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Illustration by Peggy Honewell

 

BY MONICA ANKE HAHN-KOENIG
Illustration by Peggy Honeywell

“I think we should have go-go dancers in the windows!” says Claudia Gould, director of the Institute of Contemporary Art. She’s only half kidding. Spaces like the ICA, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, the Arthur Ross Gallery and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, among several others, face difficult challenges in attracting visitors. They’ve also recently come up with some creative ways—short of hiring exotic dancers—to draw audiences from the Penn campus, Philadelphia and beyond.
    What’s keeping people away from Penn’s undeniably rich and varied cultural opportunities? “Unfortunately, there’s one common denominator: money—which we don’t have,” laments Gould. Funding is a major stumbling block for cultural institutions everywhere, of course, not just those at Penn. All do receive support from the University, but it’s never enough. Says Gould, “The University wants not to give us any money except for the building. That’s their goal. That’s not my goal. I’d like them to give us more money.” As it stands, the ICA has to raise $1 million of its own each year to stay within budget.
    Besides supporting things like programming, operating expenses and employee salaries, money is also critical for advertising and promotion. Without a healthy publicity budget, it’s difficult to get the word out about the resources at Penn, especially in Philadelphia’s high-priced advertising market, one of the most expensive in the country.
    Both ICA and the Annenberg Center are feeling the pinch. In recent years, efforts to bring their budgets out of the red reportedly played a role in the departure of longtime directors Patrick Murphy at ICA and Stephen Goff Ar’62 at Annenberg. Their successors—Gould, formerly executive director of Artists Space in Manhattan, at ICA, and Michael Rose, who had directed the Glassboro Center for the Performing Arts at Rowan University for 10 years, at Annenberg—were touted as much for their business and marketing acumen as for their artistic credentials when they were hired, in September 1999 and March 1998, respectively. In one economizing move, the two institutions currently share a marketing director, Roy Wilbur. Naturally, leaders at both institutions wish they could have him full time.
    Some organizations lack even a part-time marketing staff. “We don’t have a publicity budget,” says Dr. Dilys Winegrad Gr’70, director and curator of the Arthur Ross Gallery, the University’s official art gallery, located in the Fisher Fine Arts Library. They are left to publicize on an ad hoc basis, whenever a curator or other staff member gets a chance, or to rely on the University to make people aware of their centers. Even given the best of intentions, this is a recipe for inconsistent and often ineffective publicity.
    At Annenberg, the size of the operating budget is tied directly to ticket sales. This makes good, effective marketing of the utmost importance. “The University needs to find a more focused way in terms of advertising what’s available on a weekly basis in the arts so that it’s not a scattershot approach,” says Rose.
    Even students are often unaware of the cultural opportunities Penn institutions have to offer. “I don’t think students see museums as part of what we [as Penn] do,” says Winegrad. She tells a story about encountering a student peering curiously through the gallery doors. When she invited him in, he said he really needed to study instead.
    The Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill has an even harder time making students aware of its existence. “Sometimes we feel like this lonely planet out here by ourselves,” says Kate Sullivan, director of marketing. Students make up a very small percentage of its annual visitors, despite the arboretum having repeatedly been named “Best Cheap Date” in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Weekly.

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Sept/Oct Contents | Gazette Home

Copyright 2000 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 8/23/00

 

 

Campus Culture, A to U

Annenberg Center
The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts opened in the spring of 1970 as a producing theater, and in the 30 years since has grown to be a major performing-arts presenter and producer in the Delaware Valley. The Annenberg Center features three theaters: The Zellerbach, seating 970, named for the late Harold Zellerbach W’17 Hon’74, a University trustee and patron of the arts; the Harold Prince Theatre, seating 220, named for director/producer Harold Prince C’48 Hon’71, an alumnus, donor and member of the Penn Players; and the Studio Theatre, seating 120, used primarily for film screenings, small recitals and student productions. 3680 Walnut Street, (215) 898-3900, (www.PENNpresents.org).

Architectural Archives
Best known for its comprehensive collection of Louis I. Kahn materials, the Architectural Archives preserves the works of more than 400 designers from the 18th century to the present. Work from the collection is on display in the Kroiz Gallery, located in the lower level of the Fisher Fine Arts Library, and the research collections are available by appointment to faculty, students and independent scholars. 220 South 34th Street, (215) 898-8323, (www.upenn.edu/gsfa/archives).

Arthur Ross Gallery
The University’s official art gallery opened in 1983 in a 1920s addition to the Furness Building (now the Fisher Fine Arts Library), originally constructed to house the University’s Shakespeare Library. The Gallery draws attention to the work and role in society of artists, art historians and curators, presenting objects from private collections and historical institutions, including Penn. 220 South 34th Street, (215) 898-2083, (www.upenn.edu/ARG).

Institute of Contemporary Art
Since its founding in 1963, ICA has established a reputation for identifying artists of promise who later emerge in the international spotlight. The gallery showcases artists early in their careers as well as those who have not received ample critical attention. ICA originally opened in the Furness Library before moving to Meyerson Hall, where it shared gallery space with the Graduate School of Fine Arts. In 1991, the institute broke ground for its own museum building. 118 South 36th Street, (215) 898-7108, (www.upenn.edu/ica).

Kelly Writers House
Founded in 1995, Penn’s literary “hub” is home to more than 300 readings, workshops, performances and other events each year. 3805 Locust Walk, (215) 573-WRIT, (www.english.upenn.edu/~wh).

Morris Arboretum
The Morris Arboretum and Gardens of the University of Pennsylvania began in 1887 as “Compton,” the summer home of John and Lydia Morris. The Morrises laid plans for a school and laboratory at Compton devoted to horticulture and botany, and in 1932 Compton became the Morris Arboretum. 100 Northwestern Avenue (Chestnut Hill), (215) 247-5777, (www.upenn.edu/morris).

Music Department
The Department of Music presents a full concert season each year, with performances by student groups as well as professional ensembles and soloists, in the newly renovated Irvine Auditorium. 201 South 34th Street, (215) 898-6244, (www.sas.upenn.edu/music).

Penn Humanities Forum
Designed to provide a common ground for interdisciplinary exchange and public interaction, the forum offers a series of public lectures and research seminars, courses and cultural programs, organized around a different theme each year. 3619 Locust Walk, (215) 898-8220, (humanities.sas.upenn.edu).

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Since its founding in 1887, the University Museum has sponsored more than 350 expeditions to all parts of the inhabited world. These expeditions have yielded the greater part of the Museum’s collections, which number well over a million objects. Its galleries feature materials from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, Asia and the Greco-Roman world, as well as materials from native peoples of North America, Africa and Polynesia. 33rd and Spruce Streets, (215) 898-4000, (www.upenn.edu/museum).