Idea: Philadelphia can launch the Free Little Kite Libraries movement!
Primary artistic medium: crafts and textiles
I am often asked “Why kites?” My mother created a sense of “home” in my early life, and she passed away from cancer when I was twenty-years-old. After her passing my connection to home seemed to float away. I represented that feeling symbolically by making images of floating house-kites in my early cut paper installations. In a 2009 artist residency in Nebraska I made my first real kite using materials from a hardware store. It was a large barn-door kite, and I painted a house on the sail using black sumi ink. The kite flew hundreds of feet into the air and I had to wrap my cardigan around my hands to avoid being burned by the string. The seed for Kite Curiosities was planted in my imagination from that moment. Flying a kite that you made with your own hands is a powerful and joyful experience; especially when the kite soars and you can feel the strength of the wind pulling on the string. I want to pass that feeling on to others.
To work toward my goals I seek business resources for entrepreneurs, and an artistic path that is financially sustainable. For the last six years I have worked as the Administrative Director for Orchestra 2001, helping the organization to grow, collaborate, and deliver exceptional live music performances to diverse audiences throughout Philadelphia.
Through my side-hustle, Kite Curiosities, I am actively exploring kite-making and kite-flying as an art form, teaching tool, and business opportunity. In 2018, through a Mural Arts residency, I designed and taught a series of kite workshops at the Tacony LAB where students made a variety of kites, including a small Guatemalan barrilete, a Korean bangpae, a Japanese musha, and a small Vietnamese kite with long tails. In 2021 I partnered with Tacony LAB and Riverfront North Partnership to teach more workshops, followed by a community kite flying event at Pennypack on the Delaware. Several community members brought their own impressive kites, and joined the workshop participants at the flying event. I approach kite making as an artist, and incorporate my skills in printmaking, cut paper, sewing, and fabrication. My skills were honed at Binghamton University, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Penland School of Crafts, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Second State Press, Tacony LAB Community Arts Center, and most recently, as a 2019 Spring apprentice at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. I am grateful to all of these organizations.
I’d like to build “Little Kite Libraries” in Philadelphia’s parks and open spaces, fill them with kites made by community members, and invite everyone to try flying a kite for free. Through kite flying and kite making people can tap into their creativity to connect with each other, and nature. The“Little Kite Libraries” can be located in Philadelphia’s open spaces: playgrounds, parks, athletic fields, and even unused parking lots. Imagine a sturdy, brightly painted cabinet, with a clear plastic door, to protect and showcase the kites hanging on pegs, allowing easy access for community members. The surface of the kite storage cabinet could display information about the project, the kites, and how to safely fly them.
Many people in Philadelphia already make kites, or have the desire to learn, and this project would offer an invitation for people to meet through kites. Just as little free libraries attract books from generous bookworms, I believe the kite cabinets would attract care-takers and teachers who are passionate about kites. Through this project, people who already know how to make kites could be provided the opportunity to earn income by teaching their skills to others. Providing kite-making workshops in community centers, libraries, schools, museums and businesses would ensure the entire community has the ability to enjoy and replenish the kites. It could also provide a great STEAM activity in areas of Philadelphia where youth arts education is less supported or accessible.
The overall goal is for more Philadelphians to feel comfortable making their own flyable kites as a form of personal expression, and provide an incentive to enjoy Philadelphia’s many parks and recreational spaces through kite flying.
I’ve been creating kite workshops and kite kits which allow young people and adults to construct small, functional kites out of paper or tyvek, with bamboo spars. Some kites with tails will take flight if you run to generate lift, while others can require skillful adjustments to the kite’s bridle strings in response to the wind conditions. I have experience facilitating workshops in a variety of contexts including classrooms, community art centers, and online via zoom. Painting a design on a kite sail can be more engaging (or less intimidating) than painting in a traditional fine art context. Kites are a global art form, powered by borderless winds. The science behind kite shapes is universal, while kite-making traditions can be culturally unique and distinct. I would hope that this project can engage and connect an extremely diverse range of people in every corner of Philadelphia.