Home for the Holidays – With 2 Dozen Neighbors (& More!)

Last night was East Passyunk Avenue’s annual tree-lighting ceremony,  and over two dozen South Philadelphia neighbors,  shop owners and dogs smiled down from our windows in what has become our annual holiday salute to the neighborhood.

So,  if you’re dining or playing near the restaurant-packed  “Singing Fountain”  between now and New Year’s Day,  check out our well-decked windows at East Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street….

17_12_01 1 Linn Street 2017 CM_9017We’ll keep the lights on for you ’til 2 a.m. each night.


As you may know,  it all started when we sat at our third-floor kitchen window,  waving to neighbors who couldn’t see us.

“Maybe we should put life-sized photos of ourselves in the windows to let people know we’re here,”  Kate joked.   “Then we wouldn’t feel like we’re spying on them.”

Within seconds,  it morphed into something better.

“Wow – what if we took photos of the neighbors and  put them in the windows, too?   We could do it for the holidays!”

17_12_01 2 Passyunk Windows DC_5259Greetings from East Passyunk Avenue

And so,  15 months after moving to South Philadelphia,  we found ourselves explaining to people we barely knew why we wanted to take their photos.

Fortunately,  South Philadelphians have a sense of humor – even if they did roll their eyes after we left.

That first year,  we signed up 26 neighbors,  4 dogs and a baby.  The baby has moved on, but – this being Passyunk Avenue – our dog population has grown.

17_12_01 3 Dog WindowsLucia,  Barney (twice),  Maizy,  Milli,  Bella and Amelie show off some favorite humans.

It was only then that we realized we’d have to wash our 27 windows….and light them at night….and put timers on the lights….and find an affordable way to print the photos.  (Tip:  The large plastic lawn signs at Staples are perfect,  but wait for a sale.)

15_11_23-3-dave-christopher_0027Dave shows off his best side while lifting Fernando and Barney into a window.

And after worrying that it’d be a total bust,  we wound up on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Christmas eve and a family tradition was born.


So,  if you’re anywhere near South Philadelphia this season,  give us a visit – and don’t miss these three truly fabulous displays:

  • 1600 block of South 13th Street,  between Tasker & Morris (2 blocks from us)

15_12_09-02-miracle-on-south-13th_9828Click here to read our 2015 blog post about the annual  “Miracle on 13th Street”.   (And,  yes,  they add many new delights each year!)

  • 2700 block of Smedley Street,  between 16th & 17 and Moyamensing & Oregon

2015_12_28-2-smedley-cm_0763The 2700 block of Smedley Street is always a traffic-stopper.   Click here to read our 2015 blog post about it and Colorado Street.

  • 2700 block of Colorado Street,  between 17th & 18 and Moyamensing & Oregon

2015_12_28-6-colorado-cm_0797Santa beckons from the 2700 block of Colorado Street.

And leave time to explore the whole area between Oregon,  Moyamensing,  16th & 18th Streets,  where you’ll literally find hundreds of homes and front windows festooned for the holidays,  each grander than the last.

Happy holidays and we’ll see you in February,  with a great new Dumpster Diver house and studio tour!

Kate & Dave


Dumpster Diver Exhibit Extended to November 4!

In our last post,  we told you about “DUMPSTER DIVERSions”,  our 25th anniversary pop-up exhibit by 46 members of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that predictably unpredictable band of found-object artists and their painter/photographer/performance artist friends….

17_10_16 1 Dumpster Divers Exhibit DC_4073Some of the more than 125 works you’ll find behind our purple door.


Based on the encouraging feedback we’ve received in our first two weeks  (hey, we can never predict what will happen when we schedule one of our unlikely projects!),  we’ve extended the exhibit to Saturday,  Nov. 4.

17_10_16 2 Dumpster Divers Exhibit DC_4077aCollage,  fiber and found-object art by Eva Aanya Preston,   Ellen Sall,  I. George Bilyk, Burnell Yow! and  Bruce Gast

Our free South Philadelphia exhibit at 1548 E. Passyunk Avenue (Tasker Street corner) will now be open every Friday and Saturday through Nov. 4 from 6-9 pm.

We’ll also be open  Saturday, Oct. 28 from 1-5 pm to celebrate East Passyunk Avenue’s annual Fall Fest and Spooky Saturday.

17_10_16 3 Dumpster Diver Exhibit DC_4093aAnd,  yes,  we’ll flip off the overhead lights so you can enjoy the full effect of the Divers’ multi-colored light sculptures.


As described last time,  our 26 windows bordering East Passyunk Avenue’s singing fountain are also filled with smiling portraits of Dumpster Divers and their art,  and we’ll light them daily through Nov. 4….

17_10_16 4 Passyunk Windows CM_8273 cropThe new view from our windows:  Leo Sewell,  Harry Anderson and Eva Aanya Preston have been Divers since 1992,  the group’s first year.


Want to see more Dumpster Diver art now?   Check out our  Unexpected Philadelphia  website,  where you’ll find a 25th anniversary photo directory featuring 47 Divers….

17_10_16 5 Dumpster Diver Exhibit 4Clockwise from top left: Work by Dr. Photon,  Joanne Hoffman,  I. George Bilyk,  and Taji Ra’oof Nahl.

Simply click here (Part 1) or here (Part 2) to start the tour.   Then  click on any thumbnail-sized image to page through larger versions of all the photos in alphabetical order by Diver name.

You can also take photo tours  of 15 creative Dumpster Diver homes and studios.


So,  join us on any Friday or Saturday night through Nov. 4 from 6-9 pm,  or on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 1-5 pm.

Or send an email if you’d like to visit at another time with a class or art group,  and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.

17_10_16 6 Dumpster Diver Exhibit DC_4107The pop-up crowd at 1548 E. Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia

Driving in?  Check out the end of our our last blog post for transportation and parking tips on East Passyunk Avenue’s busy restaurant row.


Kate & Dave



The Philadelphia Dumpster Divers’ 25th anniversary exhibit opens this Friday,  and we’ll have Divers on the inside,  Divers on the outside  (check out our new window display,  below)  and Divers on our website  (don’t miss our two-part anniversary album of Diver art).

But first,  we’d like to invite you to visit….


The Divers,  of course,  are that merry band of found-object artists and their painter-photographer-performance art friends who have worked and played together since April Fool’s Day,  1992.

17_09_30 1 Dumpster DiversAmong our 46 featured Diver artists are (clockwise from top left):  Leo Sewell,  Ellen Sall,  John Jonik,  Hugo Hsu,  Smokie Kittner and Harry Anderson

And starting Friday,  October 6 (our opening reception) – and every Friday and Saturday in October from 6-9 pm – we’ll host  “DUMPSTER DIVERSions”,  a free pop-up exhibit of the Divers’ found-object art assemblages,  collages,  paintings,  photography and more.  Just visit our South Philadelphia studio at 1548 E. Passyunk Avenue,  on the corner of E. Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street.

17_09_30 2 Sewell Davidson Spicer DupreeIncluded in our exhibit (clockwise from top left):  Works by Leo Sewell,  Len Davidson,  Simone Spicer and James Dupree

We’ll also welcome visitors from 1-5 pm on Saturday, October 28 during East Passyunk Avenue’s annual Halloween & harvest fest.

(And, yes – be sure to check our parking tips below…!)


During our five years on East Passyunk,  we’ve used our corner windows to display photos of everyone from our neighbors at holiday time,  to South Philly celebrities from the 1960s,  so this weekend we unveiled –  you guessed it – 26 portraits of longtime Divers.

Here’s the view from Linn Street….

17_09_30 3 Linn Diver Windows DC

And here’s the view from Tasker Street and E. Passyunk Avenue….

17_09_30 4 Tasker & Passyunk Windows CM“That couple on the corner have WAY too much time on their hands….”

The portraits will be up every day through October 28,  and will be lit from 4 pm ’til 1:30 a.m.


Can’t visit in person?   No problem!  Check out our online 25th anniversary photo directory for more work by 46 Divers….

17_09_30 5 Keech Mellina Cole AlexanderWaiting for you in our online Diver directory:  Greetings from  (clockwise from top left)  Ann Keech,   Kate Mellina,  Alden Cole,  and Betsy Alexander

Simply click either here (Part 1) or here (Part 2) to visit our “Unexpected Philadelphia” website.

Then,  when you arrive,  click on any thumbnail image to page through larger versions of all the photos in order.   For each Diver,  you’ll see a mini-bio and portrait,  followed by multiple examples of their work.


If you’ve been to East Passyunk Avenue’s wildly popular restaurant row,  you know that parking is a headache at night.   What to do?

17_09_30 6 Ann Keech AK“Oh, the Places She’ll Go” by Ann Keech

Arrive by taxi,  Uber or Lyft.   Or take advantage of the handy valet service right across Passyunk Avenue from us  (at Tasker Street,  by the singing fountain plaza).  The cost is $16  (another incentive to carpool),  and they’re open until 9:30 or 10 pm.

You can also choose our preferred luxury option and arrive by the Broad Street subway (we are three blocks east of the Tasker-Morris exit – just stroll up Tasker to Passyunk) or take the 45 bus from Center City.  The 45 travels south on 12th Street to Tasker (Passyunk Avenue is one block east) and north on 11th Street from South Philadelphia (the Tasker Street northbound stop is visible from our house).


…and bring a friend!

17_09_30 7 cdavid cottrill CDCFormer Philadelphian cdavid cottrill from the Divers’ West Coast annex.  And,  yes,  cdavid is flying in for opening night.   (No word about the bird….)

Kate & Dave


The Dumpster Diver Photo Directory Is Up!

Last month,  we told you about our upcoming 25th anniversary celebration for the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers.

The Divers are that spirited band of found-object artists and friends (photographers,  painters,  a poet and more) whose homes and studios we’ve documented on our  “Unexpected Philadelphia” website.

17_09_25 1 Dumpster Diver FormalA 1990s rogue’s gallery of (semi-)dressed-up Divers….

17_09_25 2 Divers Award Banquet 2015 IGB….and their understated 2015 look.  (Both photos by I. George Bilyk,  front row with bow tie)


Starting Friday, October 6  –  and every Friday and Saturday in October from 6-9 pm  –  we’ll host  “DUMPSTER DIVERSions”,   a free  exhibit of the Divers’ found-object art assemblages,  collages,  paintings,  photography and more in our South Philadelphia studio on the corner of E. Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street.   (Check back for details next week.)

17_09_25 3 Willowbee Enright UlrichFound-object work by Divers Sally Willowbee,  Lion Studio,  and Jim Ulrich.   (Photos courtesy of the artists.)


Following our “everyday’s a holiday” tradition,  we’ll also light up South Philadelphia’s Singing Fountain corner by placing 26 oversized Diver portraits in our windows….

17_09_25 4 Dumpster Divas 2017

Six “Dumpster Divas”  who will grace our lighted windows:  Clockwise from top left are Charmaine Caire,  Charna Eisner,  Toni Nash,  Sally Willowbee,  Leslie Stuart Matthews and Eva Aanya Preston


But there’s no need to wait ’til October 6:   Today we’re kicking off the 25th anniversary festivities with an online photo directory showing almost four dozen Dumpster Divers and their work….

17_09_25 5 Caire Altabef Alsbrooks AndersonNow showing in our Diver directory:   Work by  (clockwise from top left)  Charmaine Caire,  Gretchen Altabef,  Kim Alsbrooks and Harry Anderson

Simply  head to our  “Unexpected Philadelphia”  website and check out our two-part,  alphabetical Diver exhibit by clicking either here (Part 1) or here (Part 2). 


When you arrive there,  simply click on any thumbnail image to page through larger versions of all the photos.   For each Diver,  you’ll see a mini-bio and portrait….

17_09_25 6 Randall Cleaver 1Randall Cleaver moved to Maryland,  but he’s always in the Divers’ hearts – and in our South Philly exhibit and online photo directory.   (All Randall Cleaver photos courtesy of the artist.)

…followed by two photo collages of their work….

17_09_25 7 Randall Cleaver 2Randall’s imaginative timepieces and lamps are unmitigated fun.  And,  yes,  two of his  unlikely cuckoo clocks are already chirping in our gallery


So have fun exploring our two-part Dumpster Diver photo directory,  and visit 15 creative Diver homes while you’re there.

We’ll be back here next week to show you photos of our lighted Dumpster Diver windows and to tell you more about our October 6 opening night!

And,  yes,  we hope you’ll come and bring a friend….

17_09_25 8 Burnell Yow!Diver Burnell Yow!  with a new recruit

Kate & Dave





The Dumpster Divers Are Coming!

Over the past two years,  we’ve introduced you to the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers – that big-hearted coalition of artists who have played,  exhibited and produced witty, found-object art together since 1992.

17_08_21 1 Philadelphia Dumpster Divers IGBWho are these people,  and do they always dress like that?   Well,   actually,  some of them do….  (Photo by I. George Bilyk)

We’ve also led you on photo tours of 15 striking Diver homes and studios…

17_08_21 2 Dumpster Diver Homes CM_DCClick here to visit the secret lairs of artists like (clockwise from top left)  Alden Cole,  Isaiah Zagar,  Susan Moloney,  and Betsy Alexander & Burnell Yow!


This April Fool’s Day marked the Divers’ 25th anniversary and,  to celebrate,  we’re hosting “DUMPSTER DIVERSions”,  an exhibit of the Divers’ found-object art assemblages,  collages,  paintings,  photography and more in our South Philadelphia studio.

17_08_21 3 Dumpster Diver Art 3Definitely the Divers:  Work by Bruce Gast,  Randall Cleaver and Leslie Stuart Matthews.  (Photos courtesy of the artists.)

Opening night is Friday,  October 6 from 6-9 pm,  and our doors will open every Friday and Saturday in October from 6-9 pm at the corner of E. Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street.

We’ll also open 1-5 pm on Saturday,  October 28,  during the annual Passyunk Avenue fall fest,  so be sure to include us in your Halloween plans.


As you may know,  we love marking everything from holidays to elections by placing over-sized portraits of neighbors and friends in our lighted windows.

17_08_21 4 Vote Windows DC_8280A raft of Philadelphia artists,  writers and performers urged you to vote in October,  2016.

So,  starting in late September and running through October,  we’ll light up South Philadelphia’s singing fountain corner with portraits of over two dozen Dumpster Divers,  including this engaging trio of Diver “founding fathers”…

17_08_21 5 Benson Spivak Davidson DCStill crazy after all these years:  Neil Benson,  Joel Spivak and Len Davidson


Can’t visit in person?  Never fear:  In late September,  our “Unexpected Philadelphia” website will feature photos of over 40 current and former Dumpster Divers,  along with images of their fun and inspiring art…

17_08_21 6 Richards Benowitz PrestonComing up on our website:  the ultimate Diver directory, including work by (clockwise from top left) Susan Richards,  Sara Benowitz and Eva Preston.  (Photos courtesy of the artists)

Want to receive automatic updates of our blog posts?   Simply enter your email address and hit the black “Follow” button at right,  near the top of this post.   (And,  no,  we never send or accept advertising or share your email address.  We hate spam,  too.)


This May,  we took an unannounced (even to us) blog break to deal with family responsibilities,  but we’re still here behind the scenes — happily working on our blow-out 25th anniversary celebration.

So please spread the word about our upcoming “DUMPSTER DIVERSions” exhibit,  window display and online art directory,  and we’ll see you then!

17_08_21 7 Mellina & Benson DC_2993Uh,  Dave,  why does this guy keep photobombing me?

Happy rest of summer —

Kate & Dave







Introducing Our New Dumpster Diver House Tour: Meet Leo Sewell

When Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum moved to Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall in 2008,  they asked city artist Leo Sewell to build a replica of the Statue of Liberty’s torch and arm,  which had originally been displayed in the park during the 1876 Centennial Exposition.

Leo obliged the children’s museum – with a fun-filled,  40-foot rendition that features everything from toys and skis,  to discarded license plates and road signs.

17_05_04 1 Leo Sewell Liberty Torch LSLeo Sewell’s Lady Liberty tribute took three years to plan and construct.   (Photo courtesy of Leo Sewell.)


Leo’s introduction to the joys of junk came early,  when he explored the dump near his childhood home.   His dad taught him to use tools,  and soon he was shaping and assembling industrial discards into wonderful new objects.

17_05_04 2 Leo Sewell DC_1618Leo constructs a flamingo in his studio.   The bird and its partner now grace the lobby of a Florida business building.

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Claude Lewis – A Journalist After Your Heart

Last fall – when pre-election angst and anger were at their peak – Dave and I contacted over two dozen Philadelphia artists,  writers and performers,  and asked them to pose for our windows holding upbeat signs with words like create,  collaborate,  envision and,  yes,  VOTE….

17_04_20 1 Tasker Street Windows CM_5602Twenty-eight smiling artists lit up our South Philadelphia windows last October to remind us that we really do have more in common than not.

As you may recall,  participants included everyone from singer Bobby Rydell and comedian Jennifer Childs,  to jazz pianist Alfie Pollitt and sculptor Miguel Antonio Horn.

But there was one window,  front and center,  that was reserved for my earliest role model.


Like today,  the late 1960s were a confusing and complex time to be a teenager and,  three days a week,  I’d rush home from high school,  tear open the Philadelphia Bulletin,  and read Claude Lewis’ column.

17_04_20 2 Claude Lewis Phila BulletinPhiladelphia’s first black newspaper columnist,  Claude Lewis,  during his Philadelphia Bulletin days.  (Photo courtesy of the Lewis Family.)

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