Cherry Street Pier debuts this weekend

The Cherry Street Pier in Philadelphia is reopening as the city’s newest park. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation spent $5 million to transform the dilapidated shipping dock into a partially-covered public space with art installations, food vendors, a beer garden, and a performance space.

The pier will celebrate its launch with art festival over three weekends. The Festival For the People features work from artists around the world, and local talent, including Erlin Geffrard who contributed handmade banners representing Philadelphia neighborhoods. A multiple-monitor video installation “The Course of Empire” by Michel Auder was imported from France.

The Montreal-based group Creos installed a set of enormous, illuminated musical seesaws, that make tones with each toggle of the beam. Creos also installed a series of iridescent, crystal-shaped monoliths through Cherry Street Pier. These spinning sculptures, called Prismatica, spread out to the nearby Race Street Pier.

The artistic director of Philadelphia Contemporary, Nato Thompson, sees the pair of parallel piers, just 100 feet apart, as the yin to the other’s yang.

“Race Street Pier is so beautiful, it’s hard to do anything on it,” he said. “I think of it as a much more passive space. A place where people go to the end of the pier just to get away from the city. Cherry Pier is a much more active, civic space.”

While Race Street Pier is completely open to the elements, Cherry Street Pier is mostly enclosed with a high roof and industrial artifacts. The original train tracks on which cargo was hauled away were left in the concrete floor.

The end of the pier, however, is wide open, giving visitors unrestricted views of the river and Camden on the other side.

For the Festival for the People, clusters of living room furniture invite visitors to sit down and watch artist videos on small monitors with headphones. The artists include Andrea Bowers, Yoshua Okon, and Jennifer Levonian.

“I kind of thought of this as a living room-meets-playground, this intimate-meets-public experience,” said Thompson. “So these living room things feel homey, but you’re at home with the rest of Philadelphia.”

After the festival concludes, Cherry Street Pier will continue as a venue for art. The park has permanently installed 14 stacked shipping containers that have been converted into artist studios. Each has a large, plate-glass window, allowing passers-by to peer in on the resident artists at work.

The DRWC will program the Cherry Street Pier with year-round exhibitions, workshops, and performances. Upcoming events include a crafting workshops by CraftNOW, Arabic art presented by Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, and a series of holiday markets by Punk Rock Flea Market, Art Star, Shane Confectionery and The Christmas Tree Stand.

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