The 13th annual Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby brought out artists from around the city to show off their work on a tour around the neighborhood. About 1,000 spectators gathered around the “mud pit” at Trenton Avenue and Dauphin Street for the grand finale as about 15 kinetic sculptures rode through the mud.
The Crazy Bike Clan was awarded “Judges’ Choice” and had neighbors chuckling with the theme, “SEPTIC,” which parodied the city’s public-transit system with a giant rat, a bedbug, SEPTA Key cards, and an ”accordion” bus. The slogan “Dude. It’s rude,” appeared all over their costumes. Ten-year derby veteran Courtney “CB” Blue, lead costume designer for the Crazy Bike Clan, said that the neighborhood has changed, but that the derby is an opportunity for it to stay connected to the “weirdness” that started it all, and a chance for artists to be celebrated.
Fred Hunter, assistant director of First Stop Recovery, created a sculpture to bring awareness to the opioid epidemic happening everywhere in the United States and the especially hard-hit Kensington neighborhood. His work, depicting an angel of death standing over a skeleton smoking a cigarette with a giant needle, aimed to let people know that help is available at no cost at First Stop Recovery on Kensington Avenue. Hunter himself is in recovery. He said people have taken the time to take care of him, and now he’s happy to be in a position to take care of others.
Northeast Philadelphia was represented in the parade by Baldi Middle School principal Luke Hostetter, whose students assisted him in the design of a moving bulldog, the school’s mascot. He said the students’ experience designing robots helped them create the bike.
West Philadelphian artist Adam Pulchino and his girlfriend were first-time participants. They created a “reverse chariot” — they were “centaurs” being pulled by a huge human face. Before the competition, Pulchino predicted they might not get through the final obstacle. “Our bikes are garbage, but we’re gonna try,” he said, laughing.
Artist Jeannie “Mizmo” Moberly, in her fourth year at the derby, created a traditional Beijing character, a minor deity known as Lord Rabbit who rises from the sea and saves the people from the plague. The derby is one of the best days of the year for Mizmo, who said she has been a cyclist her entire life. When it came time to ride through the mud, she diverted away from the mess — and received affectionate boos from the crowd.
In addition to the art on display in the form of kinetic sculptures, the accompanying Trenton Avenue Arts Festival let local makers show their stuff; and musical performances took place on two stages.