Sunday, July 5, 2015

Drink beer, drive sculpture, save planet

The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby is an off-kilter extravaganza that's somewhere between a race, a parade and a science fair. The point of Kinetic Sculpture events, established some 40 years ago by Hobart Brown, is to show how creative minds can create vehicles that are both asthetically interesting and entirely human-powered.

Drink beer, drive sculpture, save planet


Yo, enough blah-blah-blah about "the Green future" and "sustainability" and "energy independence" and "planetary concsciousness." When's the last time we really got to put the pedal to the metal with some real-world kicks at a pro-environment event? When's the last time you really had fun fighting global warming?

Well, for some of us it was at last year's Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, an off-kilter extravaganza that's somewhere between a race, a parade and a science fair. The point of Kinetic Sculpture events, established some 40 years ago by Hobart Brown, is to show how creative minds can create vehicles that are both asthetically interesting and entirely human-powered. And the point of this post is that our local version in Kensington is kicking off this year's Derby preparations with a free "Meet-&-Greet" tomorrow - Saturday, Feb, 28th - from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Philadelphia Brewing Company, 2439 Amber St (enter via Martha Street).

Here's the quick version (you can get fuller details in the podcast we did with director Kathryn Doherty about the Derby): As part of the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival on May 16th, the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby will process through the streets of Kensington, showing off some of the strangest mobile creations you've seen in a while, at the same time testing the vehicles' road-worthiness. In addition to three miles of regular paved streets and cobblestones, these moving sculptures have to make it through a mud pit, which really puts the "earth" into "down-to-earth."  (Baltimore's Kinetic Sculpture Race, sponsored by the American Visionary Art Museum since 1999, also has a sand pit, and vehicles must prove themselves seaworthy by navigating through a section of the Inner Harbor. Kensington is still working up to that level.) As you might expect, there are awards given out for Best Engineering and Best Art, but also Best Costumes, Best Breakdown and the coveted "Second to Last" award.

Most (but not all!) of the solutions people come up with involve bicycles in one way or another, so if you have an old one or two that can be re-purposed into who-knows-what and you have any kind of artistic and/or mechanical inclination, you may want to head down to the Philadelphia Brewing Company tomorrow to get the lay of the land, meet other interested parties, learn more about how to build a sculpture, form a team, learn the guidelines, get inspiration and, oh yes, drink some of the free beer that will be on hand.

You can also find out more about Kensington's bid to be named the Most Sustainable Zip Code in Philly - the neighborhood is already pretty green and is making strides that the rest of town would do well to adopt (again, more details in the podcast). But remember, however much talk there is about doing something about climate change, this is a pretty unique chance to turn the talk into action and have a blast in the process.

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About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to

Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.

Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.

Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.

Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.

Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...

Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.

Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.

Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.

In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

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