Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle - West Extra column - July 21, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
Art has been appearing in unusual places in Brockport the past few weeks: doorsteps of pizzerias, sidewalks on Main Street and flowerpots in front of the movie theatre.
“The reaction has been a lot of chatter and some welcomed confusion, ‘What is this?’ ‘Why is this happening?’ ‘This is so cool,’ ” said Mya Pennington, 25, the artist behind the project. “Someone even told me, ‘Thank you for choosing our community to do this.’ ” Selecting Brockport to launch Starfly Immersive — an immersive art and storytelling project — was a natural choice for Pennington, who is a 2012 graduate of Brockport High School and an alumna of the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
She likes that Brockport is a college town with an open mind and has many young families with children eager to embrace art in all its forms.
“Immersive art is any kind of art form that breaks boundaries between the audience and performer and where the audience member can act as the main character within the story line,” Pennington said. “It’s really important to me with my immersive art to get kids involved; I want them to feel inspired to participate.”
Pennington recently completed an internship in Los Angeles with Disney Parks Live Entertainment Internship Project, where she worked on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge project.
She is living in Brockport until at least January 2020 as she completes her master’s degree in business design and arts leadership from Savannah College of Art and Design. The creation and implementation of Starfly Immersive is part of her graduate thesis and a personal and professional passion.
Growing up in Brockport, Pennington was well-known for her prowess as a percussionist. Now, she is bringing the arts to her hometown via less familiar, but equally important, means.
“When I played music it made people happy,” said Pennington, who performed in the 2017 Rochester Fringe. “I want people to feel happy and that’s what I’m doing with immersive art. It’s almost an art form in itself when it spreads.”
Since she launched Starfly Immersive in Brockport (which she refers to as Starlandia on social media), she and a small group of volunteers have created colorful chalk pathways on Main Street and hid over 350 brightly colored balls with the hashtag #StarflyImmersive throughout the village.
They are preparing for their third interactive art installation that will launch the week of July 21. Pennington — who goes by the stage name Tapper Mae for her Starfly Immersive work — wanted to keep the installation a surprise, but hinted it will have a scavenger hunt vibe.
“Right now we are teaching people how to participate without being intrusive or intimidating,” said Pennington, who preferred not to be photographed for this piece because she sees herself as one of the many star flies — not the star — of this story. “We really just want people to join the story too.”
Daniel Sidore, 11, of Clarkson joined the story last week. He was in the village of Brockport with his older brothers when he began spying the colorful Starfly Immersive balls hidden in plain sight.
“I didn’t know what they were at first and why they were there,” Sidore said, “Then I realized they were there just to make people happy.”
He collected about 40 balls that he filled the front seat of his mom’s car with as a practical joke, adding her to the evolving, community story too.
Contact Caurie at caurie@urgrad .rochester.edu with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ WestExtra .