Let it move you

Things get innovative at Oxford Kinetics Festival

By Gary Spencer

Oxford Dictionary defines the word “kinetics” as “the branch of chemistry or biochemistry concerned with measuring and studying the rates of reactions.” Referencing this definition is more than appropriate in this instance, as this coming Sunday a different Oxford—Oxford, Ohio, to be exact—will be hosting the sixth edition of the Oxford Kinetics Festival, an event that has consistently received high rates of reactions.

“I would say that the OKF is the most fun day of the entire year and if you attend once you will come back every year,” says Oxford Kinetics Festival co-founder and Co-director Kate Currie. “Our attendance has doubled each year [and] we are expecting approximately 4,000 people this year.”

Despite the rapid growth of the OKF, the Festival evolved from the humble beginnings of a race on High Street in 2010 that led to the first OKF the following year.

“I was a member of Oxford’s city council and in charge of planning events to celebrate the city’s bicentennial throughout the year. One of my bicentennial committee members suggested we have a kinetic sculpture race,” Currie explains. “We had about a dozen participants, mostly some of Jim’s students and a couple art professors from Miami, etc. Thirty or 40 people stood on the sidewalk and watched. Afterward Rod Northcutt who had been in the race and is the sculpture professor at Miami was very excited about the event and said we had to keep it going. So we met later with a group of like-minded folks and started talking about what it would look like to do it again the next year but bigger.”

With that, organizers formed MAKETANK, a nonprofit organization dedicated to kinetic arts and education with the plan to expand their future events beyond kinetic sculpture races. The next year saw the first OKF which drew about 300 people and has grown exponentially since thanks to its mission to bring together the Oxford community through art, science, learning, craftsmanship and good old fashioned fun.

“The OKF is all about building community through creativity,” Currie says. “One of the reasons we started and continue the festival is in an effort to bring together the disparate groups that make up a community, in our case specifically a college town, to share a creative experience. This project has led over time to designing a variety of ways to reach out to underserved and isolated groups in our region to help build creative confidence through hands-on art and science programs. The OKF serves as a venue for participants to show off their work and ideas to the larger community for skill-sharing and creative freedom of expression.”

While the theory of OKF’s mission and goals are all well and good, many people reading this are probably wondering what exactly they can expect to see and experience should they attend the Festival. Some sights, demonstrations, activities and workshops that OKF has held in the past that they
will be having at this year’s event include races, blacksmithing, skateboard construction, air and water rockets, spin art, Rube Goldberg machines, experimental music performances, phenakistascopes, planes, kite building, parachute racing and
basically anything that involves the science of movement.

“Kinetics just refers to things that move,” Currie explains. “Building a human-powered piece of art that actually functions is not an easy prospect and requires creativity but also skillful planning and design that develops science, math and engineering skills along the way. We find kinetic projects to be fun ways to get people of all ages thinking about engineering and math even if they never previously thought of themselves as being capable in those fields. This work allows a new way into science and math thinking, through art and fun, for people who would shy away from that prospect normally.”

Each year the OKF contains a theme, and this year is no different. This year’s theme is “Circus Fracas,” an exciting and intriguing concept when blending circus oriented activities with the creative, constructive and science-oriented basis on which the OKF was built. Some of those attractions will include Luigi Bullooney’s Circus Menagerie puppet show, fortune tellers, jugglers, circus art, stilt walkers, slackline walkers, traditional circus sideshows presented by Cincinnati-based clown troupe My Nose Turns Red and by art students. But no matter what the theme, the Oxford Kinetics Festival has something for everyone of all ages and all walks of life in the southwest Ohio region.

“Everyone can enjoy the OKF,” says Currie. “We want kids, their parents, their college-age older siblings and their grandparents to all be able to come to the festival and have a great time, learn something new and meet new and interesting people they might become friends with in the future. Our hope is to really bring all the different groups that make up our community together in one place, involved in exploring creativity together, sharing skills and enthusiasms.”

The Oxford Kinetics Festival takes place Sunday, April 17, at Millet Hall 500 E. Sycamore St. in Oxford. The Festival runs from noon-5 p.m. and is free to the public. For more information, please visit oxfordkineticsfestival.org.

Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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