Jesse Harrod is one of three artists commissioned by Fairmount Park Conservancy for the West Park Arts Fest, a lively neighborhood street festival that will take place this year, for its 11th year, on Saturday, June 9th from 12-5pm, hosted by the Conservancy, West Park Cultural Center, and Mural Arts.
Harrod is currently in Nepal working on a community arts project with Pepon Osorio and students from both Kathmandu University and the Tyler School of Art. They are collaborating to create a rest stop in the vein of other rest stops in Nepal; these are platform spaces near temples that serve as locations for people to rest safely and comfortably on their journey. Their rest stop will take the form of a colorful wood shed located in the back of the Patan Museum, in an area reserved for workers of the museum and the local restoration team who have been working to rebuild the city since the 2015 earthquake. Harrod and Osorio will also meet with local community groups who create art and crafts in order to learn about the broader context of Nepali artistic practice.
For the West Park Arts Fest, Harrod will display a banner on June 9th made in collaboration with Martha Washington Elementary School 5th graders. Harrod reports to us from Nepal on her project in conversation with Theresa Rose, project curator.
Theresa Rose: Jesse, can you describe the work that you have been doing with the Martha Washington 5th graders and how it will manifest?
Jesse Harrod: I have been working with Eric Berdis, a previous student of mine, to build an installation made of cloth and embellishments. We facilitated workshops with students at Martha Washington to create motifs on cloth that display markers of identity and home. We taught them basic sewing skills and fabric manipulation techniques. We will then add more “banners/flags” to theirs to create a more expansive installation with the cloth hanging from the swing sets and poles in the newly built park. The space will show their work as well as reference a domestic space and a place of comfort and inquiry.
Rose: What intrigued you about this commission in relation to your own artistic practice or other goals?
Harrod: I used to focus solely on community arts projects before coming to the U.S. for graduate school and for many reasons, I have not had the opportunity to work in such a manner since being here. Now that I am settled in one place, I am thrilled to engage with this part of my practice. My work is, at it heart, about communities.
Rose: Could you share a little about your own work and what lead you to Philadelphia?
Harrod: I worked in community arts and development in Canada and then decided to go to graduate school in the U.S. I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and graduated in 2010. Since then I have taught in Chicago, Virginia, and now in Philadelphia. I came to Philly to teach and also to be back in a city.
Rose: What can we expect next? What are your next projects or upcoming exhibitions?
Harrod: I am currently working on a large installation for Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens that will be installed in September. I am also working on a large drawing for a show in New York, where I am taking one of my drawings and blowing it up to beyond life size.
West Park Arts Fest takes place on Saturday, June 9 from 12 to 5 pm in West Fairmount Park. To learn more about the festival, please click here.