Art Watch: ‘Are We In Chester County?’

Street Road Artists Space celebrates Londonderry exhibition

By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times

UTColLogoGalerThis Saturday from 1-7pm, Street Road Artists Space will have a closing reception party for the exhibition “7000 Acres.” 7000 Acres is a year-long interactive collection project and exhibition that brings to life the history of the 7000 acres that represent Londonderry Township. To celebrate the great success of this monumental collective effort, there will be beverages and nibbles, and handmade ice cream by Clair Burkhart’s John Deere tractor ice cream maker.

Also, Artist James Leonard will be setting up his “Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies” for a form of tarot readings during the event from 1-6pm. Join the festivities and revisit the fascinating personal documents on display from so many of the residents of Londonderry township. Street Road Artists Space is located just beyond the intersection of Routes 41 and 926, on Street Road (Route 926).

A montage of some of the images from 7000 Acres.

A montage of some of the images from 7000 Acres.

Working with Londonderry Historical Committee and local residents, Street Road Artists Space collected thousands of pieces of memorabilia. Emily Artinian, Street Road Artists Space owner and visionary, was thrilled with the “really wonderful responses” from everyone, and felt that the exhibit helped to “bring a lot of the township together.”

Tucked away in attics and boxes, old histories of homes, lands, people and events in Londonderry’s history were unveiled: A father’s treasured essay by his grade school daughter on the history of a local farm from the 1960s, a collection of arrowheads unearthed by a local farmer’s plow, a forgotten series of tape recordings of local oral histories, photographs of generations of a family, and written story after story. There is so much fascinating information from this exhibition, that they hope to find a permanent space for the collection. To share the exhibition of items more broadly, Street Road posted daily on Instagram and put videos on YouTube.

The art of such a collaborative exhibition, lies in the artifacts themselves and well as the activity of collecting. The items are cherished, personal, specific choices from an individual that reflect his/her interaction with the Londonderry area. The acts of rediscovering, uncovering, remembering, and sharing all imbue the artifact with life, like art where the passion of the artist is present, there is a singular power to it. Also, art is the collecting process itself, where the goal of the exhibition established the criteria for collaboration, and people of all ages, from all over the township worked to remember a shared history. In creating this remembrance piece, the participants strengthened the sense of community and took pride in where they live. They revitalized their area through conversation, shared histories, and a central exhibition spaceā€¦ that certainly deserves a great party on Saturday!

On Saturday, besides the fabulous John Deere tractor ice cream maker, there is the Phenology tent tarot reader artist. Before you leap to your dictionaries, “phenology” means “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life”, versus “phrenology” which was a turn of the century rather nasty pseudo science that tried to determine mental and character traits from the shape of the skull. So, this is about phenology, climate change not skull reading.

James Leonard

James Leonard

Saturday July 16th from 1-7pm, Brooklyn-based performance installation artist James Leonard will be inviting participants into his “Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies”. For this interactive performance piece, James created a cocoon-like white canvas tent, a “portable ritual space”, in which he conducts “climate change related Tarot readings” on a first come first served basis. The white exterior of the tent has hand painted images of animals that have been effected by climate change, and the interior of the tent is a brightly colored hodgepodge of recycled fabrics from cultures around the world. The exterior represents the observable world and the interior represents the spiritual world. His “divinations” draw on a long history of cultural and religious practices, foretelling the future through dialogue, signs and spiritual interaction. In effect, the visitor to the tent steps from the observable world and into the spiritual, where there is a conversation of sorts to confront the global anxiety over climate change. The climate change Tarot readings are for free, and he should be able to speak with 20 people during his allotted 6 hours at Street Road Artists’ Space on Saturday.

While I am still not exactly sure what will come from the tarot readings, what is sure is that this interesting artist is sincerely dedicated to focusing the world on climate change, one person at a time. Recently featured on a popular Harvard discussion panel, as well as many interviews, museum showings and prestigious art grants, this could very well be the most unique thing to do in Chester County this weekend or maybe this year.

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