Site #6, 1401 Federal Street
Federal Street Bridge
The Myth Makers: Donna Dodson & Andy Moerlein
The Phoenix Festival, 2021
bamboo, wire ties, hardware cloth, zip ties, reflectors, oil cloth, wood and paint
25′ x50′ x50′
Assistance provided by Zach Zambarano and Lily Steiner
As The Myth Makers, we have a deep affection for Camden, NJ and the Delaware River water habitat. We have family in the area and are familiar with the unique environmental challenges of the area. Camden is bordered by two historically neglected watersheds, the Cooper River and Newton Creek. Both are making notable recovery. As citizen scientists with an affection for birds and a passion for observation, Camden is a notable flyover location for a variety of migrant populations, and the abundant waterways provide a surprisingly rich resident and nesting variety of species.
The phoenix is a symbol of renewal. With the illegal dumping sites in Camden newly cleared, a Phoenix Festival seems appropriate inspiration for our public art project.
We use our bamboo building techniques and repurposed products to create a colorful festival of four 26-foot tall sculptures. A site built bamboo structure will delineate a community gathering space. Each sculpture and the community space are connected by a series of chip wood paths that will draw in the public and invite exploration.
The winter leading up to our spring residency we prefabricated four monumental sculptures of the Phoenix in a rented warehouse space. A local bird species such as a seagull, eagle, osprey, heron or egret, uniquely inspire each of these twenty-six foot tall sculptures. These were transported to the site and erected over a period of days during our residency, providing a progressive blossoming of the Phoenix Festival.
We believe community activism and citizen ownership is key to the revitalization of these sites. Our project seeks to activate the site in the following ways:
Accessible – Public art that is monumental and inviting to all by occupying space and drawing curiosity.
Site Specific – Exciting sculptures that share a story that is relevant to this place and the people who live there.
Community – A spacious and colorful architectural happening that encourages lingering, meandering and gathering.
Education – An installation that is built by the artists with volunteer input and teamwork of local participants of all ages and abilities.
To begin our three week residency we worked with a volunteer team to walk the site and collectively design the placement of sculptures and paths between them. We asked for stories and personal histories or impressions, so that our work might honor the unseen past of our site.
We have built together a community gathering space using our bamboo building technique. This ephemeral yet robust circular structure has open walls and roof. We invited volunteers of all ages and ability to work with us on this very public process, learning our simple fabrication techniques. Working in teams we share conversations and stories. With their presence in this festive place, the volunteers and community will take ownership and reclaim the property.
For the community space we built benches made from tree stumps and lumber. Each bench was painted by willing volunteers whose work generates ownership. This gathering space is open to the sky to symbolize that there are no boundaries to dreaming about the future together.