Later this week, assembled arts types both local and otherwise will gather on Dilworth Plaza to reveal details for the 2018 edition of PIFA – the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, that is, the biannual arts fest that began in 2011 with a sizable grant to the Kimmel Center. PIFA, as you may recall, has come to stand as the Kimmel’s big curatorial/community effort, pulling in contributions from local arts groups as well as soliciting work from other parts of the world. Unlike, say, the Live Arts & Fringe Festival, who share a similar artistic remit, PIFA has struggled to find its voice over the years but for one single, signature event each time around: A massive street festival, filled with public spectacles that have ranged from ferriss wheels to acrobats, that takes over a large parcel of Broad Street, emanating out from where the Kimmel Center stands.
On Saturday at Dilworth, as details of the 2018 festival are rolled out, there will be a kind of teaser spectacle underway simultaneously: An event called “The People’s Tower,” dreamed up by the artist Olivier Grossetête. Here, “the community” will spend the day (from 9am on into the afternoon) building an 88-foot cardboard tower on the Plaza, which will then be toppled at 7pm. Grossetête has done versions of this at festivals all over the world at this point, and in its outsize Jenga-ness, it does look like fun. But it also invites metaphor. Just what kind, well, we’ll have to wait and see.