October 2014: Homesweet Homegrown, Divine Hand Ensemble and Philadelphia history & art

Homesweet Homegrown

Art of Food — Produced by Monica Rogozinski

Homesweet Homegrown is the story of peppers gone wild. If you have heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade”? Then you will understand that is exactly what happened with Robyn Jasko and her husband Paul, but instead with peppers. It all started with Robyn’s blog where she expressed her passions for gardening, sustainable lifestyles, homesteading, eating healthy and living local. In 2012, Robyn came out with her first book “Homesweet Homegrown” and after an epic cross country book tour, she came home to a garden overflowing with hundreds of peppers. Life gave Robyn and Paul peppers, so they happily obliged and made lots of hot sauce. After much experimenting, they came up with their three best sauces and took them to farmer’s markets and book signings, and low and behold, they were selling out like crazy. In 2013, they started a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a mass production of these lovely hot sauces, and boom, they became the highest selling hot sauce in Kickstarter history, raising $53,419 when they only asked for a minimum goal of $850! Now that their business is ever growing, they are coupling their success with the mission to turn GMO cornfields back to organic pepper fields.

Simply Divine

Art of Life — Produced by Karen Smyles

The Divine Hand Ensemble was founded by Mano Divina who is world renown for his performances on the theremin. The theremin is the world’s first electronic instrument ever invented, and remains to this day the only instrument that is played without any physical contact from the musician. It is named after its Russian inventor Leon Theremin who patented the device in 1928.

Divina felt it was his mission to bring this rare and unusual artform back in front of the public because many people had never seen or heard of the instrument. So he began performing as a solo artist and went on to put together a passionate and talented group of musicians, all from the Philadelphia area. They are all trained classically, however, diverse enough to play various types of music, which you will often hear in performances.

The ensemble might be performing in a formal concert setting one week, and the next will be performing in front of a masoleum in Laurel Hill Cemetery. The music crosses all boundaries, as do the audiences attending their concerts.

Friday Arts visited the Divine Hand Ensemble as they rehearsed for an upcoming performance in their Lansdale studio. We also sat down with Divina to find out how this beautiful music all comes together.

Philadelphia of the Good Bones

Art — Produced by Michael O’Reilly

Nathaniel Popkin writes about a great many things, but to hear him tell it, many of those things have a Philadelphia connection. His most recent book, Lion and Leopard, takes place in the early 1800’s in Philadelphia. FRIDAY ARTS found him at the Woodmere Museum holding forth on the 2014 Woodmere Annual juried exhibit (curated this year by Sarah McEneaney). It turned out to be no surprise to anyone, that in his opening remarks, he found a connection separated by almost 200 years. He expounded on the link he saw between the work of painter Charles Willson Peale and that of Sarah McEneaney, and the similarity between their civic-minded pursuits. Both were painters, but Peale wanted to improve Philadelphia with museums and McEneaney wants to improve her neighborhood with an elevated green space (think the High Line in Philadelphia). Popkin discovers a stronger connection than even he knows as McEneaney reveals that the motif of one of her paintings was inspired directly from Peale himself, asserting once again that the pace of change in Philadelphia is slow.

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