State-of-the-art Convention Center devoid of art

Through the wall of glass towering over Broad Street, Convention Center visitors can see across the street into the windows of the sculpture gallery of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

That is the only art they will see. The enormous new halls and ballrooms of the Convention Center are conspicuously empty.

“I am extremely disappointed that there is no public art plan for the expanded Convention Center,” said Gary Steuer, the city’s chief cultural officer. “The public art that has been part of the original Convention Center is an important part of the building, and connects the building to the art scene in the city.”

The original Convention Center was built by the city, which requires a portion of construction costs go to art–in this case, a sculpture called “cirque, CIRQUE” by Judy Pfaff permanently installed on the ceiling of the Reading Terminal Headhouse.

But the new expansion was not a city project, but a state one.

“Our issue has been the commonwealth did not have a program allocating art,” said Convention Center President Ahmeenah Young. “We were owned by the city our first go-round, and the city has an art program. But we have to include art. That is my next task. I’m going to figure out how to get art in this building.”

The president of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts–David Brigham, whose office is in that building across the street from the Convention Center–has formed a committee to consult with the center on art installations.

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