To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, donors and institutions are planning a yearlong series of public art installations and activities beginning with a grand birthday party Sept. 8.
The celebration will capture the enthusiasm for Philly’s beloved public space, and encourage residents to experience all the parkway has to offer, said Gail Harrity, chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a leader of the coalition Parkway 100.
“Philadelphians embrace [the parkway], sometimes too frequently,” joked Harrity. “But it is their favorite spot. It connects us to our community, art, science, education, horticulture, and to each other.”
Throughout the year, every institution along the iconic strip will host family-friendly, interactive exhibits that explore the parkway’s history with the theme “Collections and Connections.”
The history of the parkway’s construction began, unofficially, in 1907 with the demolition of a house. But it took another decade of infighting over the future of the space before French architect Jacques Greber unveiled his plan in 1917.
The William Penn Foundation has announced a $1.25 million gift toward a public art installation that celebrates the city’s iconic fountains by California-based artist Jennifer Steinkamp.
The immense sculptures of the Swann Memorial Fountain inspired her work “Winter Fountains for the Parkway,” Steinkamp said. Yet, integrating the fountain into her work proved to be a challenge.
“I was thinking, how could I cover the fountains? What kind of shape would cover them? And, actually, it turned out it’s really hard to cover them,” she said.
Steinkamp decided to leave the Swann and the other fountains uncovered, yet keep the giant dome shapes. Resembling large igloos, five will be placed along the parkway, and feature animations inspired by the city’s rich artistic history.
The celebration will also include an outdoor installation by artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Other planned exhibits include “Corridor of Culture: 100 Years of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the Free Library of Philadelphia,” “Terracotta Warriors at The Franklin Institute,” “A Peek at the Past” at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, in addition to others at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mormon Temple, and Barnes Foundation.