By Sabina Mollot
Art in Odd Places, the annual art festival that’s been known to take over the length of 14th Street with site specific installations and performances, is returning soon for the 10th time.
This time, the event has been shortened to four days (it’s normally a week or longer), which, AiOP founder Ed Woodham said was to make it more concentrated so no one can miss it.
“The majority of the audience is people who come across it unexpectedly,” Woodham said. “It’s one of those magic New York moments.”
The event will run from October 9 to 12 along 14th Street from Avenue C to the Hudson River, with the kickoff celebration on Friday, October 10 from 6-9 p.m. at the entrance of Campos Plaza (on 14th Street between Avenues B and C). There will also be a few installations in other locations throughout the city, dubbed by organizers as “free agents.”
As for those that are specific to 14th Street, one will involve a drone. Another, by artist John Craig Freeman, is an app available for download that allows users to experience an alternative reality, broken up version of the neighborhood. Another installation will explore communication through the nearly extinct species known as pay phones. There will also be a number of performance-related pieces like Maskull Lasserre’s driver of a pedicab with a cage for his customer.
Each year the festival has a theme and this year’s is “free,” with over 70 artists encouraged to explore what that means, from civil liberty to promotional offers.
“We were talking about the idea of free being somewhere between the promise of something greater and a marketing pitch,” said Dylan Gauthier, one of the event’s two curators. “Sometimes free also has the sense of being something unwanted or without value.”
One installation, called “Complimentary,” by Leah Harper, is a gumball machine that actually dispenses compliments. Another, by James Rojas, encourages passersby to participate in building a model that will “reimagine 14th Street” while being free of governmental “urban planning constraints.”
One artist, participant Jody Oberfelder, who said she is curious to see if people believe they are free, will be conducting surprise interviews with pedestrians.
AiOP itself, meanwhile, is always free with none of the pieces of art being available for sale. Like Woodham, the artists are working for free and so are the curators, Gauthier and Juliana Driever. The goals of the event, Woodham, a teaching artist, said, is to reclaim the city’s dwindling public space while also making art accessible to people who wouldn’t necessarily go to a gallery.
The location is, as always, a theme as well. Fourteenth Street has been home to the festival for the past six years with organizers choosing it for not only its foot traffic but the fact that it’s an intersection to several neighborhoods.
It has grown beyond the main drag though with AiOP even traveling to other cities and countries. In the past, the festival traveled to New Zealand and Russia. After this year’s festival in New York, it will head to Indianapolis.
For details on the New York festival and a schedule, follow it on Twitter @artinoddplaces.