Go Deeper Happy Hour on the Fringe: JJ Tiziou, Walk Around Philadelphia: A Perimeter Pilgrimage

Happy Hour on the Fringe: JJ Tiziou, Walk Around Philadelphia: A Perimeter Pilgrimage

Posted September 25th, 2020

In this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, Marketing Manager Raina Searles speaks with JJ Tiziou about Walk Around Philadelphia: A Perimeter Pilgrimage, which is being presented as part of the 2020 Fringe Festival. This interactive experience gives participants the opportunity to transform their perspective on the city of Philadelphia by circumnavigating the perimeter. JJ describes this journey as an “opportunity to observe, to take in, to discover, and to embark on this in a spirit of curiosity, good will, and open-mindedness… The process of experiencing.” Listen to JJ discuss his own experiences walking the perimeter, the sights and sounds which he has encountered, and the relationships he has developed along the way. JJ discusses how people can get involved with this project, and accessibility. To learn more about Walk Around Philadelphia: A Perimeter Pilgrimage and to find out how you can get involved, visit the Fringe Arts event page: To find out more about JJ and his other interactive public art experiences visit his website here:

Raina Searles: Hello and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. Fringe Arts is Philadelphia’s premiere presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Raina Searles, Marketing Manager here at Fringe Arts, and I invite you to pour one up and enjoy our conversations with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence. Today I am joined by JJ Tiziou, who is presenting Walk Around Philadelphia: A Perimeter Pilgrimage, as part of the 2020 Fringe Festival. This interactive experience allows participants to reorient themselves to Philadelphia while circumnavigating the perimeter of the city. You can find more information about Walk Around Philadelphia and other independently produced shows in our festival by visiting, but for now, sit back and enjoy this week’s episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe. Welcome, JJ.

JJ Tiziou: Hi, Raina. Thanks for having me here.

Raina:  Yeah. How are you doing?

JJ: I’m doing all right, thanks. I’m getting excited about how this is unfolding.

Raina: Yes, we are recording this on the second day of the festival. So very exciting, we just kicked things off. It feels very different this year.

JJ: It does indeed.

Raina: Yeah and you know, normally tonight we’d be in the beer garden, all gathered for the artists kickoff party out till midnight, 1:00 AM. And instead, I will be like watching a show at 8:00 p.m. on my couch, that is not Netflix, but its a fringe festival show. So, yeah, it’s definitely a very different festival, but we’re feeling our way through it.

JJ: Yeah, and I mean, the artists who participate the Fringe from all the years that I’ve, you know, been on the periphery of it and involved with it are always the ones who are innovating in the most unusual of circumstances, and can deal with whatever resources they have. So if anything like Fringe feels like the place where exciting things can still happen with the restrictions of the times, you know?

Raina: Definitely. So our first question to all of our guests, since this is Happy Hour on the Fringe, is what are we drinking?

JJ: Just water over here.

Raina: Well, you may remember because April called me out during the festival kickoff, happy hour, but I did recently get a NutriBullet for my birthday. So I am having a smoothie.

JJ: You know, I did have a smoothie just earlier.

Raina: OK. So smoothie, water, I was drinking water earlier.

JJ: You know, I have these weird Fringe associations with Vitamin Water, not to give them too much corporate plugging, but during… they were a sponsoring like the 2003 or 2004 Fringe and there were cases of that stuff everywhere. And as I ran around like a mad man photographing the whole festival, I was chugging lots and lots of that stuff. So that’s weirdly the beverage that comes up and it comes to mind with Fringe now forever. And of course whatever fine beers… (unintelligible)

Raina: No, that’s fair. We had Sparkling Ice and I believe they were actually a FEASTIVAL sponsor and also a Fringeathon when we had that in 2017 and 18. And so we had bottles on bottles of Sparkling Ice for like months that we just had around the office and kept giving away at things. And so that’s kind of like my drink association, but also like Sparkling Water in general, something that like all of our staff seemed to love.

JJ: Although I’ll just go ahead and say that if there’s stuff to cut from the podcast for time, I’d say we can cut the corporate sponsorship promo and get into the meat of things.

Raina: That is totally fair. Well so let’s jump right in, because this work is centered around a journey navigating the perimeters of Philadelphia. So can you just take us back to your first circumnavigation where you had some collaborators with you? You know, where did this idea come from to take this first walk?

Raina: Walk Around Philadelphia came out of a open ended artist residency that was hosted by Swim Pony Performing Arts with Adrienne Mackey, who this year, as you know, is doing another walking inspired piece that was sort of birthed from the same sort of process, or at least partly inspired by the walk that we did. But so Swim Pony hosted this set of cross pollination residencies that paired artists of different disciplines for a week long, open ended creative exploration. Sort of like blind date creative process. You know, put a sculptor and a choreographer in a studio together for a week and see what happens. Working with Adrienne also. And I was paired with Ann de Forest, who’s a writer in my neighborhood, who I didn’t know at the time and since has become a dear friend. Along with us also was Sam Wende, who was Adrienne’s, you know, helping out working for Swim Pony at the time, who was in all the other residencies playing more of a behind the scenes logistics and documentarian role. Once we began the walk we were all equals, all playing all the roles. But we picked a week in mid-February just based on our schedules. And up until January, we still didn’t know what the heck we were going to do. But we bounced off some ideas that were about… we had a lot of interests that overlapped and some of them were about the city and neighborhoods and borders and boundaries. And somehow, you know, I hopped on the idea of walking the perimeter and it seemed like a thing we could do in maybe four days. I found a map that someone else had biked it before. And so we thought we could walk it in four miles and like… four days. It took us five and a half days and 100 miles. And then we turned it into a performance piece. And then it sold out and we added another storytelling session. And then it became a thing I did yearly. But it was one of the most joyous weeks of my life, honestly. And such a humbling perspective on the city that I thought that I knew to realize that I only know a couple of facets of a couple neighborhoods in a couple geographic locations, but that the city is so vast and complex. Yeah, there’s many different lenses to see it through. But it was a, you know, such a gift to spend all day walking in our world that is so often interrupted and so often device driven. Such a gift to forge friendships and have space for open ended conversation. It’s really different how you kind of have a talk while you are walking with someone. I could go on and on, but maybe I’ll let you…

Raina: So you said that there was someone who had biked it before. So was this just like something that you found online or?

JJ: Exactly. I Googled the perimeter of Philadelphia. I found a bike route that someone had posted and that made me realize that it was sort of a manageable chunk of mileage. You know, when they were biking, they obviously cut some corners to make it all bike accessible. We chose to go bushwhacking in the creek beds and stay as close to the perimeter as possible. So it got a little more adventurous. And we went a long way around the airport, which adds another 10 miles, five miles or so.

Raina: Yeah. So can you talk a little bit more about just like what those days looked like? Like were you fully like camping out each night, wherever you came to a stopping point?

JJ: Good questions. So, no, we did it non sequentially. I’ve never done it sequentially, like contiguously yet, although I’m hoping to. So we did two days on, one day off. We walked until sunset and then took public transit home and then resumed where we left off. So. So it wasn’t camping out in the field, although I do aspire to do a version of it where I will camp out everywhere the whole time. But that’s an important thing when talking about this project to realize how accessible it can be because it’s like the Appalachian Trail- there’s no wrong way to do it. You could walk it in shorter segments over many years. Now, for the purposes of what I’m offering for the Fringe, I’m hoping that people will take a good stab at a couple of chunks of it during the period of the festival. That way, when we gather for the virtual report back event, people will be able to compare notes and sort of share what they’ve discovered. But also, if someone wants to just go do you know, five miles here and then next year do five miles there, you know, in the course of a couple of years, you can complete the whole thing however you want to. For us, it was walking sunrise to sunset, or starting transit sunrise to sunset. Sometimes up before sunrise in February and then about 20-mile days for five days. And then the last day was a shorter leg, only about 10 miles, so a half day.

Raina: Wow. So I’m interested to hear a little bit more about that from your perspective as a photographer. You know, some things that I know are part of your philosophy are that everyone is photogenic and kind of highlighting the beauty in everything. And so I am curious because I feel like, you know, the border of Philadelphia that I know the best is the waterfront between, you know, Philly and New Jersey. That’s right where Fringe Arts is. So like that’s like a stretch that I feel pretty confident about. But I imagine there’s also a lot of places that are very neglected or, you know, are maybe not as inhabited as others. So, you know, how do you find beauty in those spaces and, you know, kind of looking at those borders that people don’t really go to as much?

JJ: Since you mentioned it, I think it’s worth noting that Fringe is on the perimeter of the city in terms of where your location is for the theater and the offices. And then this whole project takes you literally to the fringes of the city. So It just seems appropriate to be offering this version of it this year. But yeah the perimeter is so varied. When we imagine that at first we thought of it more as urban exploration and also thought of it in context of like who will we meet? And will they tell us their stories? And, you know, as a portrait photographer a lot in a past life. Less so these days. You know, there was this question about the people. But actually, much of the walk is either nature or industry and fairly sparsely populated. And then especially if you go at different times, like during the weekdays when people are at home or at work, there aren’t that many folks. So it was actually quite surreal for us when we finally got to that part that you reference. And we were walking down the Delaware on our fourth day of walking after having gone all up Cobbs Creek and City Ave and the Schuylkill and all the way around the northern and northeastern parts of the city to be coming back to this place that seemed really familiar. And this is a place that we’ve walked many, many times; but realizing how it connects to this vast other part. So like further up the Delaware, where there’s the beautiful Delaware River Trail and some like industrial junkyards and the beautiful Delaware River Trail and the prisons and the beautiful Delaware River Trail, and you know, like rotting abandoned things. And all around the city you know, you learn about sort of interconnected systems and you learn about the impacts we have. There’s an environmental lens to see this through. You know, when a… when you order a dumpster to come like park in front of the house for a construction project, It goes somewhere afterwards and it goes and lives in this weird lot in Southwest Philly, right on the perimeter of the city where there’s a pile of abandoned dumpsters with trees growing out of them. So many sights. And yeah, there is beauty in them. Some of it is beautiful, refuse and trash. Some of it is beautiful nature, beautiful neighborhoods. I think it’s just about an opportunity to observe, to take in, to discover. And part of it, of course, is to be embarking on this in a spirit of curiosity and goodwill and open mindedness. Right? It’s not about getting to a destination because in the end, you just end up right back where you started. It’s about the process of experiencing and of walking away from maybe our everyday routines and putting them in a different perspective. And yeah, for me, that’s been a real gift.

Raina: Well, you mentioned the people that you might meet along the way. And so, you know, even walking through some of these more deserted areas, did you encounter other people and then, you know, did you have conversations with them?

JJ: Relatively few. There’s some parts where, you know, you’re just on this Schuylkill River Trail and there’s the you know, exercise, you know, folks going for a run or a bike ride. There’s the place where you’re coming around trying to get into the southeast corner of the Navy Yard and there is this field of brand new cars that have just come off of a ship just like giant parking lots. And there’s like a security guard there who is there to tell you, no, you can’t go past here. You know, so then we have an interesting conversation with him about, like, what his life is like guarding all these cars and, you know, who do we have to talk to you to get access to this corner of the Navy Yard next time we want to come by through here? There was a gentleman right up where Roosevelt Boulevard cuts out of the perimeter that… I think it’s Roosevelt Boulevard, I need to look at a map. There was one gentleman sort of in the middle of nowhere who had a plastic bag with something in his hands and was asking us, you know, where there was a pawnshop. He seemed to be, you know, really down on his luck and having a hard time and we were curious about what the rest of his life was like. Which, you know, and then there’s the guy who’s, like, leaning out of his window as we’re traipsing through, you know, sort of the wild land behind his house. And he’s like, what are y’all up to? And he’s like, excited about it, you know? And we tell him a little bit about what we’re doing. So not too many people in the end, but interesting interactions along the way for sure.

Raina: OK. Yeah. So I think that’s really interesting because I think it also really speaks to, like, the Philly that you know and the Philly that you are familiar with. I have… so I went to school in Philly and then obviously I ended up working in Philly. But I also like… It wasn’t until the Fringe Festival where I felt like I was seeing a lot more of the city because I would be going to shows in, you know, different neighborhoods. And I was like, wow, I really feel like I’m getting to see a lot more of this. But I also know that there’s still so much that I haven’t seen. And so, you know, I’m curious to think a little bit more about, like, how your relationship to the city has changed since you started this, and you know, knowing that you’re doing it over and over again. Like, what are some of the things that you’re learning and noticing each time?

JJ: For sure. For me, the Fringe was also a gateway into a discovery of the city. You know, I remember 2003 to 2007, like biking around frantically to random strange venues and, you know, finding myself, you know. And it’s etched in my memory. There’s, you know, an alleyway in Old City that I will forever have pictures of Hillary like standing in the middle of the street on this sort of like follow the leader adventure through Old City. And yeah, it’s been a discovery of the city, though the walk for me has been interesting, both in terms of first the perspective on the city right? The realizing that the city is everything that it contains. We talk about this a lot about the idea of being far off in the distance up in north north Philly and looking around the corner and there’s the skyline, from Chestnut Hill catching a glimpse of the skyline. And thinking at first like, oh, there’s the city, right? And then realizing, no that’s the skyline. The city is right here at my feet because I’m on the border. So everything here to my right is the city and everything to the left is not Philadelphia. And so that idea of reframing the city not as a center centric thing, but through all that it holds from the border on in. And where is that border sort of a maybe more natural thing like a river and whereas it a line that someone drew on a map with a ruler? And how does that impact what’s on one side and the other? And then over the years, there’s a couple of facets because, you know, the first year, I thought I might do it again the next year, and then when I’d penciled it off sort of as a personal week of reflection it happened to fall right after my father’s death, by pure coincidence. I didn’t think I’d be able to do the walk because he needed so much help in the end of life. And then he passed away suddenly and I had the next week wide open with my calendar just saying to walk. And so I did it. And it was a gift of… I did it solo that year with some friends that joined me in the last half day leg. And that was a gift of spaciousness, of processing time after some really intense family health stuff through the fall. And then having done it twice I was like, all right, well I guess this is a thing I’m going to do next year. And I invited some people to join in little bits. And then I’d done it three times, so then a fourth and then I did it again a fifth this February. And so part of it has been about figuring how to invite other people into it. This past February, I had 20 people who came out on foot out of the airport with me on the last day. And that’s exciting. But then it felt like I was leading a tour. And so this version of it is about… what I’m doing for the Fringe is about figuring out how to share the experience I had the first year of going out in a small group with your own pod to navigate and way find. You know I’m providing some maps and some guidance, but I’m not giving turn by turn directions because part of the adventure is actually figuring out what the right path is for you, given what’s accessible to you, and given where you feel safe and how you want to do it. And so I’m really excited about… sort of for me, it’s a creative process of… here it’s been the logistics and the mapmaking and the answering questions and providing supporting documents and making these sweet little perimeter passports and lanyards and kits for people who are going out to sort of help them along their way. And then, you know, I’ll do it again this next February on my own or with a couple of people as well, and maybe a less large public version. We’ll see. But it’s been fascinating to see what’s familiar and the same. And now I know the outer edge of the city, you know, like the back of my hand, like I know that shape. And I can walk it without a map. And yet also things change, you know, places for three years I couldn’t get through the next year all of a sudden it’s wide open and I can wander on through. Or a place where I used to be able to wander on through now there’s a gate and a fence or they’re building a new building or so on and so forth. So it’s also interesting to see how time of day or a little bit of different weather.. you know, you could be walking up City Ave and one year it was silent and the next year, you know, it was in between classes for St. Joe’s. And so all the students were crossing the street and all of a sudden it was this like throng of humanity. And that’s just, you know, whether you happen to be walking by at one time or a different time. So there’s always more to discover. I think the thing… one lesson of the walk is: there’s never an excuse to be bored because all you have to do is walk out the door and go for a walk. And then there’s the other lesson, of course, of there’s no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. Because i’ve walked it… I’ve walked Cheltenham Avenue in sleeting ice rain and had a joyous, wonderful time.

Raina: Oh, wow. Yeah. No, I think that’s so amazing. And I feel like, you know, that’s something that you see on a micro level within the city. Like, I just recently moved like a month or two ago, and the block where I used to live, I still go to the same grocery store. And this building that was kind of like being dug out for construction is now like half built. And like, every time I go to the grocery store, like every couple weeks, I’m like, like, look at how that’s changed. So, you know, I imagine that, you know, in a year, each time, there’s so much changing constantly. And yeah that can change so quickly, just depending on on the weather or, you know, what’s happening around the city. One question that actually came to my mind as you were talking, we recently did an episode with Rachel and Joseph behind Packing and Cracking, which is all about cartography, but also looking at like gerrymandering and like the politics of map making. And so I’m just kind of curious to get a little bit of your perspective on that, because you mentioned how it seems like sometimes there’s like weird cuts like someone just drew a line on a map or where it’s like a very strange dynamic to be on the border. But like what really is the border? I don’t even know what the question is actually. So.

JJ: Well, I mean, gerrymandering is another whole story. And someone suggested to me the project of walking around all of the, like, gerrymandered districts. Right? As a project to draw attention to these crazy nonsensical shapes that are purely like political algorithm, you know, defined. The sort of nature of borders is fascinating because you’ll see places where you’re in a neighborhood and the houses all look the same. And one side of the street, the, you know, recycling bins are one color and another side they’re another color. Or like at one intersection on one side, the street signs are your Philly, you know, green street signs, and across the street they’re red, you’re like, OK, something’s different. But then there’s places where it’s really obvious where you’re like, oh, you know, the people in the big fancy houses over there that are not in Philadelphia probably don’t send their kids to this school right here, which is in Philadelphia. There’s probably another school that maybe has a lot more resources. My guess.

Raina: And is like less than a mile away.

JJ: Yeah, exactly. So, yeah there’s so much in geography. And I think just walking it helps you connect the dots, helps you get a sense of scale, helps you, you know… It brings up more questions than it does answers, you know. Yeah.

Raina: Yeah. So I think maybe one thing I would love to shift to is a little bit more about the audience experience. So you mentioned that there’s going to be these perimeter passports that you’re creating and that the kits that you’re selling are not just for one person like it’s meant to be done in a small group. So can you talk a little bit more about how you’re preparing for this work and what audiences can expect when they, you know, get their, I guess quote unquote ticket in this case.

JJ: For sure. So I think the first sort of thing to remember is that the perimeter is out there and if anyone wants to go walk it on their own time in their own way that’s great. And if it’s inspired them to do their own walking adventures, that’s great. And if they want to tell me about it, I’m excited to hear about it. For the purposes of the Fringe version of it what I’m doing is… you know, if it weren’t a pandemic… and maybe in a future incarnation of this project, I would be matchmaking people, forming small groups where you would get to meet people of different backgrounds and walk together. You know, that’s a future dream of mine.

Raina: So more of like a strangers kind of pairing.

JJ: Well, because again, when I first did this thing I knew Adrienne, I didn’t know Sam and Ann, and we have become fast friends. We have continued taking walks together. There is an opportunity for conversation and bonding in this whole adventure of discovery and troubleshooting and figuring out who feels safe jumping across that creek. Oh, maybe not all of us. Let’s go around, you know, or whatnot. So for us it was a bonding thing. And I wonder what happens if we have a city councilperson and a historian and someone returning from incarceration, you know, and a high school student.

Raina: Just that pairing alone. I would love to see that.

JJ: Right. Because it’s a great equalizer. You know, everyone is actually going to be walking together. Everyone is going to be problem solving together. Everyone is going to be documenting together. And the space for how conversations flow is amazing. So obviously, with the pandemic, we’re inviting people to walk with their own pod, with who they feel safe with from a public health perspective also. But I do recommend small groups. The registration is for a group of four. That doesn’t mean you can’t have five or six people with you. But for safety’s sake, I think it’s good to go with a couple of people, you know in case you twist your ankle while you’re in the middle of the woods or who knows what. God forbid. I want everything to be safe. Number one rule is, you know, prioritize safety while you’re doing this. So the experience is also for what happens, what bond can be formed if we turn off our devices and just walk with a couple people for a day? What conversations unfold? There’s a great thing when you’re walking with a small group of people- too big and it becomes like too superficial, you know, and that’s where the 20 that I was leading this past February was probably too big already. But when you have a smaller group conversation can flow organically. And you can have two people walking ahead, two people behind. All of a sudden, the four of you together. All of a sudden it’s a different pairing. And you pick up, you leave off, you follow up some more. It’s a really special group experience. So it can be one that would be recommended for people who are already in deep relationship or who are wanting to share an experience to sort of get to know each other better or tighten their bond as a group of housemates say, or something like that. For this experience, people, when they register, will get instructions to pick up a packet from my porch. Each kit has things like a couple of maps and some lanyards and some reflective safety belts just for high visibility if you happen to choose to walk somewhere near the road. I’ve also designed these lanyards and passports. The passports are sweet, lovely little objects that my fabulous neighbor Autumn helped me design. They are modeled on a US, you know, on a regular passport where there is a space to put in your information, including emergency contacts and medical info. There is some language sort of lifted from a passport saying, you know, that the bearer of this document is undertaking this, you know, adventure and a spirit of goodwill and curiosity. And please help them find their way safely around the perimeter, et cetera. I think, you know, it’s worth when we’re talking safety, really recognizing a project like this, like questions about access and privilege. Right. Because the first year we did it, we were four white folks with the Knight Foundation, you know, funded project making our way around from southwest Philly to northeast Philly. And not… as we’ve seen like over and over again, tragically in the news, not everyone is received in the same way just walking in public. Right? And so, you know, that’s a really complex thing. I’m really mindful of all the privilege I’ve brought to this thing. That’s why I prioritize safety and have a couple bits of safety advice for people. I can’t guarantee someone’s safety. But I want people to take it seriously. And that’s also where, you know, if someone does find themselves in a place where someone’s questioning, you know, what you’re doing… like our first year, we were walking along that very weird outskirts of the parking lot at Philadelphia Mills Mall. And eventually, you know, a security vehicle drives by us and then eventually comes by and pulls alongside and says, hey, what are you doing? You know, so part of the idea of these documents, not that anyone should ever have to justify their presence in public space just walking, but, you know, for people to have these documents and be able to clearly share and show, you know, here’s what I’m doing. And this is what the project is about. Here’s my little, like, I.D. badge. And no one is undocumented in this project. I’m also providing some postcards and stickers, and the stickers- you’ll see some already out there, probably right near your office. Someone sent me a photo of one. I’m inviting people to annotate the perimeter with a ‘you are here’ marker, and leave them at different spots around the perimeter. So the people who are going out there this year are sort of literally trailblazers. Like the way that if you hike the Appalachian Trail, you’d see some little painted markings on the trees letting you know you’re on the on the path.

Raina: Oh I love that.

JJ: So people are putting stickers around the perimeter to help, you know, let people… either people who are participating will sort of realize that they’re close to where someone else has walked or they will, you know, other passersby will sort of get a sense of where they are in relation to the city’s edge, which is interesting to me. And, you know… and the last part of it is that all of the participants will gather for… have an invite to a special Zoom event on the last day of the festival on October 4th, where we’ll be able to sort of gather virtually and share the experiences of, you know, what obstacles that we encounter? What moments of delight that we encounter? You know, what did we accomplish? Who chose what route to get around what obstacle? With some breakout rooms and ways to connect. And most my projects involve bringing people together, obviously, in a pandemic sense we’ve got to be careful right now. And so that’s where everyone will go off and have their own adventure, but bring it all back together on the last day of the festival for this this virtual event.

Raina: Yeah, I think that sounds like it’s going to be a really interesting conversation to hear how everyone kind of made their own way through. One question that I’m also curious about, because, you know, there’s a lot different ways to think about how people move through space. And I think race is definitely a really big one. But I’m also curious how you’ve thought about, or in what ways you might have thought about accessibility in terms of like physical ability. Knowing that, you know, you mentioned like, you know even for people who might be fully able bodied, like they don’t want to jump over a creek or, you know. So, like, what are the ways that you’ve kind of thought about that in making this journey?

JJ: Absolutely. It’s a complex one, right? Just even when you talk about Walk Around Philadelphia. Well, some people don’t walk they roll, right, because they’re in wheelchairs. But when you’re talking about this distance, if you want to fully circumnavigate the city the way that I’ve done it, to do it manageably in a week, you know, or a month, 20 mile days are not accessible to everyone. But again, like the Appalachian Trail, you can do any chunk in any way. I’ve given some bits of hazard mapping in terms of, okay, here’s a place where the perimeter crosses like a river or a highway or train tracks and so you might want to look ahead of time and do some more planning around how you want to deal with that particular hazard. The other thing is that one of the guidelines that we talk about is the Roomba rule, as we call it, which is where you… when you encounter an obstacle, you just go around it like a tiny little robot vacuum cleaner bumping its way around, you know, furniture in your house. So there’s really no wrong way. And if you looked at the G.P.S. tracks of the five times that I’ve walked the perimeter, they don’t overlap. There’s times when I’ve gone different ways and taken some crazy zigzags. And the interesting thing is, every time you are disappointed that you’re not going to get to go where you wanted to go. You’re going to discover something else really cool or fascinating or beautiful or interesting around the next corner by virtue of having taken that other path. So I’ll give you an example. I was just biking up to have actually another accessibility conversation on the northern edge of the Schuylkill border where there is River Road, which is a fascinating place to walk. But it was blocked off by construction. And I was disappointed that I couldn’t bike down there because it’s a cool place to go on my way to rendezvous with the person who I was meeting. And so instead, I went up the regular bike trail and I was bummed, I was like ‘I wanted to be down on River Road, whaa, closer to the perimeter, whaa’. And then it’s like, ‘oh, wow, look, the Schuylkill center has this gorgeous new entrance from the bike trail I had no idea you could get to the Schuylkill center from this side and there’s some hiking trails up there, what a beautiful discovery’. Which I wouldn’t have seen had I gone the way that I wanted to go. The person that I was meeting up there actually is Nicole Sardella, who is doing a bunch of audio description. She does audio description for blind or visually impaired people, speaking of accessibility. So we walked a bit of the perimeter together talking about what would it entail to do audio description components for parts of the perimeter to lead a group of blind folk on a part of the perimeter and facilitate that experience. There’s some places that are more accessible than others. So I think the whole perimeter is an interesting way to have conversations around accessibility too, you know, where are their trails? Where their trails that are being extended? There’s a place down in Cobbs Creek Parkway where the city is then a really cool job of making a place that used to be completely inaccessible, now quite safe and accessible. So thank you whoever was involved in that part of the project. On the accessibility front, you know, right now I’ve got ASL interpretation lined up for the report back. So the project should be fully accessible to the deaf. If you guys have a transcript of this podcast.

Raina: Yes, we will have it transcribed.

JJ: Great. So we’ve got ASL interpretation for the report back. In future versions of this project. Like every incarnation about it for me from here on out is about finding ways to facilitate access to to more people to this experience. So I would love to have a shuttle that takes people to different parts around the perimeter so you could walk around parts of the perimeter without having to do the whole thing throughout. Again, like piling people into a bus or a shuttle might be a thing post pandemic once we have a vaccine. And, you know, there’s also questions about resource, which is why this thing is being offered on a sliding scale and why I’ve got some stipends being offered so that if someone needs some financial support in order to be able to take time away from work or cover child care, transportation, meals, that kind of thing, I’ve got a little budget towards stipends and I’m trying to raise more money to continue to find ways to make the project more accessible to people.

Raina: Awesome. Yeah, I mean, I think there’s still so much to dive into. And so I definitely encourage people to first and foremost, go get your ticket, you know, figure out what route you want to take. And, you know, if you want to try the whole thing or you know, do some parts of it. But JJ, what are some other ways that people can support your work and, you know, show their love?

JJ: So the best way to find me since I deleted all my social media accounts about a year and a half ago is at And from there you can sign up on an e-mail list for occasional updates and invites. You can make a contribution to the perimeter walk fund. I’ve got a couple of people who are monthly backers who support my work and have helped to make projects like this, you know, things that I can keep offering. So I’m very grateful to them. If you do go and walk it on your own, I’d love to hear about it, see photos, that kind of thing. I did create some social media accounts that I’m not actively using, but it’s @walkaroundphiladelphia on Instagram and @walkaroundphila on Twitter that you can just tag it just to share some stuff with me. But I’m kind of on a boycott of social media for reals. Even though this project is gold for social media, so many adventures and beautiful things. But there’s a whole other story which I can send you things online for people who want to, you know, abandon their social media accounts I highly recommend it. But yes. So the web is the best way to find me or just by being out on the perimeter of the city and walking, inviting a friend for a walk. Honestly, that’s the thing that would give me the most joy- if your next social activity was a distanced walk or something like that.

Raina: I love that. Well, JJ, thank you so much for joining us for this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe.

JJ: Pleasure. Thanks for having me. Thank you for… to everyone at Fringe, for such a trove of wonderful cultural experiences that have moved me to tears and been like backbone of my Philly arts and culture experience and for giving me this opportunity to invite people to the fringes of the city.

Raina: Amazing. To all of our our listeners, make sure you follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and download the Fringe Arts app. We are not on a social media boycott, but we definitely support those who are. And make sure you visit to see upcoming programing, including Walk Around Philadelphia: A Perimeter Pilgrimage, and other Fringe Festival 2020 shows.