By Sabina Mollot
On Friday, the eighth annual Art in Odd Places (AiOP) festival kicked off on East 14th Street, with about a dozen artists and performers taking over the entrance and sidewalk in front of Campos Plaza.
The festival is scheduled to run through October 15 and features a total of 112 visual and performance art projects taking place between Avenue C and the Hudson River. Its creator is teaching artist Ed Woodham, who this year chose the theme “Model” for the festival, with 14th Street taking on the role of the world’s longest runway.
At the opening event, much to the delight, amusement, indifference — or in a few cases horror — of passerby, the festival’s costumed participants danced, played music, created portraits, or, depending on the act, either interacted with event goers or completely ignored them.
Two-man act Brian and Ryan (last names Black and Bulis respectively) were the latter sort, as they were far too busy communicating with one another on their plastic cup phones and towering helmets.
Interfaith minister Rev. Lainie Love Dalby, who was also wearing a hat taller than she was, was the former type of performer as she offered blessings to passersby.
Dalby, who’s also known as the “Lady Gaga of Consciousness and Spirituality,” explained, “I mix the sacred and pop culture in my work.”
The blessings included a bit more touching than one might expect on the street from a smiling stranger, as well as a splash of rose and jasmine scented essential oils, but interestingly no one seemed put off by the intimate ritual.
In fact, Stuyvesant Town resident Irmgard Taylor, who attended AiOP after reading about the event in T&V, seemed delighted at having received a blessing on the street.
“This is wild,” she said. “A lady gave me a blessing and then she sang, looking at me.”
Taylor added that even though she lives across the street, she’d never stepped foot in Campos Plaza before.
“I can’t believe I’ve never been in this place,” she said. “This is such a neighborhood thing.”
A Peter Cooper Village resident, Council Member Dan Garodnick, also stopped by for a while after picking up his son Asher from daycare.
The father and son seemed especially interested in watching a group of dancers, who normally do their “B-boy” style routines on the subway, performing on the sidewalk.
“We just stumbled upon this,” Garodnick said, “but this is really one of those quirky New York events that makes the city great.”
Interestingly, the dancers’ group, called Acidic Soul, wasn’t even supposed to be part of the event. The scheduled artists were actually two Kansas City men who designed the robes worn by the performers, and they were originally planning to wear the robes themselves. However, when the duo spotted Acidic Soul’s members dancing at Grand Central station on Thursday, they asked them to join forces.
“They look much better than we do,” said Dylan Mortimer, one of the artists on the project called “Safety Robes.”
The garments were actually choir robes made from the orange material used in vests worn by safety workers, and depending on how they’re worn and where, could make the wearer look like he’s either directing traffic or giving a blessing.
Another one of the artists making her way around Campos Plaza was Lulu Lolo, whose art project was “The Gentleman of 14th Street.” Clad in a tux and top hat and even sporting an upturned mustache, Lolo said she was inspired by the defunct tradition of tipping one’s hat. Having had interacted with a number of people that way since the event began, the performer (an AiOP old hat herself) said people seemed to appreciate the old-fashioned gesture.
“People have been taken by surprise,” she said. “Everyone’s so into their technology, but people want to be acknowledged.”
Along with Lolo, other performers milling around included Jerome Porsperger, who was conducting a symphony that only those who donned a pair of headphones could hear, a dancer under a tent-like blanket moving to live music and a masked woman painted green who was letting a few giggling girls write on her body.
While strolling through the odd art in her normal place, DeReese Huff, president of the Campos Plaza Tenants Association, remarked, “It’s a great thing they’re doing here.
“It’s a little weird,” she added, “but it’s great. As you can see the tenants are loving it.”
For more information about Art in Odd Places, visit artinoddplaces.org or for real-time schedule information, see the event’s Twitter feed @artinoddplaces.