The Dumpster Divers are back — and you’re invited!

Last fall,  we told you about a grand exhibit marking the 25th anniversary of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that predictably unpredictable band of found-object artists who have been re-purposing the city’s castoffs since 1992.

This year,  they’re back with an intriguing exhibit of all new work and you’re definitely invited,  starting with a First Friday celebration on Nov. 2 from 2-10 p.m. at the Dupree Gallery,  703 S. 6th Street.

18_10_30 4 Dumpster Diver ShowThe Divers and friends previewed “Re-Crafted”,  their new exhibit,  last weekend at the Dupree Gallery in Philadelphia’s Queen Village section.

Through Dec. 29,  thirty different Divers — including new members Tim Barton and Eve Hoyt — will offer witty,  smaller-scale assemblages — and,  yes,  that definitely says one-of-a-kind holiday gifts to us!

18_10_30 1 Dumpster Diver ShowClockwise from top left:  Work by Tim Barton,  Ellen Sall,  James Dupree,  Neil Benson,  and Eve Hoyt.

You can check out the complete artist list and all the gallery hours at the Dumpster Divers website, here.

18_10_30 2 Dumpster Diver ShowClockwise from top left:  Work by Burnell Yow!,  Eva Aanya Preston,  Carol Cole,  Bruce Gast,  Ann Keech,  and Lion Studio.  Center: Leo Sewell.

As an added treat,  the Divers are partnering with CraftNOW Philadelphia and almost two dozen local museums,  galleries and fine craft groups,  each of which is offering November events to celebrate our city’s innovative craft culture — including the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s prestigious contemporary craft show (Nov. 2-4).

18_10_30 5 Dumpster Diver Show“Look!  Up in the sky!  It’s…” an eyeball-covered mobile by artist Sally Willowbee  (second from left).

This year’s citywide craft theme is “Making a Difference” and the Divers have been doing that for 26 years – reminding us all that “trash is simply a failure of imagination.”

18_10_30 3 Dumpster Diver ShowThat’s artist and gallery owner James Dupree — Philadelphia’s own “Black Picasso” — in the white coat at center.  Click here to see our photo tour of his fabulous Mantua studio.

Information on all the November craft events can be found at the CraftNOW Philadelphia website, here.   And don’t forget to check the Divers’ own website  for a list of gallery hours between now and Dec. 29.

18_10_30 9 Dumpster Diver ShowWe’ll see you here!

Kate & Dave



Meet Randall Cleaver – The Dumpster Diver Who (Almost) Got Away

Cuckoo birds popping from mid-century waffle irons.   Icarus falling from the sky on a vintage heater stage with plexiglass curtains.   An elephant’s eye swaying with a clock’s movement.

Found-object clockmaker and Philadelphia Dumpster Diver Randall Cleaver’s home is a symphony of  light, movement and sound.

18_07_26 1 Randall CleaverTwo of Randall’s captivating time pieces: On “Angel in Time”  (left)  the wings glide up and down,  while the eyes open and close and fiber optic lights blink on and off.   A bagpiper’s legs  (right)  form a clock’s moving pendulum.


In the past three years,  we’ve visited 16 imaginative homes and studios of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers – that merry band of found-object artists who have worked and played together since 1992.

And today we’ll lead you through the intriguing home, studio and garden of Randall Cleaver and wife Beth Richwine – with a side trip for lunch.

18_07_26 2 Randall CleaverRandall Cleaver with “Happy Feat”, his first animated clock.  The vintage Victrola case boasts a pinball game and foosball players kicking bells.  Famed tin-can artist Bobby Hansson also dances a jig.


A Philadelphia Dumpster Diver since 1997,  Randall earned his BFA in sculpture at Penn State University,  and created art while working as a museum preparator and packer at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

He began incorporating clocks into his sculptures as a humorous creative challenge in the 1980s,  after noticing that clocks were showing up on every appliance he purchased.

18_07_26 3 Randall Cleaver CM_0402Randall built the copper airships that swing around the Eiffel Tower on “Aerotime” (left).  “A Pig in the Polk” (right) features spinning figures of President James Polk,  while a fake flame crackles in the old heater base.


But clocks weren’t the only happy fate awaiting Randall:  After a long-distance courtship,  he married Beth Richwine – a conservator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History who he met at a friend’s wedding.

And,  yes,  some things were obviously meant to be:   When the couple bought their Takoma Park,  MD home in 2006,  it was located on  (where else?)  Philadelphia Avenue.

18_07_26 4 Randall Cleaver DC_5396Does anyone really know what time it is?  Randall and Beth certainly do:  An animated display of Randall’s clocks light up a living room wall beneath a shelf with Beth’s handmade pottery.


In 2008,  Randall’s obsession led him to the School of Horology in Columbia,  PA,   where he learned clock repair and restoration,  a skill that helped refine his art.

He also repairs clocks for private,  business and government customers,  including the U.S. Supreme Court,  House of Representatives and Smithsonian Institution.

18_07_26 5 Randall Cleaver DC_5653Pieces from Randall’s antique clock collection share space with his own creations.  And,  yes,  he made the white oak mantelpiece.


Randall also enjoys making found-object lamps, particularly from vintage kitchen items like coffee pots and blenders…

18_07_26 6 Randall CleaverA collection of Randall’s unlikely lamps made with (from left) an electric kettle,  a pair of metal colanders,  an antique porcelain doll head,  and an electric coffee pot.

…and he’s been experimenting with hand-cranked automata using mechanical parts that (as with his clocks) he often constructs himself.

18_07_26 7 Randall Cleaver CM_0358“Migration” was inspired by “The Birds”,  Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film.  When cranked,  the birds go up and down,  the phone booth revolves,  and Hitchcock’s TV theme song plays.


So,  click here to take our complete photo tour of Randall and Beth’s fun-filled home and studio.

As always,  when you arrive at our Unexpected Philadelphia website,  click on any thumbnail image to page through larger versions of all the photos.    You’ll also see a caption under each large photo if you’re on a non-mobile device like a PC or laptop.

18_07_26 8 Randall Cleaver DC_5626Randall in his art studio and clock workshop. Check the Internet for videos of his animated clocks in motion!

 P.S.  You can follow our blog by clicking the black “Follow” button near the top right of the screen.

Increased family responsibilities mean that we can’t post as often,  but we’ll unveil another great house tour around year’s end.


Kate & Dave

Visit the Inspiring Studio of Artist (& Dumpster Diver!) James E. Dupree

Spending a dreary winter afternoon with Philadelphia artist James E. Dupree is like winning a trip to the tropics:   He’s warm,  funny,  gracious,  and full of fascinating stories about pinging – and getting pinged by – the conventional art world as an African-American male.

18_02_27 1 James Dupree DC_4938James E. Dupree – Philadelphia’s own Black Picasso

And visiting Dupree’s art-packed,  8,600 square foot studio in Philadelphia’s Mantua section is like exploring an inspiring alternate universe.

18_02_27 2 James Dupree StudioThree rooms in the marvelous maze that is Dupree’s West Philadelphia studio Continue reading

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.

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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

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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

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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. Continue reading

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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Artist Lou Hirshman – A Philadelphia Original (Part 2)

(Continued from Wednesday,  March 29.   Click here  to read Part 1…)

While Philadelphia artist Lou Hirshman first became known in the 1930s and 1940s for his witty three-dimensional caricatures of public figures,  his subject matter evolved with the decades.

By the 1960s,  he was using his found-object constructions to comment on social types ranging from psychiatrists and dictators,  to pot smokers and TV viewers.

17_03_30 1 The Duel_Lou Hirshman_1962Hirshman’s 1962 “The Duel” shows two combatants – deftly outlined in long strands of string – locked in eternal combat by the children’s scissors that bind them.   Their matching physiques and identical button faces hint at a different type of duel – an internal one.

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