Comics, Tattoos, and Internet Culture: Festival for the People Might Be Philly’s Hippest Yet

For two weeks, Philly’s newest public space — a revitalized waterfront pier — will transform into a paradise showcasing the city’s best in art, culture, and play. Here’s our handy guide.

festival for the people cherry street pier

Festival for the People will feature Prismatica, an installation by Raw Design in collaboration with Atomic3, Quartier des spectacles, pictured here in Montréal. (Photo: Cindy Boyce)

We’re over the moon about the Friday ribbon-cutting at Cherry Street Pier, a revitalized waterfront destination that’s Philly’s newest public space.

As if the location’s riverfront views, first-of-their-kind artist studios, and outdoor garden/cafe weren’t enough to get us going, there’s also a free, massive festival coinciding with the pier’s opening. And right now, it looks like it will be one of Philly’s best. Like, ever.

Philadelphia Contemporary’s Festival for the People will run at Cherry Street Pier and the nearby Race Street Pier between October 13th and 28th. What to expect? Interactive art installations, illuminated see-saws (yes, you can them try out), typewriters, DJ sets, couches for watching short films, on-site tattooing, origami, swing dance, food and beer, and much, much more.

Through the one-of-a-kind event, Philadelphia Contemporary aims to celebrate “the art forms of everyday people” in a thriving public space. In other words, the fête doesn’t end at fun: The plethora of installations, events, and interactive features aim to foster thought about and discussion and criticism of … populism, of course! (That’s where the “for the people” part of the name comes in, after all.)

festival for the people cherry street pier

Cherry Street Pier (L) and Race Street Pier. | Photo by James Abbott via the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

Because Festival for the People will have a lot going on (each weekend will feature a different theme of workshops and events), we’ve compiled a guide to help get you ready. Below, you’ll find information about what you’ll see, do, eat, and drink at the Cherry and Race street piers over the next couple of weeks.

Cherry Street Pier opens at 5 p.m. on Friday. Festival for the People opens at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Go forth, people!

What You’ll See

Impulse and Prismatica
Cherry Street Pier, October 13th-28th
Montreal-based artist group Creos brings two interactive sculpture installations — seesaws designed by CS Design and Lateral Office for Impulse, and Prismatica, which festival organizers describes as “a group of colorful spinning prisms.”

festival for the people cherry street pier

Impulse, a creation by Lateral Office and CS Design, Quartier des Spectacles, in Montréal. (Photo: Ulysse Lemerise / OSA)

Pledges of Allegiance
Race Street Pier, October 13th-28th

This exhibit will feature selections from Pledges of Allegiance, which was commissioned by New York-based arts nonprofit Creative Time and originally launched in NYC on Flag Day in 2017. The Philly installation will include politically relevant flags created by acclaimed artists like Tania BrugueraAlex Da CorteJeremy DellerLaToya Ruby FrazierMarilyn MinterJayson MussonYoko OnoTrevor Paglen, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Banners for the People
Cherry Street Pier, October 13th-28th
Banners celebrating and honoring various Philadelphia neighborhoods will hang from rafters inside the pier.

Video Installations
Cherry Street Pier, October 13th-28th
Videos include Michael Auder’s “The Course of Empire;” Andrew Bowers’s “#sweetjane;” Hiwa K.’s “Do You Remember What You Are Burning?”; Yoshua Okón’s “Oracle;” Jennifer Levonian’s “Xylophone;” Maider López’s “Football Field;” and Tintin Wulia’s “Proposal for a film: Within the Leaves, a Sight of the Forest.”

festival for the people cherry street pier

The Cherry Street Pier, pre-construction. | Photo by James Abbott via the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

What You’ll Do

Typewriter Poetry
Cherry Street Pier, October 13th-28th
Philly Typewriter will bring this interactive poetry installation to the new pier with live activations by writers like Philadelphia poet laureate Frank Sherlock, Warren LongmireTrapeta B. MaysonMarissa Johnson-ValenzuelaAutumn Konopka and Jacob Winterstein.

The People’s Analog Culture Weekend
Cherry Street Pier, October 13th-14th, 1-7 p.m.

During its first weekend, the festival will celebrate analog technology and printed material. You’ll see workshops led by PAFA’s Sedakial Gebremedhin and printmaking studio Second State Press, as well as artists books from Ulises (our 2018 Best-of-Philly bookstore winner), and records and DJ sets by Milkcrate Cafe and Brewerytown Beats. Plus, look out for vendors like El Sol Latino Newspaper and People’s Paper Co-op. And a highlight: Emory Douglas, minister of culture for the Black Panther Party, will speak with University of Delaware art and design associate professor Colette Gaiter at 5 p.m. on October 14th.

The People’s Embodied Culture Weekend
Cherry Street Pier, October 20th, 1-7 p.m.

This one-day tattoo and body-art fair will feature exclusively women and gender-nonconforming tattoo artists — and you’ll get the opportunity to receive temporary and Henna tattoos. Also look out for yoga led by Philly’s beloved Jean-Jacques Gabriel, West African drums and dancing led by performer Ira Bond, blues and tango dancing, and a story slam in partnership with First Person Arts. For a full list of tattoo artists and events, visit the event’s Facebook page.

The People’s Digital Culture Weekend
Cherry Street Pier, October 27th-28th, 1-7 p.m.
Here’s where the festival really gets weird: The “Oddly Satisfying Film Festival” will cap the fête. It’s a two-day ASMR film festival featuring submissions by local teenagers — as well as performances by ASMR stars. Wondering what ASMR is? You’re not alone. It stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it’s basically the idea that some people can derive pleasure/relaxation (often accompanied by a “tingling sensation”) from tuning in to certain noises or stimuli. Yep, told you it was weird. And of course, there’s a whole internet culture built up around it. Anyway, moving on …

What You’ll Eat and Drink

The opening food vendors at Cherry Street Pier include:

  • Beloved South Philly Indonesian restaurant Hardena, serving rotating rice plate specials, as well as vegetable corn fritters and other snacks.
  • Reading Terminal Market’s Birdie’s Biscuits. Take a bite of their sweet and savory Southern-style biscuits on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Little Baby’s Ice Cream

Plus, Cherry Street Pier will feature a few drink specials. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation will fill the bar with local breweries, cideries and distilleries. The cider will come from Fishtown’s Kurant, and draft wine will come from The Artisan’s Cellar. House cocktails — the Cherry St. Mule and the Pier 9 Punch — will feature local spirits.

Our favorite part? Yards will roll out a beer, appropriately called “For the People” and specially brewed for the Festival.

For more information on Cherry Street Pier, including how to get there, visit the DCRW’s website. For more information on Festival for the People, visit Philadelphia Contemporary’s website.