Photos: Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby

For one afternoon, the cobblestones of Trenton Avenue were transformed into an exhibition of crafts, music and art for the Third Annual Trenton Avenue Arts Festival. Local Taverns including Murph’s Bar and Oreilly’s Pub were on hand to serve food, and The Philadelphia Brewing Company provided ice cold draught beer to festival goers. The highlight of the day was definitely the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture
Derby. Not so much a race, this was a parade of some very elaborate human powered sculptures.

The derby begins at the southern tip of Kensington. The entrants then parade their sculptures through Fishtown before turning around in Penn Treaty Park for a return to the festival. Traversing the urban landscape isn’t the easiest thing for any man powered vehicle, let alone a large metal sculpture. To make things even more interesting, the course ends with a trip through a mud pit. The pieces range from simple to elaborate, but the muddy finish really leveled the playing field.

Each team had the chance to place in six categories including Best Costume, Best Art and Best Engineering. Best costume went to Heidi Karl of the “Flying Monkey” team for their kinetic rendition of the Wicked Witch and her monkey cohorts from the wizard of oz. “Team Kenzinger” captained by Tyson Tarbell took Best engineering with their human powered beer delivery truck.

Captain John Spetrino of “Dirigable Model 215 The Sand Reckoner” captured the Best Art award. Their pedal powered piece comes from a surviving essay from the Greek engineer Archimedes, and with team mate Tom Carr riding on top dressed in a long red coat and red top hat, the crowd cheered as they crossed the final muddy length of the course.

“We really try to keep it found art…stuff we had around the shop…it seems like we threw stuff on there, but it’s all very purposeful and planned,” Carr said. “If someone comes back next year with something bigger or better, then my job is complete,” Spetrino added.

The Trenton Avenue Arts Festival featured many handmade items including clothing, jewelry and paintings. Other vendors offered information about community organizations like the New Kensington Community Development Corporation. Neighborhood Bike Works encouraged people to ride their bike to the fest by providing free valet bike parking.

One of the most unique artisans of the day was Roger Wing. He’s a wood carver, with over 20 years of experience. On display were busts as well as full size sculptures of people. For the bigger pieces, he uses mechanical and pneumatic tools, but all the fine detail is done with hand tools. The pieces aren’t sanded, leaving a rough natural finish.  “I try to let that finish give a character to the piece that is unique and original,” said Wing.

While the focus is on arts and crafts, there is an underlying theme of neighborhood enhancement. Kensington is a neighborhood unfairly labeled as bad. In fact, many talented people call Kensington their home, and wouldn’t live anywhere else. The festival shows that people actually care about their neighborhood, and gives a platform to many ordinary people to exhibit creations derived from their wildest dreams.