The Miss Rockaway Armada is a group of performers and artists from across the country, including members of other artist collectives such as the Toyshop Collective, Visual Resistance, The Amateurs, The Floating Neutrinos, among many others. In the summer months of 2006 and 2007, the Armada converged in Minneapolis, Minnesota to construct a flotilla of rafts that journeyed down the Mississippi River. With the intent to create a new sustainable mode of travel as well as to present programs regarding arts and environmental issues, the project stopped in towns along the river to present musical performances and vaudeville variety-theater.
Since 2007, the Armada has continued to exhibit large-scale projects at several venues in the United States and in Europe that focus on the use of sustainable resources and recycled materials to build their large scale environments. Most recent exhibitions include E.P.A. (Environmental Performance Actions) at Exit Art, New York, NY (2007); and Being Here is Better than Wishing We’d Stayed at Mass MoCA (2008-2009). At MASS MoCA the Miss Rockaway Armada transformed the Hunter Center Mezzanine into a dynamic, interactive space. Using wood and other materials salvaged from MASS MoCA’s campus, the group crafted an environment that exudes the aesthetic, vision, and essence of the Armada’s experiences on the Mississippi River.
Most recently, Rockaway participated in the exhibition Heartland at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The interdisciplinary project focused on the art and music of the geographical area of the Midwestern United States. Heartland consisted of a major group exhibition in the Van Abbemuseum and a musical program in Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, and included debates, lectures, a photo exhibition, a magazine and publications. For the project, the Miss Rockaway Armada presented an interactive installation at the Mu Gallery with various musical performances and a shadow puppet show within the installation. For a one-day performance, members created a series of rafts and canoes that floated alongside the Van Abbemuseum in conjunction with the other exhibitions located at the museum. After Eindhoven, the exhibition traveled to University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art in Fall 2009.
In addition to workshops and performances developed for specific exhibitions, the collective has been invited to lecture and present slide shows at many venues throughout the United States, such as Cooper Union, New York, NY; MASS MoCA, Boston, MA; Exit Art, New York, NY; and P.S.1 MoMA; among many others.
Some members of The Miss Rockaway Armada have branched out to various additional projects, including: two collaborations with the artist SWOON for “Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, ” at Dietch Projects, New York, NY, which included seven floating sculptures on the East River in Long Island City; and “Swimming Cities of Serenissima,” where participants navigated from the Slovenian coast to the Venice Biennale along the Adriatic Sea and participated in performances in the Biennale. Members of the collective are also featured in the experimental film “Flood” (2008-2009) by Armada member Todd Chandler, which tells the story of a group of musicians and their journey down a river in search of an imagined utopia in the midst of ecological collapse.
The Philadelphia Art Alliancewas founded in 1915 by theater aficionado and philanthropist Christine Wetherill Stevenson for the purpose of establishing an alliance of the arts and thereby filling a void in the Philadelphia arts community. In 1926, the PAA moved from its temporary quarters on Walnut Street into Mrs. Stevenson’s family home on Rittenhouse Square. Among the arts institutions in the City of Philadelphia, the PAA is known as a place for viewing and experiencing art in an intimate setting. The PAA has been a resource for the Philadelphia community longer than any other multidisciplinary arts center in the United States, making artistic history for over 90 years, and is noted for hosting exhibitions and lectures by giants of the visual, literary, and performing arts. Artists Andrew Wyeth, Henry O. Tanner, and Horace Pippin held their first solo exhibitions at the PAA. Exhibitions of architects Antonio Gaudi and Walter Gropius, and of photographers Man Ray, Weegee, and Ernest Withers, coexisted with readings of poets such as e.e.cummings, W.H. Auden, and Robert Frost and lectures and performances of dance legends such as Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, and Merce Cunningham.
In 2006, the Philadelphia Art Alliance has changed the exhibition direction from a multidisciplinary program to a focus on the crafted object. The new mission states: “The Philadelphia Art Alliance is dedicated to the advancement and appreciation of innovative contemporary craft—works in ceramic, glass, fiber, metal and wood—inspiring dynamic interaction between audiences and artists in a setting of historic and aesthetic significance.”
Within contemporary art, there has been a well-noted renewal of interest in process and materials in the current practices of many artists, designers, and architects. Consequently scholars and professionals have begun to consider the definition of craft outside the tightly defined perimeters that have been determined by history to be an anti-theoretical process of crafting meticulous objects in a given medium. Many artists trained in craft-based media are those who challenge these historical standards, providing a self-reflexivity to their practice, and considering the term as an active subject to be questioned in innovative ways. Thus, the programming at the Art Alliance will always aim to present artists whose work fundamentally reexamines itself within the field, and the goal is to engage in this dialogue by providing alternative vantage points in which to consider what is craft. In this context “Let Me Tell You About the Dream I Had” will be an exhibition that reaches beyond the traditional perimeters of museum display, not only by a complete transformation of the building, but also by engaging the surrounding community through the accompanying outdoor components of the exhibition. The musical and theater-based programming by the collective will be a vital part of exhibition as a whole and invite connections between craft, the handmade, sustainable ways of living as exemplified by new artistic practices, and the performing arts.
Part of the mission of the PAA is to work in close collaboration with other area cultural organizations to support and facilitate their efforts and to be responsive to their needs. In addition to expanding the the definition of what comprises a visual arts exhibition, the PAA will also be able to work with two other regional arts organization, thus establishing new and sustainable relationships with other communities. Hosting the outdoor events where these communities are based provides direct access to these audiences and serves to introduce the PAA to those who may not have had the opportunity to visit the galleries.
A final part of the mission of the PAA is to advance scholarship in the field. The innovative catalog design will not only serve as the first publication solely on the activities of the collective, but will appeal to creative arts professionals, students and those interested in contemporary art and craft in general..