The Philadelphia Geek Awards
by Ruthann Alexander
Philadelphians dressed to the nines for the Philadelphia Geek Awards presented by Geekadelphia on Saturday, Aug 16 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
Prior to the ceremony, fellow geeks mingled while admiring the many dinosaur bones, bird exhibits, and nature scenes on display, not to mention enjoying an open bar offering wine and beer, too.
The thirteen categories were Geek of the Year, Scientist of the Year, I.R.L. (In Real Life) Project of the year, Story of the Year, Web Project of the Year, Startup of the Year, Visual Artist of the Year, Event of the Year, Social Media Project of the Year, Game of the Year, Comic Creator of the Year, Feature Length Indie Film of the year and Streaming Media Project of the Year.
All nominees can be found at http://www.phillygeekawards.com/categories/.
Each project was nominated because of the impact it had on the community and geek culture of Philadelphia.
The first winner announced was Genevieve Dion, who won the Scientist of the Year award.
Dion is a professor of fashion design at Drexel University and explores the frontier of wearable technology, creating high-tech textiles using digital fabrication and computerized knitting machines. This year, she presented at TEDxPhilly and was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business.
"To be able to bring design that can inform science is something that is really dear to my heart," Dion said.
Web Project of the year winner was Allen & Gerritsen's snow globe app called Snow Shake. This app allows friends from around the country to interact with this digital web app that connects their smartphone to the website using no downloadable apps and their phone’s gyroscope.
"I think this is a really cool project that shows that when you combine imagination and technology, you can create some pretty cool stuff," said the developer from the creative technology department.
Box Brown was named Comic Creator of the Year. Brown used his skills as a biographer and an artist to create a graphic novel drawing on historical records from Andre Roussimoff's life. Ever since its release, Brown's “Andre the Giant” has enjoyed critical acclaim on The New York Times' bestseller list.
Philadelphia muralist and teacher at the city's Mural Arts Program Benjamin Volta was named Visual Artist of the Year.
What makes his work unique is that he blends his love of art and science to create such pieces as "We Are All Neurons” with Mural Arts' LEAP program. The piece explores brain mapping with a bright public art display created with local students.
"When we first began the project, I had no idea how much fun it would be," Volta said. "What was so exciting was to see the kids dive in and get excited about how art can intersect with science."
Next up, what would a geek awards ceremony be without a proper category for Social Media Project of the Year? The two nominees included Philadelphia Parks and Recreation's Tree Philly and Slice Communications' turkey bacon medal.
You may have already guessed that the winner was Tree Philly, for obvious reasons. As stated earlier, these projects were nominated because of the impact they have had on society. Quite frankly, Tree Philly has done more raise awareness on a particular issue than the turkey bacon medal.
What exactly did Tree Philly do to earn this prestigious award? They created a hashtag campaign by the name of #TreePhilly to raise awareness by playfully displaying signs on trees around Philadelphia. They also gave away more than 1,500 trees to more than 800 Philadelphians.
"I wanted to say that the real winners tonight are the trees," said Tree Philly’s Erica Smith Fichman. "Tree Philly does have a goal of increasing tree canopy in the city, and we want to spread that equitably and all of the benefits that trees provide across the entire city."
Following Social Media Project of the year was Startup of the Year, which honors a new local business in Philadelphia while making a difference across the country. The winner of this category was Cora, a social-good business started by Germantown native Molly Hayward.
A lack of access to clean and safe products for “that time of month” can lead to illness, missing school days and even dropping out completely for girls and women. Fortunately, Cora’s Hayward is solving first-world and third-world problems. For every monthly order they ship, Cora provides a month’s worth of sustainable sanitary pads to a girl in a developing country, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “monthly box service.”
What more is the startup doing? It is creating sustainable jobs locally.
“I feel incredibly privileged to do the work that I do in so many ways,” Hayward said. “I just can’t wait to grow this business and change the world for women.”
Next up was Story of the Year, of which the award went to Paine’s Park, where skater geeks can have a place to call their own.
Designed by Anthony Bracali of Friday Architects/Planners and Brian Nugent of SkateNerd, Paine’s Park is a mixed-use public that includes skateboarding as the main attraction, but also elements such as steel and granite benches and scenic views of the Schuylkill River and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“This project is a long time coming, so it’s really exciting to get some recognition for it in a different way,” Nugent said. “We’re excited to have a great place in Center City for skateboarding for Philadelphia.”
The next award went to Shawn Pierre for creating the Game of the Year, These French Fries Are Terrible Hot Dogs. In Pierre’s card game, players compete against each other using deception and lies to convince one another they have the best hot dog, hat or other object. The game is an IndieCade 2013 selection and raised $20,000 in Kickstarter backers.
According to Pierre, the name started out as a joke, but his friend thought it sounded like a good name for a game. The next day he decided to program something, showed it to some people who helped him code and develop it while giving him feedback on how to make the game better. The next step was to run his Kickstarter.
“Without everyone in Philly helping me out, I would not be able to make this game and have it take off as it did,” Pierre said. “So, it’s not my game. It’s Philadelphia’s game.”
Next up was the Feature-Length Indie Film of the Year. Jason Osder’s Let the Fire Burn won this category. The documentary is a history of the conflict between the City of Philadelphia and the Black Liberation organization, MOVE. Drawing upon live footage from interviews and hearings, the documentary chronologically pieces together the events that led to the disastrous bombing of rowhouses on Osage Avenue in Cobbs Creek.
Osder was unable to be at the awards ceremony in person, so he televised his speech upon a screen in the auditorium. He explained that he lived here at the time of the fire, left Philadelphia at 17, and has not been back since.
“So, it’s very important to me to make a film that would work equally well for someone who had never heard of the incident,” Osder said. “Therefore, it’s very meaningful to me to get an award from you and the people of Philadelphia.”
The Black Tribbles won Streaming Project of the Year. A podcast based in Philadelphia, The Black Tribbles cover geek culture while working hard to build their community on and offline. This year, The Black Tribbles hosted a book donation drive to bring graphic novels to Philadelphia schools and shelters.
If you are curious to learn more about The Black Tribbles and listen to their show, catch them in variety of places such as GTown Radio and 900AM WURD, as well as Podomatic. Check them out at their official website.
“It’s an honor to share the stage with my four best friends in the world and thank you very much,” said Black Tribble Lenn Webb.
While many categories were intangible digital or social media projects, the I.R.L.Project of the Year was needed to bring some balance to the Geek Awards.
This year, the I.R.L Project of the year went to the Philadelphia History Truck. The mobile museum rolled out in May to tell the oral history of the East Kensington neighborhood. Creator Erin Bernard completed the project with the help of his fellow Kensington neighbors.
“This was a concept in my mind just over a year ago, and it exists because of the people of Philadelphia,” Bernard said. “And I mean that on the most diverse level from the neighborhood association president who shared his truck with me, to the neighbor who knocked on every door to have a block party where we could actually to the oral history, to the curatorial collective who let a public historian in. It’s just really amazing, so thank you for being part of the journey.”
Veering more toward the community-based projects, the next category is Event of the Year. The winner was Funeral for a Home.
On May 31, a home in Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood was demolished, but before the home was torn down, people came together to celebrate it. It was a moving event doubling as an art project.
Steven and Billy Dufala from the group Man Man wanted to commemorate the history of Mantua through public memory and civic dialogue and celebrate the neighborhood’s future. They called upon neighbors to toast the house, sing songs and remember it.
“This project was a heavy thing that we did,” Steven Dufala said. “It was about a year long.”
Last but not least, the winner of the coveted Geek of the Year award is the Black Tribbles’ Jason Richardson.
“I’d like to thank the Philly Geek Awards for such an amazing opportunity to be put on the same categories as Leslie [Birch] and Chris [Alfano].” Richardson said. “It’s such an honor because they deserve it as much as I do. But this isn’t for me. I’m a black geek and a lot of that is mysterious to the media. How many geek shows do you see black people on?”
In addition to being one of the hosts of the podcast The Black Tribbles, Richardson is a community builder and leader through his production company J1 Studios. He also hosts J1-Con, one of the biggest anime conventions in Philadelphia, as well as the cosplay prom. In addition to his other accomplishments, Richardson is a comic book artist, too.
He said he hopes everyone shows up to his anime convention in September because he pays for it out of pocket, and he “doesn’t have very big pockets.”
“The other thing is at these conventions, I see a lot of black kids,” he said. “And a lot of them don’t have an identity because when they get associated with geek culture they lose their color. They become introduced as ‘this is the whitest black guy I know.’ So this is not just for me. It’s for all of them.”
For more information on the Philadelphia Geek Awards visit their website http://www.phillygeekawards.com/.
photography @ clever girl photography