Now this is a Philly Special.
Kambel Smith — a local artist whose large-scale cardboard sculptures of Philadelphia buildings have gained national attention this year — has created an intricate model of Lincoln Financial Field that will be on display at the Eagles Autism Challenge this weekend.
Smith, 32, who is autistic and works free-handed, created the 6-by-6-foot sculpture of the Eagles’ home turf over the last two months in the Germantown home he shares with his father, Lonnie, and his brother, Kantai, who is also autistic.
“This piece is intense,” Lonnie Smith said of the Linc sculpture. “Kambel’s getting a lot faster, and he’s starting to be even more detailed."
Ryan Hammond, executive director of the Eagles Autism Challenge, said the Eagles wanted to work with Smith to promote a positive connection around autism.
“Sometimes autism is looked at as a disability, but with him we’re looking at it from an ability standpoint,” Hammond said. “It gives other families hope to look at what their child is passionate about and, if they give them a path, what they can achieve in the future."
Lonnie Smith and his sons bubble-wrapped and transported the sculpture to Lincoln Financial Field in a U-Haul on Friday so it could be displayed at a kickoff dinner at the stadium Friday night.
“We wanted to put it front and center for this really special event for our organization,” Hammond said. “I think people are going to be blown away when they see it.”
When Kambel Smith displayed his sculptures at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City in January, they gained the attention of art critics for the New York Times and New York magazine. The American Folk Art Museum purchased his sculpture of the Divine Lorraine Hotel and the West Collection bought his sculptures of City Hall and the Loews Philadelphia Hotel (PSFS) building.
He’s since had shows in Dallas and Atlanta. His first public show in Philly is slated for November.
Hammond said long-term plans for the Linc sculpture are up in the air. She wasn’t sure if it was so special that Kambel would want to keep it.
Lonnie Smith wasn’t sure what might happen to his son’s sculpture after the festivities either.
“They said they didn’t have any plans for it, but they haven’t seen it yet,” he said.
More than 3,500 people are expected to attend the second annual Eagles Autism Challenge at the Linc on Saturday. Eagles players will bike, run, and walk next to participants. The event has already raised more than $3 million toward autism research.
In their own lives, Lonnie Smith and his sons have redefined how they view autism through a series of comic books and stories they’ve created called the Autisarian, which re-imagines autism as a superhuman ability, not a disorder.