The kids at Portside are going through the Fashion Fibers & Textiles week here at Portside in style! The sharks and pirates visited Circle Thrift, a vibrant and funky thrift store on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown. The pirates chose and purchased garments that appealed to them and that they thought they could manipulate and transform. They then brought their findings back to Portside and made alterations, cut, sewed, glued and added different materials to make their garments one of a kind. They then struck the runway in their converted and transformed outfits in their very own fashion show!
The sharks took a different approach in their shopping inspiration. They looked at and were inspired by Chicago artist Nick Cave and his soundsuits. Cave's soundsuits are sculptural forms fit to the body that are meant to serve as a "second skin" that conceals the age, race, gender, etc. of the one wearing it, Cave's reaction to racial profiling. His soundsuits have been made out of various materials including beads, human hair, buttons, and feathers, and are observed through performance art, as they make noise when they are danced in. They are unique because of their functions both as musical instruments and fine art sculptures. The sharks picked out large pieces of fabric from Circle Thrift, and used found objects and supplies to attach to make their own wearable sculptures. Students will choreograph their own performance in their wearable sculptures, using sound to tell a story.
Our minnows have been working on a medley of different projects including making salt dough beads, creating batiks, and making fashion designs on paper with various materials. They have daily dress up, in which they get to choose from a variety of different costumes and get their pictures taken! At the end of the week we will have a "Daily Look Book" of all of their different styles.
Next week we will have our final week of our 'Art Studio' specialty camps. It is Building & Sculpture week, and we will be going to the Center for Architecture and Design. We still have a few spots available in our sharks and pirates group (ages 8-13). We also have openings for our pirates group (ages 8-13) for the last two weeks of August, our final two sessions of the summer!
We had the privilege of visiting Ontario Comics in Port Richmond for our Anime & Comics week here at Portside. We were very warmly welcomed by the owner Bill Fink, and he gave the Pirates a tour of the space as well as a rundown on the history of the establishment. The shop was originally opened by Fink and his wife as a flea market in 1989. Now the large 7,000 square foot space is home to a vast collection of comics, action figures, and movie memorabilia. There are vintage Adam West Batman movies continuously playing in the shop as customers browse the long aisles packed with treasures, including many comics as old as from the 1940's. Fink runs the store along with his wife and their two sons.
Everyone was surprised and delighted to learn that scenes from M. Night Shyamalan's movies Unbreakable (2000) and Glass (2019) were filmed in the store! The scene from Unbreakable involves Samuel L. Jackson's character discovering a comic entitled The Sentryman. The Pirates posed for a photo in which they are holding up that same copy of The Sentryman, along with a film still of Jackson holding it.
Aside from selling comics and memorabilia, Ontario Comics does quite a few things to promote literacy and art through comics. They have generously donated comics to the Webster School, Port Richmond Library, among other places. They also hold Cosplay events throughout the year.
Fink explained to the Pirates that he thinks of himself as a crazy 216 year old Pirate (his words!), so our Pirates all gave him their best "ARRGGGG's" as they left the store. Each of them also bought a comic book or two to bring home with them. We hope to visit this fun and quirky family run business again in the future!
We thank Amalgam Comics & Coffee Shop for opening their doors to our Sharks and Pirates and letting us explore their vast collection of comic books, graphic novels and more! During our Anime & Comics week of summer camp, we couldn't have gone to a better place to gain knowledge about this art form and inspiration.
Amalgam, which is a book store and coffee shop hybrid located in Kensington, was opened to the public 3 1/2 years ago by owner and manager Ariell Johnson. "I got the idea when I was a student at Temple University and I was at a point in my life where I wanted to follow my dreams," Johnson explained to the students about her experience as an accounting student in 2003. Over 13 years, she planned out her dreams and made it a reality, and the kids admired her for her hard work and dedication. Amalgam is the only black-woman owned shop of its kind, and the first black-woman owned comic book store on the East Coast. In addition to selling coffee and books, Amalgam hosts community events including workshops for kids and adults, and it has become an important and well respected staple in the community among all ages.
The Sharks and Pirates both had the assignment to look around and find imagery or elements that inspired them, whether that be a certain type of style, facial expression, or gesture. They then sketched what they had found and used the practice to inform their comics projects back at Portside. One of our Pirates, Makayla, explained that she is curious to learn more about Manga and Japanese culture. "I want to learn more about how they express using color and shape and use that in my own drawings," she said as she was filling up a page in her sketchbook.
Portside walked away with plenty of inspiration for their own drawing and comic making endeavors, but also with the inspiring story of someone who accomplished their dreams through hard work and overall passion.
Anime & Comics week is the first session of our four week long 'Art Studio' summer camps. Each week, there is a different theme or art form that the students will focus on. Coming up are Nature & Mindfulness week (July 15-19), Fashion & Fibers (July 22-26), and Building & Sculpture (July 29 - August 2). We still have openings for these weeks, and enrollment can be for one week or multiple weeks.