Idea: Scute Scoot is a community-built parade and block party celebrating the endangered Atlantic Sturgeon
Primary artistic medium: multidisciplinary
I am a multidisciplinary artist living in Southwest Philadelphia. I make projects that serve as experiments in anti-capitalist utopian structures and prefiguring a more desirable and cooperative world. These ephemeral moments of process and performance allow us to experience alternative ways of being, interacting, and producing culture.
I’ve been creating and touring original plays since 2006, initially as part of the acclaimed punk rock theater company, The Missoula Oblongata, and more recently on my own. My solo performance, “All 100 Fires” toured the US extensively in 2019. Play on Milwaukee called the piece, “inventive, brimming with compassion, and monstrously funny.” New Orleans Box Office wrote that it, “Balances on the thrilling precipice of pleasure and danger…both hilarious, poking fun at its own absurdity, and deeply sincere, envisioning a better world.”
My long-term relationship with movement groups has made me a sought-after artist for activist campaigns, such as the 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC, the (successful!) campaign to shut down the PES oil refinery, and Philly’s viral, week-long 2020 election-defense street party. I’m currently leading a team of artists in support of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s campaign to block the construction of a terminal for fracked gas export across the river from Philadelphia.
I’ve been honored to show my work at Ars Nova and 601 Art Space in NYC, Fringe Arts and Vox Populi in Philly, Flint Public Art Project, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Bread and Puppet Theater, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and at squats, warehouses, galleries, and community centers around the world.
My work has been supported by the likes of the Leeway Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, Meow Wolf, and residencies at MacDowell, the Cornell University Soil Factory, and the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation.
Working Title: SCUTE SCOOT
In collaboration with Maisie O’Brien
Scute Scoot is a community-built parade and block party celebrating the endangered Atlantic Sturgeon that migrate annually past Philadelphia through the Delaware River. The parade will be held in late summer, when the sturgeon migration is at its peak. Through large scale puppetry, costumes, and procession it will access public art’s ability to acknowledge and re-contextualize how we see ourselves in relationship to other beings and the land that we share.
Specifically, this parade will illustrate and honor the underwater neighborhood that our city relies on for rejuvenation and material sustenance, featuring the Atlantic Sturgeon as protagonist and as a powerful embodiment of vulnerability, resilience, and continuity.
How we’ll do it:
We will partner with community and school groups to engage Philadelphians in creatively uplifting the river life around them and boosting its cultural visibility. Participating youth and adults will build puppets and costumes representing the spectrum of organisms in the Delaware River ecosystem–from minnows to heron to algae. The centerpiece of this parade will be a family of life-size (10-16’) papier-mache sturgeon puppets.
To ensure the success and aesthetic unity of the parade, we’ll begin building partnerships with participating groups months before the event. We’ll coordinate with each group to host regular art-building sessions, providing them with supplies, support, and hands-on help to create costumes and puppets that they’ll perform in the parade. This will be a strong opportunity to share our skills in collaborative design and engineering, and to empower folks at any experience level to create art that responds to and impacts our environment.
The parade will culminate with a community block party on the Delaware waterfront. Block parties are a major way Philadelphians connect with their neighbors, and this event will extend that connection to our non-human neighbors who call the river home.
Puppet parades have the unique ability to erase the boundary between artists and audience, rather casting everyone together as collaborators in story-sharing. To build a puppet is to sculpt an ideology that all are free to see and touch. To parade a puppet is to briefly suspend the rules of society for envisioning worlds that work better for all of us. Puppet parades are exquisite necklaces of fantasy, performing communal response to our unheard realities and injustices. By their strongly symbolic nature, puppet parades are ideal for conveying ideas in a way that transcends language or other demographic barriers.
Atlantic Sturgeon are a federally recognized endangered species. Our local Sturgeon are “living fossils”—native inhabitants of the Delaware River since the dinosaurs. Before European colonization, they were an abundant source of food and leather for the Lenape. Since then, industrial fishing, habitat disruption, and declining water quality have decimated their populations.
This shared public practice of acknowledging the inherent value of non-human life is a practice in developing a truer relationship with the natural geography and larger ecosystems we’re a part of—even within an urban setting.