FRINGE 2020: Join the adventure!

Walk Around Philadelphia is the 2020 Philadelphia Fringe Festival experience that will transform participants’ understanding of the city.

Groups are self-organized, choose their own routes, and can undertake the walk on their own time. Completing the entire perimeter has taken, on average, ~100 miles over 5.5 days. The walk can be broken into smaller segments and completed over months or years.

Participants will be provided a four person perimeter-walking kit that will include limited-edition perimeter passports, printed maps, reflective safety belts and more. Online content will provide additional maps and resources.

Registration is sliding scale to support a breadth of participation, and a limited number of stipends up to $500/person will be made available to help make the walk accessible to those needing to take time away from income-earning activities to participate.

A special virtual reportback gathering on October 4th will bring all of the participant groups together to share what they’ve discovered and celebrate what they’ve accomplished.

Tickets are available at FringeArts.com starting August 10th.

See below for more on the project’s origins.

With fellow artists Ann de Forest, Sam Wend and Adrienne Mackey, I set out to discover the city that I live in by walking its full perimeter. This has become an annual personal pilgrimage.

Originating through a Knight Foundation-funded Cross Pollination residency with Swim Pony Performing ArtsWalk Around Philadelphia began with one of the most joyous weeks of my life.

From dawn to dusk over 5.5 days in 2016, we walked 102.7 miles around the city while staying as close to the perimeter as we were able.

Walk Around Philadelphia then evolved into a narrative performance event built around the map at the Philadelphia History Museum, activating the space in a new way and drawing sold-out crowds.

In sharing our stories, we created a space for participants to connect to points on the border and to their fellow participants as they engaged with the map together.

In 2017, I undertook a second walk around the city’s perimeter on my own, and have continued it since then every February.

This has grown into a tradition that I have completed five times, now inviting others to join for segments along the way. Ann, Sam, Adrienne & I are also seeking other ways to build on this project and continue to share this experience with others.

The Residency

Cross Pollination:

Swim Pony Performing Arts’ Cross Pollination residency pairs artists of different disciplines to spend a week working together with Swim Pony’s Artistic Director Adrienne Mackey for an open-ended creative exploration, with Swim Pony’s Artistic Associate Sam Wend joining us to document the process.

Through this framework, I was paired with writer Ann de Forest, whom I’d never met before. In preliminary meetings, many themes of interest came up including neighborhoods and stories, pilgrimages and processions, games and role reversals.

When inspiration struck, we decided on a plan that would end up incorporating all of our ideas in ways that we couldn’t have expected as we set out to walk around Philadelphia.

All the way around Philadelphia.

The Walk

The premise was simple:
walk the city’s perimeter.

Not knowing what to expect, we set out on a walk that we thought would take sixty-something miles over four days.

The complete circumnavigation of Philadelphia took us 102.7 miles over 5.5 days.

We found our way home each evening via public transit, and resumed our tour from the same location the following morning.

Along the way, we shared discoveries, encounters, conversations, silence, laughter, blisters and more.

We confirmed the accuracy of the proverb that states, “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing,” and I am not kidding when I say that it was one of the most joyous weeks of my life.

It was an amazing way to discover the city from a new perspective, no longer focusing on the tall buildings at the center but rather encompassing the vastness of all that is held within Philadelphia’s edges.

The Performance

As our adventure around the city perimeter came to a close, we began talking about how we could share Walk Around Philadelphia with others.

While the Cross Pollination residency was technically for an open-ended creative exploration and didn’t require a finished “product”, we were inspired to share it in some sort of report-back to the community.

Partnering with the Philadelphia History Museum, whose walkable map of the city was the perfect setting for such an event, we designed a quasi-theatrical storytelling event that shared highlights and reflections from our pilgrimage while also creating exercises and opportunities for neighbors to connect through discovery of their city’s perimeter.

The free event promptly “sold out”, so we added a second night, which promptly was filled as well. An accompanying visual exhibit of photos & artifacts from the walk, connected to route markings taped on the floor, shared the experiences with the Museum’s regular visitors when we weren’t there.

We’ve since adapted our presentation to share with both college students and business executives, and would be happy to bring it to your community as well.

Solo pilgrimage

In the week following my father’s death in February 2017, I walked the city’s edge again.

I’d marked my calendar to keep a week free for another potential perimeter walk the following year after we’d completed the first one in February 2016. It had been the week after my birthday, and I thought that it might make a good period for yearly reflection.

When my father’s life came to a close suddenly on February 7th, it was an unexpected blessing that I already had an open schedule the following week, and completing a second perimeter tour on my own was a perfect way to create space to process all that had happened in the prior weeks of his illness.

On the last half-day segment, a few friends joined me to walk with me and welcome me home.

In the end, we all walk our own life paths alone, but it’s the people whose paths cross or align with ours along the way that make life worth it.

(Thanks for being here right now, joining me for this little moment of it!)

Walk with me...

I’m continuing the walk annually as an personal ritual, and looking to find ways to invite others to share in the experience.

Walk Around Philadelphia captured the city’s imagination and invited new conversations about civic space. The walk itself is a project that has become both a dear personal tradition, an ongoing collaboration with Ann, Adrienne & Sam, and an experience that I’m delighted to share with others.

In 2018 and 2019, I undertook my third and fourth passes around the perimeter, with some days completed solo, some with a friend, and some with a small group.

In 2020, in completing my fifth annual perimeter walk, I opened the invite to the public and found myself leading a group of 17 adventurous pedestrians walking out of the airport on the last leg of the walk.

Now, both in response to the pandemic, and as a natural next phase of this evolving project, I’m offering a facilitated ‘build-your-own-group’ and ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ September version of the walk in conjunction with the 2020 Fringe Festival. (Scroll back to the top of the page for all the links for that.)

It’s worth noting that while my other projects  have been fairly straightforward to make accessible to people of very diverse backgrounds, the walk has drawn much narrower pool of participants. I’m hoping to find both community organizations and funders who would help me find ways to make the walk accessible to a broader pool of participants. If you see potential for a partnership, get in touch!

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Photo credits

Walk & performance documentation by Adachi Pimentel for Swim Pony Performing Arts  •  Walking through tall grasses photo by Risa Waldoks  •  All other photographs © JJ Tiziou