Wooden cars whirled down a derby track. Curious eyes peered into a telescope with a focus on one of Jupiter’s moons. A 3-D pen sketches paintings by Leonardo da Vinci on print paper. These intersections of art were explored by community members and supporters alike on a late October evening — all while under twinkling lights and the glow of a warm-toned mural.
The da Vinci Fest Launch Party was held at Palumbo Park in Bella Vista and attracted about 90 attendees. It was hosted by The da Vinci Art Alliance (DVAA), a nonprofit art gallery across from Fleisher Art Memorial on 7th and Catherine streets.
The event was held to promote the upcoming monthlong da Vinci Festival, slated for October 2020. It aims to provide the Bella Vista community with opportunities to connect with artists, learn about the intersection of creative ideas, and explore STEAM+ (science, technology, engineering, art, math) events. DVAA especially prides itself on the latter, due to its namesake’s interests in those fields.
“This festival aims to build on [connections with artists] and broaden our focus to share our work with the larger public, and provide a platform for our youngest neighborhood geniuses to shine,” said Jarrod Markman, DVAA’s executive director, at the event.
Over the summer, the DVAA team secured grant funding from PNC Arts Alive, an initiative through the PNC Foundation which provides monetary awards to culturally enriching organizations.
“Bella Vista and Queen Village alone have over 15 different art galleries,” Markman said.
“The people that live in this area work in many of these fields, like the sciences, engineering, architecture. There is an academic interest from that community.”
The launch party was held to increase outreach efforts and receive feedback from the community.
Markman and his team at DVAA, along with 25 committee members who hail from various art sectors like Mural Arts, Philly Moon Men, and Thomas Jefferson University, will plan the festival’s next steps. For the next year, they will think strategically about what the community wants to see and how to further connect with them.
“It’s a whole monster of organization,” said Jillian Buxton, a DVAA exhibitions intern. “We’re growing and changing, and want to give back by having established events for the neighborhood. We’ll have a whole lot of outreach and even more events to get even more people involved.”
DVAA’s launch party also had a simpler goal: to give a sneak peek of its monthlong activities it was promoting. Throughout Palumbo Park, children and partygoers experienced a balloon sculpture of Mona Lisa, 3-D printing demos, and animations coming to life on a zoetrope.
Derby kits were available for purchase, too. For $25, participants can build and decorate miniature cars over the next year before the da Vinci Derby, one of the main events of the festival.
Throughout October 2020, Bella Vista residents — and interested Philadelphians — can experience similar activities to the ones at the event. A pop-up sculpture garden, an astronomy and star party, and story slams are just a few activities planned. On Oct. 11, 2020, the much-anticipated da Vinci Derby will take place, with an even larger track.
The festival will also reveal a new mural on DVAA’s building wall. Markman announced the theme of the mural, “Creativity is just connecting things,” alongside Mural Arts’ Chief Operating Officer Magda Martinez.
There will be a call for emerging artists in January to create the mural, and its unveiling will kickoff the festival.
“The festival is an opportunity to explore the interconnections of art and science,” said Corin Wilson, a project manager at Mural Arts and an advisory committee member for the festival. “It will bring in new voices, as accessible as possible, to push the envelope creatively.”
“When you start talking about community, you come to the idea of bringing everyone together,” Wilson added. “It helps everyone grow. Events like [the launch party] bring big concepts to accessible spaces.”
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