The Schuylkill River has long been the life blood of Philadelphia. The region’s original denizens, the Lenape, lived along the banks of the 135-mile-long Schuylkill River (which translates to “hidden river”) long before William Penn chose it in 1682 as the site to build his new city.
Nowadays, residents and visitors alike continue to utilize the Schuylkill for recreation, boating and fishing. On Saturday, local arts organization Invisible River will host Schuylkill River Arts Day (SRAD) — a free, family-friendly and community-oriented festival that takes place in and along Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River on Kelly Drive in East Fairmount Park. During the event, the banks of the river will become a community space where audiences can gather to celebrate the river through art as an important watershed and natural resource for Philadelphia.
“I think it is really going to be a wonderful time to gather the community together,” said event director Kristen Shahverdian. “We were really drawn to that physical location and really having people see art both on the river and along the river. It’s long been used for recreation and rowing, and a lot of other things, but art there is not as common, so we are really drawn to having that as a place where art can happen and people can enjoy seeing it with different types of artists.”
According to a release, the event begins at 10 a.m. at Mander Recreation Center with a processional led by Positive Movement, a local Strawberry Mansion drum line that will lead the audience from Mander Recreation Center down to Boxer’s Trail. At the head of the trail, the African Diaspora Artist Collective will present their latest piece, “Oshún & Oxúm,” as an interactive journey through African dance and music while audiences walk down the trail. Upon arriving at the banks of the Schuylkill River, the festival will unfold into a combination of performance and play. Hands-on activities will be available, including free public kayak rentals, paddling lessons, casting and fishing lessons, team-building challenges by the Philadelphia Outward Bound School, low tightwire walking and environmental education classes provided by Fairmount Water Works.
“We have more artists there to make it more of an on-river and on-land event,” said Shahverdian of the second-year festival. “We have a lot more performing artists performing on the river, alongside the river and on the trail from Mander Playground down to the river.”
People will arrive at the festival on Kelly Drive, led by Peaches Jones, lead dancer of Philadelphia-based African dance and drum ensemble Kulu Mele. The African Diaspora Artist Collective represents dancers, drummers and singers from Kulu Mele and Brazilian band Alô Brasil. The processional is designed to show audiences a new way to the river, foreshadowing a new trail to the waterfront that will become available for use in early 2017 when a new traffic light is installed at the base of the trail and Kelly Drive.
Guests should arrive at Mander Recreation Center by 9:45 a.m., located at 2140 N. 33rd St. in East Fairmount Park, in order to participate in the opening processional. Parking will be available at Mander Recreation Center. Audiences can travel home via free Phlash shuttles returning to Mander Recreation Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, available from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. For directions, Indego promotional codes, and additional event details, visit invisibleriver.org.