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On June 13 and 14, from noon – 6 pm, InLiquid presents Art for the Cash Poor 16. This year, Go Mad for Art as the three-day event includes all the elements that drive us crazy-in-love with Philadelphia’s creative sector. Over 100 arts vendors will be twisting every medium imaginable into jewelry, photography, printmaking, graphic art, painting, sculpture, and more.

Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes spent her childhood rifling through closets, searching for the right door to Narnia. Now, she creates her own doors into other worlds, by salvaging old, abandoned books and giving them new life as art.

Could you tell me a bit about your arts background?

Creative writing and English literature are my official background – other than the odd class here and there, I never formally studied art, but rather always loved creating and working with my hands – be it with a camera, a brush, or a needle and thread – from a very early age.

You spent your childhood looking for Narnia. How do you go about finding magical worlds for artistic inspiration as an adult?

As a child, I did indeed think an entrance to Narnia was waiting for me – I laugh when I think of how often I’d go rifling through my grandmother’s closets, hoping it would be her house that would provide the portal. For me, the magic still comes from literature: perhaps it’s a book I’m reading to my children, or it’s a poem I’m reading for myself, but beautiful words always make images pop into my head, and then I’ll quickly sketch out that idea in my notebook that I carry everywhere.

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As a librarian, you collected damaged books and took them home with you. Do you think it’s a similar impulse that drives people to collect art – a sense that artwork – like books for a bookworm – has personality?

I love the idea that art has personality! That’s absolutely spot-on: I think we always seek to surround ourselves with objects that speak to us. Not only do I love creating my artwork, I also love incorporating these wonderful old books (that would otherwise be recycled) because the personality of the two work so beautifully together.

Do you have any upcoming exhibits or projects?

I’m a member of a wonderful collective called MamaCITA (which stands for “A Mother’s Cooperative in the Arts) (http://mamacitaarts.com) and we just closed a gorgeous show and installation called “Re.Collection” at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts. I’m also thrilled to have contributed artwork to the book “Extraordinary Gifts” recently published by Philadelphia Stories, honoring influential women from the Delaware Valley.

Can you tell me a little about the work you will have for sale at Art for the Cash Poor 16?

The MKC Photography table will be full! I’ll have my throw pillows and table runners, as well as my salvaged wood art blocks, keychains, and ornaments, many of which will feature artwork I’ve just recently created. If you’re wondering how I make those salvaged-wood-and-book-paper pieces, you can see a short video here:

Have you participated previously in AFTCP? If so what was your impression?

This is actually my 6th year at AFTCP, and it is by far my favorite event in the city. The music is amazing, the food is delicious, and my fellow artisans are so talented and fun – some of my table neighbors have become dear friends over the years. I also love that it’s open to everyone: come with friends, bring your kids, bring your dog – all are welcome.

What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s AFTCP?

The bands. Every year I ask for the same spot: right at the doorway, nearest the music. It’s such a fun spot to be for the whole weekend – I can’t even call it work!

The weekend-long fair invites attendees to navigate the Crane Arts space, which will be bursting with art vendors, live musical performances, culinary curiosities, and an outdoor beer garden. The addition of a Friday night ticketed preview party on June 12, 5:30 – 9 pm, serves as a meet-and-greet with the artists and a fundraiser for AIDS Fund, offering guests an exclusive sneak-peek at the festivities to follow. More details, including a full list of bands and participating artists, at the link.

Justin Rubich

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