Mutual Air Festival is a ‘COVID-safer’ space for all

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If you’re looking for an arts and music festival that takes health and community care seriously, look no further than the Mutual Air Festival happening at the Rotunda next Wednesday. The effort is a collaboration between Filter Philly and Philly Breathes, and is a fundraiser for Philly Clean Air Mutual Aid.

Funds from the event will go toward supporting the community with free masks, air filter rentals, and future COVID-safer events.


» READ MORE: ‘This is going to hit most people.’ The COVID state of emergency has ended — but the need for support hasn’t.

Organizers are asking that all attendees take a COVID-19 test the day of the event and stay home and watch the Instagram livestream if they aren’t feeling well. And, after they arrive at the festival, they should be prepared to mask up both indoors and outdoors (when not eating, drinking, or taking a COVID test outside). High filtration masks and rapid COVID tests will be available free at the door.

“One of our goals is to make this event as accessible as possible — not just regarding airborne diseases like COVID.”

Liv Zusya Grace

For those who want to attend but may be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a festival, there will be an outdoor “chill zone,” complete with a low-sensory craft table and livestream of the event going on inside.

The festival will include programming such as a gallery featuring work from visual artist Wit López, a grief space facilitated by Raani Begum, and poetry and music performances. The schedule is as follows:

  1. 6 p.m. – 6:50 p.m.: Grief space.

  2. 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Poetry (Sarena Brown, Liv Zusya Grace, and Uriah aka Gamblin Black Media) and music (Meet the Bug and Ther).

  3. Gallery artists, viewing until 9 p.m.: Wit López and Uriah aka Gamblin Black Media.

Liv Zusya Grace, one of the poets who will be reading on Wednesday and a member of Philly Breathes, hopes that this event will encourage more mask-required shows, poetry readings, gallery showings, and other community events in Philly. As a chronically ill and immunocompromised person, Grace has been deeply affected by COVID.

“We are showcasing some amazing artists, musicians, and poets who take COVID precautions. The festival is a place to meet other folks who believe in community care and mutual aid, whether you attend in-person or virtually through our livestream,” Grace told The Inquirer by email.

“One of our goals is to make this event as accessible as possible — not just regarding airborne diseases like COVID, but also regarding fragrance/chemical sensitivities, sensory needs, fat-friendly seating, wheelchair access, and more.”

Accessibility accommodations will include:

  1. Required masking

  2. Air purification

  3. Barrier-free entrance, with a ramp toward the back of the building

  4. Accessible, all-gender restrooms

  5. Live captions

  6. And a livestream on Instagram

“It’s not difficult to show community care”

The idea for the Mutual Air Festival came from a brainstorming session about fundraising initiatives. With both groups having an influx of artists and community facilitators, it was only natural that the event became one that would celebrate these members as well as raise funds to continue supporting the community.

» READ MORE: The COVID-19 emergency may be declared over, but resources are still available. Here’s where to find help in Philadelphia.

All members of Filter Philly and Philly Breathes are volunteers, and the organizations are non-hierarchical. Philly Breathes operates under the 10 Principles of Disability Justice.

Philly Breathes focuses on distributing masks and is concerned with COVID as well as other environmental issues, such as allergens, pollution, and smoke. Filter Philly currently focuses on lending out air purifiers to create safer spaces and air equity for all.

“What we’re trying to show with putting this festival on is that it’s not a burden to create COVID-safer spaces,” said Selena Yip, a volunteer with Filter Philly. “We really want to showcase that it’s not difficult to require masking. It’s not difficult to show community care.”

Yip comes from a background of event organizing and, like Grace, is immunocompromised.

“I would stay that a lot of public spaces are no longer as safe for me to be in, especially community spaces,” Yip said.

“It’s not difficult to show community care.”

Selena Yip

“This particular event is showing that it is possible to create really inclusive and disability justice-centered public spaces and that community care is really important.”

Mutual Air Festival will be held at the Rotunda at 4014 Walnut St. in Philadelphia on Wednesday, May 22, starting at 6 p.m. Cost of entry is donation-based and pay-what-you-wish. RSVP at