30 Days of Philly Arts: SPY: The Secret World of Espionage at The Franklin Institute

ShoePhoneThe Franklin Institute has been all things science since it was founded in 1824 to honor Benjamin Franklin and further the usefulness of his inventions. The Institute houses flight simulators, an IMAX theater, and traveling and continuing exhibitions, and it hosts the Philadelphia Science Festival (and won an Emmy for a video produced for the 2013 festival!).

This is the last week to experience the exhibition Spy: The Secret World of Espionage, running through October 6th. It turns out that some of the spy gadgets shown in the James Bond movies aren’t that far from reality.  The exhibition follows the evolution of espionage and what it actually means to be a spy.

There are the hundreds of unclassified artifacts from the CIA, FBI, and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), along with the private collection of Keith Melton, an intelligence historian. Among these rare artifacts are a collapsible motorcycle, a two-man submarine, and a robotic catfish! These artifacts are accompanied by the stories of their use.

Interactive displays allow participants to learn how the featured technologies were used in espionage.  One of these recreates the scene from the Get Smart movie remake of the 1960s TV series where Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway steal information from a laser protected vault by letting you actually navigate through a laser maze!  And you can experiment with voice-altering technology like the kind used by real spies to disguise their identities.

There’s no code to break to find out how to attend the Franklin Institute spy show…just click here!


30 Days of Philly Arts: A day for families at the Delaware Art Museum

The Delaware Art Museum has now served as a haven for the arts for over a century.

The museum was started by his friends to honor the work of Wilmington native and Drexel graduate Howard Pyle, one of the most famous illustrators and teachers of his day, after his sudden death in 1911.  Pyle instructed an even more famous illustrator, N.C. Wyeth, and other artists of what came to be known as the Brandywine School.

Today, the museum displays an extensive collection of Pyle’s work and the largest collection in the U.S. of British Pre-Raphaelite art.  It also offers changing exhibitions and  educational opportunities for the local community.

The last Sunday of every month families are invited to stop by the Children’s Studio in the museum’s education wing between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. for the Sunday Studio Series, today to “Play with Clay.”  No registration is necessary.

Other family events, from live storytelling to labyrinth walks, are listed  here.

While you’re there, the current exhibitions are Recognition: Artists for the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts, the work of 50 high school students from the Excellence in Drawing Competition (through October 14th) and Femfolio, showcasing twenty prominent feminist artists from the late 1970s (through January 12, 2014).

For a full schedule of the Delaware Art Museum’s events, click here.


30 Days of Philly Arts: 20th annual New Hope Arts & Crafts Festival also has free music


Picturesque New Hope, PA, an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, grew up as a mill town on the Delaware River and its artists and artisans, galleries and craft shops have made it an arts and shopping hub for the past century.

It’s great weather this weekend for the 20th annual New Hope Outdoor Juried Arts & Crafts Festival today and tomorrow.

Over 200 mainly local artists are showing their paintings, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, wearable art, photography, glass art and much more.  The exhibitors include the singer and painter Annie Haslam of the band Renaissance.  A full list of exhibitors is here.

There are two days of music on the Festival Stage kick off at noon with kid-friendly music each day.  Performers include 17-year-old singer songwriter Lily Mae, chosen by Helen Leicht as a Philly Local PIck of the Day and featured on Gene Shay’s Folk Show on XPN.  The schedule is here.  There’s also continual performance of the hand pan by Janet Spahr.  You can see a video of her playing the instrument below.

Admission is free. The festival is on 10-6 today and 10-5 tomorrow.  You can check the Festival map here.


30 Days of Philly Arts: The Institute For Contemporary Art


The Institute of Contemporary Art turns 50 this year.  It has been the home of cutting edge and controversial art and a significant fixture in the national art landscape since the 1960s.

Located on the University of Pennsylvania campus, The ICA is a noncollecting museum that offers exhibitions of not only what’s new in contemporary culture and art, but also deserving art that hasn’t had a showcase.  The main idea behind the ICA is one of “free for all,” that is, free admission and a free exhange of ideas.

Amy Sadao, who took over as Director of the ICA about a year ago, describes it as  “not just a place to look at objects, but to have an experience that is aesthetic, intellectual, political, and social–that engages every part of you.”  For more from Amy Sadao, listen to the XPN Morning Show feature below.

During its entire history, the ICA has been known for its foresight and groundbreaking exhibitions. In the 1960s the ICA gave pop artists Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana their first shows.  In the 1980s its exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment. sparked a major national debate about federal funding for and censorship of the arts.

Running now through December 29th Jason Rhoades, Four Roads is the first major American museum exhibition to showcase this Los Angeles installation artist who gained much critical acclaim during his lifetime, yet remains largely unknown to the American public.  The “four roads” are four interpretive paths, each anchored by one of Rhoade’s major installations, a deisgn created by ICA Chief Curator Ingrid Schaffner.  To find out more about the making of the exhibition, see the video below.

The ICA’s 50th anniversary season will continue with a group show curated by artist Kara Walker called Ruffneck Constructivists, featuring challenging work in response to social inequities, and a look back called ICA@50, Pleasing Artists and Publics Since 1963.

You can follow events at ICA on their blog called Miranda.


30 Days of Philly Arts: Parade at Arden Theatre


The Arden Theatre Company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  Since its founding in 1988 as a vehicle for great stories on stage, in the classroom, and in the community, the Arden has won scores of awards, locally and from the Wall Street Journal, for its productions and drama school.  Even its home in Old City, purchased and renovated in 1995, has won awards. 

Opening now and running through November 3  Arden Theatre Company presents Parade, a musical co-conceived by University of Pennsylvania alumnus and Broadway impresario Harold Prince, who directed the original production in New York.

Parade is set in 1913 Atlanta and tells the story of Jewish store owner Leo Frank, who was wrongly accused of murdering a young girl. The dramatic case led to the founding of the Anti Defamation League, a now global organization committted “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”

Written by Leo Frank’s great nephew, Pulitzer Prize winner Alfred Uhry, Parade does not shy away from dealing with the complex, difficult issues of antisemitism and social justice. As a result, it isn’t your standard musical. The New York Times describes it as a,

Serious-minded, somber show… You don’t want to be tapping your feet to a sorry spectacle of justice miscarried.

Uhry’s story is set to a score by Jason Robert Brown. Both Uhry and Brown received acclaim for their respective contributions, winning the 1999 Tony Awards for best book and best original score, and the play won six Drama Desk Awards.

Arden’s version of Parade was presented in 2007 by the London theater Donmar Warehouse. The Donmar version features new songs and won critical praise.

The production features an eight-piece live orchestra and what the Arden is billing as “Philadelphia’s most powerful singers.”  Arden co-founder Terrence J. Nolen directs and Jorge Cousineau is stage designer. The two collaborated on Arden’s award-winning 2010 production of Sunday in the Park with George.

For tickets click here and there’s subscription info here for this anniversary season.


30 Days of Philly Arts: Getting out to Race Street Pier and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens


This is the perfect weather for enjoying the many outdoor delights that Philadelphia has to offer.

One newish park (it opened in May 2011)  is Race Street Pier. a repurposed wharf that was transformed into an aesthetic and recreational space much like the High Line in New York City. Extending into the Delaware River in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Pier took its form from the 1896 building that preceded it on what was formerly called Municipal Pier 11.

Philadelphia Magic Gardens

Where the downstairs of the old wharf building was for shipping, the lower level of Race Street Pier has lawn, plants and seating and the upper a promenade with winning views of the City and the Delaware River.  Like the pumping station across Columbus Boulevard that is being transformed into the home of FringeArts, the Race Street Pier is part of the initiative to reinvigorate the Delaware River waterfront through a consortium of public and private groups.

Over on South Street, the presence of Philadelphia artist and urban pioneer Isaiah Zagar can be seen for blocks through the mosaics he has installed on walls and buildings since the 1960s.  His conversion of a scrap lot into Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens has resulted in a place of respite in the city, an indoor and outdoor hub for recycled arts, music, and education.

The Magic Gardens offers tours, exhibitions, workshops on creating mosaic murals, concerts and a Twilight in the Gardens Series this week featuring pianist Bob Barry.  There’s an upcoming seminar called Harry Potter and the Art of Empowerment.  And the spot is available for private events. Or you can just go and enjoy the unique ambiance. For information on visiting click here.


30 Days of Philly Arts: Emma at Lantern Theater Company and upcoming Jane Austen Festival

EmmaIn 2015, Jane Austen‘s novel Emma will be 200 years old.  But the concerns and observations of the famous English writer have relevance for today and have earned her a devoted following in this technologically savvy and jaded world, quite a different place from the country estates of Georgian-Regency Britain where her novels are set.

Emma, whom Gwyneth Paltrow portrayed in the 1996 movie version, is a wealthy, intelligent, high spirited and meddling young woman of 20 who delights in matchmaking.  Through the twists and turns of a complex plot, she eventually comes to realize that one of the matches she has been trying to make is counter to her own heart when it comes to her moral mentor, Mr. Knightley …”one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them.”

Bringing this coming of age tale to the state is Lantern Theater Company, which has presented classics and originals over the past 18 years.  Their audience engagement series accompanies each production with discussions with artists and scholars.  This Friday the director of Lantern’s Emma, Kathryn MacMillen, will hold a Q&A with the audience.

Emma, starring  opens in previews today and runs through October 27th.  Next month there is a related  Jane Austen Festival related to the production called Regency and Revelry, featuring among many other activities a Regency dance lesson and readings/signings with noted Austen scholars.

For ticket information for Emma and the upcoming Lantern season click here.



30 Days of Philly Arts: Out of the Clear Blue Sky at Bryn Mawr Film Institute

BMFIBryn Mawr Film Institute was founded in 2004 to save the historic Seville Theater in Bryn Mawr, built in 1926 as one of six film palaces of the day along the Main Line.  The building had been neglected for decades and was in danger of being repurposed by a health club franchise. After the Institute bought the building in 2004, it was named to the National Register of HIstoric Places in 2005.  Restoration of the building is expected to be completed next year.

In that historic space, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute has established itself as a center of film education and a hub for community activities,   There are film series, runs of recent films, like the latest Woody Allen movie Blue Jasmine this week, and special screenings like the documentary Out of the Clear Blue Sky this evening.

Out of the Clear Blue Sky is an inside look at Cantor Fitzgerald, the investment bank and brokerage house that was hard hit by the devastation of New York’s World Trade Centers on 9/11, losing 658 employees in the attacks. The film focuses on CEO Howard Lutnick, the struggle to save the business, the shock and subsequent community forged among the employees’ surviving families.

As a side note, Howard Lutnick has his own Main LIne connection, as a graduate and now Board of Managers Co-Chair of Haverford College.

Danielle Gardner‘s documentary has been called “Devastatingly original” by The Documentary Channel and the Hollywood Reporter said it has “Enough dramatic twists and turns to fuel a miniseries.”  It grew out of her own experience losing her brother Doug on 9/11.  Here’s a Q&A with the filmmaker.

After the film there will be a discussion with Dr. Tim Horner of the Villanova University Center for Peace and Justice Education.

For tickets look here.


30 Days of Philly Arts: MM2 Modern Dance Company at the Michener Art Museum


MM2 Modern Dance Company was founded over a decade ago to be an incubator for emerging dancers and for new work that demonstrates their choreographic chops as well as their dancing talents. Founder and artistic director Steven Weisz also founded the website and its Dance Journal.

Critic Dierdre Kelly from Toronto’s Globe and Mail, describes seeing MM2 as

“Thrilling… Together with the capacity crowd, I sat mesmerized as the dancers–barefoot and just as emotionally naked–flung themselves with abandon into the elements, electrifying the air around them.”

MM2’s newest work, THREE is a collection of eighteen dance “short stories,” each of which is no longer than three minutes in length. Rather than the result of a single vision, each dancer contributes to the choreography.

The subject of these pieces is as diverse as the company members themselves, from cycles of life to selfless love and even a personal journey into surrealism.

MM2 will be performing THREE on Sunday, September 22nd at the Michener Art Museum.

The Michener is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  It was named for one of Doylestown’s most famous sons, Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist James A. Michener and housed in the former warden’s house of the 19th century Bucks County Jail.

While you’re there you can also see two exhibitions that will close soon, one on furniture designer and sonic artist Harry Bertoia and a group show called Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Form, Rhythm, Song.

For more information on tickets to THREE is here.

MM2 at Contact Wave 2013 – Arezzo Wave Love Festival, Italy from MM2 Modern Dance on Vimeo.


30 Days of Philly Arts: Food tours galore!

148-Marchianos-Chew-Philly-Food-Tours[1]If one thing is certain it’s that Philadelphians love their city’s food, as do visitors to our City.  Taste of Philly and Chew Philly offer food tours in different areas of the city that mix history in with the culinary arts. Taste of Philly covers the historic gem Reading Terminal Market and Chew Philly offers a walking food tour of Manayunk

Chew Philly, takes about two and half hours, starting at Marchiano’s Bakery, where Frank Sinatra used to order tomato pie when he played Philadelphia.  The group wends its way down to and along the Manyunk Canal towpath and samples foods in seven other establishments along Main and Cresson Streets. 

There are bites of information about the historical, architectural, and cultural secrets of the 300 year old neighborhood. How pretzels came to be is the topic while tour members eat hand-twisted soft pretzels, and there’s a stop at Pretzel Park. There are burgers and cheesesteaks, of course, coffee and dessert, each served at a small Manyunk eatery with a story. 

Chew Philly tours are Thursday through Saturday from March through November.  Here’s more information about reserving space on a tour and what to expect.

Today is also the Streat Food Festival in Manayunk, kicking off Manayunk Restaurant Week.

Every Wednesday and Saturday at 10 a.m., Taste of Philly’s journey begins at the renowned Reading Terminal Market. The majority of this 75 minute tour explores the inside of the market but ventures outside to examine its architecture.

Among the questions that this tour answers are: How does one properly order a cheesesteak? and Where did Milton Hershey get the idea for Hershey Kisses? and What did George Washington like to eat?

Carolyn Wyman, author of The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book and Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat, enlightens tour participants with her passion for food as one of the tour guides. 

To get ready for the tour, you can read this on the protocol of ordering a cheesesteak and the meaning of terms like Whiz Wit. To reserve space on a tour click here.

Check out a video tour of Manyunk: here.