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In the Spotlight By Molly Petrilla

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  Footballs will still spiral and touchdowns still be scored, but equally memorable performances will take place off Franklin Field this November. Homecoming, traditionally a weekend for the sports-oriented, has been expanded to “Homecoming—featuring arts and culture,” a three-day showcase of all things right-brained, from performances and symposia to film screenings and gallery tours.

“There was a lot of thought and discussion and hope that at some point, Penn would have a major arts-and-culture-focused weekend,” says Hoopes Wampler, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations. Homecoming seemed the ideal occasion because it typically attracts only a very defined audience—and rarely does that audience include the entire arts-and-culture crowd. “This year, we’ve worked to infuse Homecoming with a new set of subjects and content that we hope will have a broader appeal,” Wampler adds. “There really will be something for everyone this year.”

Among the festivities are 10 faculty-led symposia that “are really the star offerings,” says Sheila Raman, director of development for arts and culture. At these sessions, alumni will create paintings and pottery with Julie Schneider, the director of the Fine Arts undergraduate program; learn about Penn’s robust Shakespeare collection from College Dean Rebecca Bushnell; and discuss the future of newspapers with Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and Penn writing professor Dick Polman. These sessions exemplify the unique opportunities for lifelong learning that a Penn education offers, Raman says. “You have a chance to go back and experience these things, and you really can’t get them anywhere else.”

Penn’s numerous cultural institutions will offer special curatorial talks and tours throughout the weekend, including the annual Homecoming Gallery Hop with stops at the Arthur Ross Gallery, the Architectural Archives, and the Institute of Contemporary Art. The latter will highlight its Tim Rollins and KOS exhibition with a talk from Susan Seifert, director of the University’s Social Impact of the Arts Project, and Angel Abreu, an artist who attended Penn before transferring to NYU, and who is one of Kids of Survival (KOS), a group of South Bronx teenagers who created art with Rollins.

The 2009 Homecoming playbill will feature a half-dozen student performances and an alumni/student late-night cabaret in the Platt Student Performing Arts House. For many alumni, this will be a first visit to the Platt House, which debuted in the former Stouffer College House in Fall 2006 as a hub for all things arts-related—from rehearsal spaces to dance studios to a comfortable lounge.

A Homecoming film festival will include screenings and discussions of the new film Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis and produced by Todd Lieberman C’95, Elizabeth Banks C’96, and Max Handelman C’95; and the documentaries Burning the Future: Coal in America and The Accidental Advocate, from husband-and-wife filmmakers and festival hosts David Novack EAS’86 and Nancy Levy Novack C’87.

Homecoming officials say the University’s yearlong arts-and-culture theme (see main story) encouraged them to unveil the enhanced focus this fall.

“I think we were motivated to make it happen this year because of Arts & the City,” Wampler says. But while the theme year and Homecoming both pay homage to all things arts and culture, Wampler says there is an important distinction: “Arts & the City is a one-year initiative, whereas we want to make Homecoming an annual arts and cultural event.”

“The response so far has been extremely positive,” Wampler says. “Our alumni have always wanted access to some of these great arts-and-culture resources, and we think that those who aren’t used to coming back to Homecoming will be excited to see this new content. I hope that Homecoming will significantly enhance the exposure all the arts and culture organizations at Penn receive from the alumni body, and that these ‘hidden treasures’ become much more visible.”M.P.


 
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Last modified 7/28/09