is that were
of Art, but in
fact, thats not
When people do hear about events at campus cultural
institutions, there is a perceived barrier between the University and
the rest of Philadelphia, notes Dr. Jeremy Sabloff, director of the University
Museum. If youre standing in Rittenhouse Square, the perception is that
were significantly farther away than the [Philadelphia] Museum of Art,
but in fact, thats not the case, he says. We need to break down the
idea that somehow the Schuylkill River separates us from Center City.
Many Philadelphia guides gloss over the Universitys offerings, and tourist
maps often relegate University City to a small undefined space on the
left side, with (perhaps) a few buildings identified.
Another barrier, says Sabloff, is the perception
that this place is somehow dangerous. Crime in the University City area
has been a perennial hot-button issue, and especially so in the wake of
several high-profile violent crimes in 1996. Though crime is down significantly
since then, fear among prospective campus visitors lingers.
And once people from other parts of the city and beyond
decide they do want to visit the campus, getting where they want to go
can also be a problem. Parking at Penn is at a premium. As surface lots
have given way to developments like Sansom Common in recent years, parking
spaces in the immediate vicinity have dropped from 8,000 to 5,000. Visitors
from outside the city especially can be reluctant to use public transportationand
unwilling to walk more than a few blocks from a parking space to their
destination. A sidebar to a May 5 Philadelphia Daily News article
touting the many things to do and see around University City began: One
word about driving to the University of Pennsylvania campus: Dont.
It will be difficult to draw people from off-campus
unless we can provide adequate, reasonably accessible, reasonably priced
and safely located parking. says Dr. Peter Conn, the Andrea Mitchell
Professor of English and deputy provost, who chairs a recently formed
committee of campus arts and cultural organizations.
So, its a tough time to be the director of a Penn
cultural institution: Theres never enough money, its expensive to spread
the word, and people harbor misconceptions about the neighborhood. It
is difficult, acknowledges Sabloffbut exciting, too. In one sense its
daunting, but I think theres every reason to be positive, he says. There
are signs that things are beginning to change, and the heads of these
centers are taking matters into their own hands to get the word out and
get people in the doors.
Claudia Gould has been ICA director for barely a year,
but she and her staff have already made strides in publicizing the exhibitions
they mount. She recalls that, when she was executive director of Manhattans
Artists Space, she couldnt get on the institutes mailing list. Exhibition
notices were sent by first-class mail to ICA members only. Now, the ICA
sends bulk mailings to a greatly expanded list, often targeting specific
audiences depending on the content of the exhibition. And Gould has also
made a point of including a Philadelphia artist in each new show to draw
in members of the local arts scene.
In years past, the Annenberg Center was the venue
for touring shows from Princetons McCarter Theater, as well as the home
of the old Philadelphia Drama Guild and the Philadelphia Festival for
New Plays. Today, the center faces increasing competition for audiences,
performers and productions from a burgeoning theater scene in Center City,
with much more to come from the Philadelphia Regional Performing Arts
Center, currently under construction at Broad and Spruce streets and scheduled
to open in late 2001.
Few regional companies mount tours anymore, says Rose,
in part because the National Endowment for the Arts no longer provides
support for them. Shows that do tour tend to be very small or to be commercial
musicals, and most of those are not quite what were looking for, so
that makes it a bit more of a challenge. Philadelphias more vital theater
scene, though, he says, is good all the way aroundbecause there is a
growing interest in theater, and I think we can be very successful in
presenting theater. It really depends on what were presenting, and issues
of quality and content.
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