Bloomers members perform at an Oct. 9 charity event
Highlight of the year: “With more than 70 student performances each year, it is impossible to choose one stand-out,” says Ty Furman, Director of University Life Arts Initiatives. “However, we are very proud of our collaborative charity shows.” In 2009, that included a Charitable Laughter fundraiser on Oct. 9, through which The Mask and Wig Club, Bloomers, Without A Net, Simply Chaos and Pennsylvania Six-5000 raised $1,000 for Art-Reach — a local arts nonprofit.
The fall of 2009 also included several large-scale events for Penn’s academic theme year, Arts & the City Year [“In the Spotlight,” September|October 2009]. On November 20, from 9 a.m. to midnight, students participated in Penn’s first-ever Campus Arts Crawl, which featured more than a dozen events throughout the campus and culminated with a music/video installation at the Annenberg Center. The latter drew about 500 students, according to Furman.
What’s coming in 2010: The Performing Arts Council will hold two additional charity shows, Furman says — the Emily Sachs Dance Benefit on Jan. 29 will feature more than a dozen University dance groups and help support asthma research, and on Feb. 13, more than a dozen student a cappella groups will present a charity performance to benefit the American Heart Association.
Arts & the City Year will continue through the end of the academic year. Next up: a visit from writer/actor Anna Deavere Smith on Jan. 26.
2009 Writers House Fellow Joan Didion
Highlight of the year: Writer Joan Didion’s two-day visit in March. As a 2009 Writers House Fellow, Didion read from her 2005 book The Year of Magical Thinking, which chronicles the year following her husband’s death. (In 2007, she adapted the book into a play, which appeared on Broadway.) The morning after her reading, Didion returned to the Writers House for the traditional Writers Fellow brunch and hour-long discussion.
What’s coming in 2010: According to Faculty Director Al Filreis, the Kelly Writers House will host more than 300 programs next year, from seminars and workshops to readings and performances to writing groups and talks. Highlights will include two-day visits from the 2010 Writers House Fellows: novelist Joyce Carol Oates, poet Susan Howe and screenwriter David Milch.
Highlight of the year: The Sept. 10 opening event for West Philadelphia: Building a Community — an exhibit that used watercolors, maps, photographs, oral histories, and postcards to explore the past, present, and future of West Philadelphia. Though hosted by the Arthur Ross Gallery, the exhibition was a collaborative effort, co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the University’s Archives and Records Center. Approximately 180 ARG members, Historical Society members, Penn students and faculty, community leaders and West Philadelphians turned out to celebrate the opening, Arthur Ross Director Lynn Marsden-Atlass said. “We were building a community in every sense of the word,” she added. “It was a very significant moment for us as a gallery.”
What’s coming in 2010: In conjunction with Philagrafika 2010 — a new citywide print-making exposition — artist Miler Lagos will create an installation on-site at the Gallery. According to Marsden-Atlass, the artist will sculpt “a forest of trees” from nearly four tons of recycled newspapers. The installation will be on view from Jan. 27 – March 21.
A Miler Lagos "tree" made from recycled newspapers.
Dirt on Clay installation photo by Aaron Igler
Highlight of the year: The International Art Critics Association awarded the Institute of Contemporary Art first place for the year’s “Best Show in a University Gallery.” That show was Dirt on Delight: Impulses that Form Clay, on view Jan. 15-July 12, 2009 and organized by curators Ingrid Schaffner and Jenelle Porter. The exhibition presented the work of 22 artists, with pieces that “collectively suggest that clay appeals to basic human impulses, starting with the delight of building form, coupled with the anxiety of completion.” ICA officials will accept the award at a ceremony in February 2010 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
What’s coming in 2010: On Jan. 15, the ICA will present Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) — the first major museum survey of works by the illustrator, author and designer. On view through June 6, the exhibition will feature a selection of the artist’s photography, embroidery, textiles and works on paper.
As 2010 approaches, I’ll be posting “Best of the Arts 2009″ entries for several arts institutions and hubs across campus. First up: The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Jugglers at the 2009 Philadelphia International Children's Festival
Highlight of the year: Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Philadelphia International Children’s Festival (April 28 – May 2, 2009), says Nicole Cook, the Annenberg Center‘s Director of Marketing and Communications. The festival is the oldest of its kind in the country, and offers Philadelphia-area families an “easy and affordable way” to experience the arts. This year, more than 7,000 children and their families attended the Annenberg Center’s festivities, which included music, dance and theatrical performances, outdoor activities, and arts and crafts.
What’s coming in 2010: “An incredible lineup,” Cook says. That includes performances by fiddling sensation Natalie MacMaster, jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and dancer/illusionists MOMIX, along with a production of Romeo and Juliet staged by The Acting Company and the Guthrie Theater.