Groundbreaking ceremony for Chestnut Hill’s Turrell Skyspace is Tuesday morning

The long awaited ground breaking of a James Turrell Skyspace in Chestnut Hill is Tuesday morning. The Skyspace will be part of Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting’s (CHFM) new Quaker meetinghouse and accessible to all faiths. Groundbreaking for the new meetinghouse, located at 20 East Mermaid Lane, will at 8:30 a.m. Congressman Chaka Fattah and Philadelphia Councilwoman Cindy Bass plan to attend the ceremony. Completion of the project is projected for early 2013.

James Turrell is a internationally renown Quaker artist who combines both art and science to create his light installations. Turrell’s Skyspaces are simple chambers with a precisely calibrated central oculus in the ceiling which opens to the sky via a retractable roof. Visitors can witness and quietly contemplate how changes in light affect perception of the sky as a separate space from the interior of the room, as a simultaneously boundless void and tangible entity. A work of Turrell’s magnitude has the potential to become a major area landmark.

The inclusion of a James Turrell Skyspace as a permanent art installation in the building’s meetingroom helped CHFM meet The Knight Arts Challenge mission of transforming community in innovative ways through the arts. CHFM recently received a $80,000 grant as one of 35 winners in the 2012 Knight Arts Challenge. “We hope Turrell’s work will spark conversations about spirituality, contemporary art and community, as it weaves the arts into people’s everyday lives,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s Vice President for the Arts.

CHFM is now closer than ever to financial goals for its new meetinghouse. “This extraordinary matching grant comes at the perfect time for us,” said CHFM’s New Meetinghouse Project Campaign Co-Chair Jon Landau. “Once we have matched the grant we will have met our fundraising goals.”

Chestnut Hill Friends New Meetinghouse Project’s total budget is $6.2 million. Last year, CHFM launched a fundraising drive, Building in the LIGHT to raise the remaining $370,000 of its $3 million capital campaign. In March, CHFM drew closer to that fundraising goal with a $200,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation. The project also received $75,000 from The National Endowment of the Arts in 2011. Additional construction costs have continued the project’s fundraising campaign. CHFM’s campaign will focus on program endowment after construction begins next week.

The new meetinghouse will feature eco-design equivalent to Platinum level LEED certification. The site will also include a storm water management system, native plantings and pervious pavement as part of the environmentally conscious landscaping design. CHFM plans to collaborate with Friends of the Wissahickon to connect the lot as an entry point to Cresheim Valley walking trails through a proposed footpath from Winston Road. The Turrell Skyspace will be open to the general public year-round.

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