, guests made their own multi-colored art­works on old vinyl us­ing a home-made paint spin­ner provided by Port­side. Creighton said the spin­ner was in use un­til night­fall, when they fi­nally ran out of old re­cords to paint on.

“Every year it gets bet­ter, and more people come and more vendors want to come,” Creighton said. “It’s a great thing for all the com­munit­ies to just come to­geth­er as one.”

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at sne­w­

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