Gutmann has said that Arts & the City Year will “generate more visibility and buzz” for Penn’s numerous cultural institutions. (See also this issue’s “From College Hall” column.) “We do not want them to be hidden treasures,” she told attendees of the May luncheon. “We want them to be central to our educational mission.” With that in mind, the University’s cultural mainstays have been preparing for their year in the spotlight.
Nestled inside the Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Arthur Ross Gallery is celebrating Arts & the City Year with a trio of exhibitions that center on art, culture, and the city. First up is West Philadelphia: Building a Community, on view through October 11. Mounted in collaboration with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the University Archives and Records Center, the exhibit uses materials including watercolors, maps, photographs, oral histories, and postcards to explore the history, development, and future of West Philadelphia. To engage with the campus and city communities, the gallery will host a series of free public lectures on West Philadelphia in September and October. Up next in the gallery: Jacob Lawrence and the Urban Experience: Prints 1963-2000, which opens in October; and a site installation by Miler Lagos, which opens in January as part of the citywide Philagrafika 2010.
As the central hub for student and professional writers alike, the Kelly Writers House is well versed in collaboration. The Writers House and its peer institutions “are here, and they are thriving,” says Al Filreis, the Kelly Professor of English who serves as director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing and faculty director of Writers House. “This coming year students will know a lot more about what goes on at these centers, how exciting they are, and what extraordinary connections are constantly being made between these Penn arts organizations and the Philadelphia scene.” The cozy Writers House—full of quiet nooks and body-enveloping couches—is planning a slew of readings, performances, seminars, workshops, and reading groups for the coming year that will celebrate urban literature and city arts. Of particular note is a two-day visit in April from screenwriter David Milch, whose television shows Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue “redefined and complicated television’s representation of urban life on the small screen,” Filreis says.
The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts will spotlight local artists with a “By Local” series that includes a performance by the West Philadelphia Orchestra and an evening of dance from Philadelphia choreographers Silvana Cardell and Curt Haworth. The Platt Student Performing Arts House will also bring Philadelphia performers to campus for its “Lunch with Local Artists” series, which invites students to meet with eminent local musicians, spoken-word artists, and dancers to discuss their crafts.
The Institute of Contemporary Art and the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will connect their offerings with the Penn and Philadelphia communities through lectures, symposia, and other special events. “We are delighted to be part of the Arts & the City initiative this year, since the museum is a natural forum for conversations and events focused on the arts,” says Loa Traxler Gr’04, associate deputy director of the Penn Museum. “We are exploring ways to collaborate with local institutions to bring the story of the arts in Philadelphia to life.”