On Oct. 23, the Asian Arts Initiative hosted its Pearl Street Block Party for the first time since 2016, unveiling a new community mural and inviting local poets and DJs to collaborate.
Anne Ishii, executive director of AAI, said the initiative for the block party was creative placemaking – the idea of implementing community-led change through creative practice.
“If we integrate with the needs of the community, and add murals and opportunities for people to paint and interact, we have a more lively block,” Ishii said.
Artist Josh Cochran, a Taiwanese-American illustrator and muralist based in Brooklyn, New York, painted “Strobe Lights,” a 170 foot wide, 28 foot tall mural overlooking Pearl Street between Wood and Vine streets.
Cochran was inspired by one of his class projects at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he had live figure drawings over Zoom and wanted to transpose them to an abstract landscape. The project took about three weeks to complete, with the help of Cochran’s two assistants.
The block party began at 2 p.m., with Brooklyn-based sound collective Dub Stuy playing music as vendors and organizations set up tables along Pearl Street.
Melissa Fernando, owner of Sri Lankan food pop-up Sri’s Company, set up a table selling pre-packaged Sri Lankan dishes, including mutton curry. Fernando, who was born in Sri Lanka, began the company as she noticed Sri Lankan food was not readily available anywhere in Philadelphia and decided to start doing pop-up events.
“I love collaborating with different organizations – I’m trying to concentrate on more community-based events, as well,” Fernando said.
Throughout the event, different poets and spoken word artists performed alongside local DJs, as part of a collaboration with Philadelphia Contemporary.
Sinta Storms, an Indonesian hip-hop artist, poet, and activist, performed a dance that mixed hip-hop and traditional Indonesian dancing together, with DJ Desire playing music.
Towards the end of the day, rain showers began to flood the small street, causing vendors and event attendees to seek shelter inside the AAI building or under the DJ tent. But as the event neared its close, the rain ceased and the party on Pearl Street continued on outside.
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