Northwest Philly wins big with city-sponsored arts grant

 Roxborough's Gorgas Park is one of the public spaces chosen to host performances under the arts initiative. (Natavan Werbock/for NewsWorks, file)

Roxborough's Gorgas Park is one of the public spaces chosen to host performances under the arts initiative. (Natavan Werbock/for NewsWorks, file)

Northwest Philadelphia scored big time when the first grantees for the city’s Performances in Public Spaces Program were announced by Mayor Michael Nutter’s office last week. 

Six local arts organizations are among 23 selected recipients. Three area parks are among the 19 public spaces chosen to host performances.

A $60,000 initiative of the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, the pilot program provides direct funding to cover the costs involved in putting on free outdoor performances in public spaces across Philadelphia.

Performances will take place between Apr. 1 and Nov. 1 of this year.

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“I am looking forward to seeing how these performances make use of the diverse, dynamic spaces in the city and the way the public responds to and engages with these performances in non-traditional locations,” said Nutter in a press release. “We hope that this program will demonstrate the breadth and vitality of Philadelphia’s artistic community, encourage people to explore their interests in performance art and inspire continued creative use of public spaces beyond this program.”

A boon for Germantown

In Germantown, Vernon Park will host performances from the Germantown Artists Roundtable and Tomorrow’s Girls/For Women. The neighborhood’s Philadelphia School of Circus Arts will also receive funds to put on a show in collaboration with local skateboarders at Paine’s Park at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Paula Paul, organizer for the Germantown Artists Roundtable, said the arts collective was inspired to apply for the grant because it allowed for payment to the artists for their performances.

“It’s so wonderful, because they’re so needing and deserving,” she said.

Encouraging more people to come out and feel safe in the park was another incentive behind the application, Paul explained.

Tomorrow’s Girls/For Women will produce an interactive spoken word, music and dance performance honoring the legacies of Lorraine Hansberry, Miriam Makeba, Sonia Sanchez and Nina Simone.

In advance of the performance, there will also be a two-hour poetry workshop in the park for women and girls who would like to be a part of the presentation.

Performance dates for Vernon Park will be contingent on planned renovations for the space, which will temporarily close the site.

Construction is expected to be complete by late June.

Other NW recipients and performance venues

Images of the Motherland Interactive Theatre, from Cedarbrook, will perform three shows at the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center in Manayunk, including dramatic historic reenactments of “Muhammad Ali ibn Sayyid – 292 United States Colored Troops” and “The Life & Times of Omar ibn Sayyid”.  

Dates have not yet been scheduled.

Mt. Airy-based Philadelphia Folk Song Society will be celebrating its Odyssey of American Music outreach program with husband and wife musical act, “Two of a Kind,” at Saunders Park in West Philadelphia.

PFS Executive Director Justin Nordell said the organization is excited to be able bring live music this summer to an underserved neighborhood.

Gorgas Park in Roxborough will host a concert by Americana band Harry Walther Band.

A performance date has not yet been set.

Bagpipes For All Occasions, from Roxborough, will put on a concert of authentic Italian folk music at South Philly’s Marconi Plaza following the 2015 Columbus Day Parade in October. Italian bag pipe, or zampogna, and the oboe-like ciaramella have been used in pairs in Southern Italy for centuries, noted BagpipesFOA founder Charlie Rutan.

“We’re really grateful to the Office of Arts and Culture. The city of Philadelphia is packed with all kinds of great artists and for them to chose us, we’re really tickled and honored,” he said.

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