June 2013: Hank Willis Thomas; Play On, Philly!; and the James Beard House

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Play On, Philly!

Art of Life — Produced by Karen Smyles

Play On, Philly! (POP) is an innovative education and social initiative that provides opportunities for personal development to children through the study of music. Inspired by the social development and music education program of Venezuela called El Sistema, POP seeks to enrich the lives of Philadelphia youth by providing daily musical instruction in communities that have little access to music education. Students have the opportunity to work with Philadelphia’s finest music organizations like The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Curtis Institute of Music, and artists like Wynton Marsalis, Sir Simon Rattle, Marin Alsop and many more.

The organization was founded in 2011 by Stanford Thompson a trumpeter and Curtis Graduate who felt it was his mission to help other young people have the same quality of musical experiences he was given throughout his life. With the assistance of the organization’s chairperson Carole Haas Gravagno, they have firmly established programs in 2 Philadelphia schools with the goal of adding many more in the future.

Art of Life had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Thompson about why Play On Philly! is so important to him and the changes he believes it can make in the lives of Philadelphia’s children. We also speak with Carole Haas Gravagno, directors from the two schools involved in the program, and two very talented young musicians.

Hank Willis Thomas

Art — Produced by Michael O’Reilly

The image is arresting: a scar in the exact shape of the Nike “swoosh” logo on a bald head. It makes you wonder: Who would do that ? This is the picture on the banners that line the main approach to Haverford College, that advertise the work of Hank Willis Thomas showing at the campus Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. Thomas is using the language of logos to tell a decidedly different narrative than what is usually associated with advertising. The bald head with the scar is a very well-done photoshop montage (rather than an act of self-branding) and fits with the idea of Thomas as a “photo conceptual artist”. He has referred to himself as a kind of “art director”, and in fact, his first attempt at expressing this “Nike-scar” idea met with failure until he hired a savvy photoshop artist. Thomas comes from a family of Philadelphia photographers, and trained as a photographer himself, but he sees the idea as his paintbrush. In this art segment, we explore the expression of those ideas as an artist in the show “Other Peoples Property” as well as his work as a curator in the show “White Boys”. In each back-to-back show, Thomas works through a number of provocative ideas about race, advertising and logos as the hieroglyphs of our time.

A Baker’s Brunch

Art of Food — Produced by Monica Rogozinski

In order to continue the legacy of the late food writer, educator, American Chef and “Dean of American cookery”, James Beard, a close friend and former student, Julia Child came up with the idea to transform his home after his passing, into a national non-for-profit culinary performative space. Today, the Beard House offers a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of our American culinary culture. Similar in the fashion that Beard once hosted, event attendees enjoy fine American cuisine together within the household as it is prepared and by the nation’s top emerging culinary figures. To be invited to cook an event at the Household is a landmark honor for each chef, and provides them the opportunity to showcase and expand upon their localized specialties and menu staples.

Chef Amy Edelman and her team at Chestnut Hill’s Night Kitchen Bakery & Cafe, recently conducted a multi-coursed Sunday brunch at the James Beard House. In this Art of Food segment, we provide an inside look at the inner workings of the James Beard House, The Night Kitchen Bakery & Cafe, and the beautiful preparation that goes into every celebratory bite of Amy’s Sunday James Beard Brunch. Cheers!

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