How do you infuse energy and culture into an historic site that’s an island among neighborhoods in the midst of slow revitalization? Here’s how: you make it the next piece of the Schuylkill River trail. And add art. Drexel’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation has garnered the vision for Bartam’s Garden, and is now seeking the funding to bring it to life.
I had the pleasure of editing this intensive 28-page proposal, which spans history, urban planning, and some of the best landscape-based art installations in the world.
You might not know: John Bartam (1699–1777) was a pioneering North American naturalist and devoted Philadelphian. His home and grounds are lovely—well worth a visit the next time you’re headed down 95 past the airport or on a trek into deep Southwest Philly. (Head over in the spring and summer for some dreamy and free kayaking and canoeing on the Schuylkill.)
Last year I wrote a report about an annual gathering of some of the most prestigious names at the forefront of arts and innovation. Americans for the Arts convenes an impressive group each year at Park City’s Sundance Institute (where Robert Redford joins them) for a weekend of sessions of brainstorming and discussion.
Throughout the summit artists, entrepreneurs, and policymakers—many of the talented individuals are all three—presented TEDx-style on initiatives and outreach that are cutting new paths for public art. It was exciting to showcase these new ways to engage audiences around the country.
Highlights from the 2014 event directly addressed the issue of community:
Ben Folds and his manager talked about the viral social media campaign to save an historic RCA Victor recording studio in Nashville—at one time the home to Elvis, Dolly Parton, and the Beach Boys and among the first to record African American artists. Folds’s heartfelt outreach via his 1.5 million followers on Facebook and 840K Twitter following—while he was on tour in Europe—started a wave of support to ultimately #SaveMusicRow from demolishing and development. But it also built a community of activism and preservation in the city and beyond.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has been a client for several years, and whenever I’m there I swoon over the collection but also find myself envying the arts students who are talented and passionate enough to attend this prestigious art school.
I just finished work on a brochure about one of PAFA’s most unique programs: the Post Baccalaureate, which provides an intensive year with four dedicated faculty members. The testimonials speak to what it means to come to a place like PAFA to devote one’s self to the hard work of being doggedly creative. And also how transformative even one year can be. I, for one, was inspired.