It’s been four years since the first Hidden City Festival gave audiences a peek into some of the city’s abandoned and neglected gems. The festival situated art and performance pieces inside little known or rarely seen sites like the dilapidated Metropolitan Opera House and the dust-covered infirmary of the Disston Saw Works. Since then, Hidden City has continued that mission with tours, events, workshops and stories revealing these secret spaces on its website.
“Beyond the festival,” says founder Thaddeus Squire, “Hidden City has refined its focus on informing and engaging the people of Philadelphia and the surrounding area in a deeper exploration and a deeper love affair with the city — and hopefully also inspiring them to a bit of local action.”
The second Hidden City Festival opens Thursday, with 10 ambitious contemporary art projects at nine sites across the city. The Dufala Brothers will sculpt a “defunct infrastructure” out of industrial components in the boiler room of Globe Dye Works, while Ben Neiditz and Zach Webber are creating improvised structures from salvaged materials at the Revolutionary War-era Fort Mifflin. Ars Nova Workshop will host a Radical Jewish Music concert series at Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel, a storefront synagogue in South Philly.
“We asked for ideas that were informed by the past history of the sites,” says Hidden City creative director Lee Tusman. “We hoped that the artists’ projects would refer to that history in either in a practical or in a fantastical way, but that imagined a new use for the site based on knowing its history.”
In addition, each of the projects was designed to encourage participation, beginning with a crowdfunding platform that helped kick-start the projects, and Hidden City hopes will also ease future fundraising efforts for projects and preservation of the sites. The artworks themselves also each feature interactive components. Germantown residents will be encouraged to schedule meetings or events in Germantown City Hall, Jacob Wick’s re-envisioning of Germantown Town Hall. Visitors to Hawthorne Hall will be inducted into the Society of the Knights of Pythagoras, a secret society established by the Rabid Hands Art Collective.
“Philadelphia does a great job with its colonial and constitutional narrative,” Squire says, “but we’ve left the 19th and early 20th centuries pretty much in the closet. The festival expands that narrative to give people access to stories and histories that can change their view of what the city is about.”
If you go
Hidden City Festival 2013
May 23-June 30