Friday, December 11, 2009

Pssst…All Art-Reach Members

Have we got a great deal for you!  Utrecht Art Supplies is offering you a special 10% discount on all your purchases from both of their stores in Center City and will throw in free delivery for any orders over $100.

Why is this such a great deal, you say?  Well, it gets even better.

Utrecht is a Brooklyn-based company (they still make their own paint) started by two brothers 60 years ago and has been serving the Philadelphia community for almost 30 years. It already honors local competitors’ coupons by matching them. So get out those scissors and start clipping, and you can save 10% off already low prices on the highest quality paints, papers, and other materials for your organization or agency.

And there is another little reason to patronize this family-run, socially responsible business. Jennifer Demmer, the indefatigable outreach coordinator for Utrecht Philadelphia, informs us that the company  "hearts" Art-Reach: “Utrecht is proud to partner with an organization that gives access to the arts for groups such as at-risk youth, people with disabilities, and elderly people in need.”

Show Utrecht some Art-Reach love back. Click on this link to start shopping for great deals on quality art products. They also have a knowledgeable staff of working artists to help you make the best selections. Satisfaction Guaranteed!

-by Kathy Spillman

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Independence Arts Studio Yearly Winter Exhibition

This Friday, December 11 from 4:30 to 7:00 pm, artists from the Independence Arts Studio (IAS) host their yearly winter exhibition in the Atrium lobby of The Sovereign Building located at 714 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106. IAS is a member of Art-Reach and consists of talented artists who have disabilities. Their work will be available for purchase with 50% of each sale going to the IAS artists. Silk and Velvet hand dyed scarves and pillows will be available as well as watercolors, cards, prints and book marks. The event includes light refreshments and the artists will be on hand to talk with people visiting the exhibit. Permanent weavings and textiles will also be on display. For more information contact 215-634-2000 x333. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Keswick Theater’s Toying With Science

Garry Krinsky played to a packed house on Monday morning at the Keswick Theater, and it’s fair to say that most of the 3rd through 5th graders in the audience got their share of “play” in as well.  Toying with Science is a colorful and energetic ride through some basic principles of science – some not so basic.  As a college graduate, I felt stumped by some of the questions asked by our host that some of the kids were able to readily answer.  When Sokhum, 12, told me that one of the new things that he was so excited to learn from Krinsky’s performance was what a fulcrum does, I thought, “…me too.”

A professional juggler by trade, in front of this wide eyed and attentive crowd, Krinsky became an experimental scientist. He walked us through the principles of balance, gravity, air resistance, and the elements of all sorts of simple machines with a thoughtful acronym that I heard kids rapping when the show ended.  “Don’t SLIP on the two W’s.”

A fun and educational field trip indeed, and one that has likely encouraged some students at Logan Hope to keep requests for more coming to teacher Lia Blankenship.  Others were just as excited to build their already-existing repertoire of learning experiences outside of the classroom.  Somy, 11, proudly recalled her last field trip to me, where performers created a fun show based on the alphabet, “…and I’ve seen plays before,” Emily, 11, added enthusiastically.  Thanks to the school staff, our Arts Partners, and Art-Reach, seems like “Edu-tainment” is a term that is being introduced to this crowd pretty early on.  That too was a term that I was excited to learn.

-by Brooke Whitaker

Monday, November 30, 2009

Now Introducing...

At Art-Reach, a new Arts Partner is like a new best friend.  So, Art-Reach supporters, I would like to introduce you to our new best friend: BalletX, a modern ballet company in Philadelphia.  The company and Art-Reach are both very excited about BalletX’s pledge of 20 tickets to a Saturday matinee during the Fall ’09, Spring ’10, and Summer ’10 shows.

Even more exciting for us is that BalletX is not just any modern ballet company, but a modern ballet company out to “redefine ballet and bring it into the new century.”  This mission seems apparent if you watch video clips of past performances on the BalletX web site, where dancers in simple costumes and ballet renditions of classic children’s stories like The Cat in the Hat grace the stage.  But to really understand what BalletX is all about, I needed to talk to its members.

I was lucky enough to catch a few minutes with artistic co-director and founding member Christine Cox while she was busy preparing for the Fall ’09 show.  As Christine says, the understanding for BalletX is that “If someone is choreographing a work right now, it has to be about today.” In other words, though BalletX performances may speak the classical language of ballet, the speakers are modern dancers and choreographers with contemporary accents who draw on contemporary inspiration.

Also, “because it’s being created today, it’s easier for an audience to relate and connect to.” And connect they do.  As publicity coordinator Inna Lobanova-Heasley comments, “We love our audience!  It is a special breed, it seems.  They react during performances and their enthusiasm is very inspiring to the dancers on stage.  There is a big exchange of energy during any given show, which is just amazing.” 

At the time this article went to cyber-press, the BalletX team was working like mad to finish the Fall ’09 show, which premieres November 19 at the Wilma Theater.  Christine promised three pieces, one sensitive, one inspired by the ocean, and one inspired by classical music.  But Inna has one piece of advice for the audience: “Whatever they expect, they will always be surprised!”

-Alli Blum

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What are you thankful for?

Art-Reach wishes everyone a safe, happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day feast, and in the spirit of the holiday season please share what you are most thankful for this year in your arts community. Have you had a tremendous experience that you wish to share? Have you witnessed the transformative power of the arts first hand? Did you have a blast visiting a museum or meeting an artist? This is a warm and fuzzy post, and we want to hear from you! Please take time to share your experience, and know that we are truly thankful for all of you!

Monday, November 23, 2009

What’s Audio Description?

Audio description allows people who are blind or have low vision to enjoy equal access to cultural events such as live performances, film, or television, providing individuals with descriptive information about visual elements during pauses in dialogue or narration.  Information is transmitted to listeners through a wireless earpiece, allowing people with visual impairments to sit anywhere in the audience during live performances.
Audio description is a means of communicating the most essential information about significant visual elements such as actions, body language, costumes, and settings.  Bill Patterson, owner of Audio Description Solutions and a founding member of the Audio Description Coalition, explains audio description as “being the eyes of the audience.  So much of our world comes to us through visual information.”  The audio describer’s role is to describe what he or she sees without interpretation or explanation.  For instance, rather than describing a character as “angry,” the audio describer would say, “Sarah clenches her fists.”  This allows listeners to draw their own conclusions. 

Audio describers come from a variety of backgrounds and participate in extensive training and coaching.  Qualities that make a good audio describer include strong verbal skills, a pleasant voice, and the ability to process information quickly.  Ermyn King, Manager of the PA Cultural Access Project at VSA arts of Pennsylvania, says, “It’s exhilarating to do audio description.  It requires the integrated application of so many principles, and when you do it well, the difference that it makes is indispensable to the listener.”
For more information about audio description, visit the Audio Description Coalition’s website at

-Jennifer Oglesbee

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free Public Concert this Sunday

Opera Company of Philadelphia offers a free concert this Sunday, November 22, 2009 from 2:30pm - 4:30pm at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church 
412 Pine Street, Philadelphia, PA

An RSVP is required using Eventbrite.

This free public recital features tenor William Burden and baritone Troy Cook on Sunday, November 22nd at 2:30 p.m. at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church. Burden, who has sung numerous leading roles at the Opera Company of Philadelphia and the most prominent opera houses around the world, most recently performed the role of the Male Chorus in the Opera Company’s sold-out run of The Rape of Lucretia in June 2009. Troy Cook, who just completed a critically-praised performance as Sharpless in OCP’s Madama Butterfly, heads to Royal Opera Covent Garden in December to sing the role of Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, a highlight in his burgeoning international career. Both Cook, who resides in Bucks County, and Burden, a resident of Princeton, are proud to offer their performances in the spirit of National Opera Week for this free-to-the-public recital, which requires reservations. Joining them will be pianist Tim Ribchester.

In exchange for admission to this free recital, the Opera Company of Philadelphia is asking attendees to bring a non-perishable canned good to donate to Project HOME, who just happens to be an Art-Reach member. Reservations are required in order to attend.

For information, call 215-893-3600, ext 242, or email Parking is available at these locations:
* 249 S 6th Street
* 530 S 2nd Street
* 516 South Street

Click the following link for directions to Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church.

Monday, November 16, 2009

People First Language 101 (Or how I failed this course miserably)

There I was, having dinner recently with a very dear friend, and I used the word “lame” to describe something I thought was done very poorly. Did I mention my friend has a disability, one that involves mobility?

Audience: Gasp!

Me: Massive. FAIL.

My, uh, experience in unthinkingly using abelist* language got me thinking about issues of respect and dignity in not just how we treat people with disabilities, but how we speak to and about them. And the way we sprinkle our daily lingo with words like “lame,” “retarded,” “schizoid,” “madhouse,” and so on. So I thought I would jot down some pointers and drop a few hot links for all of us, so we can better check our abelist privilege at the door.

The cardinal, golden, primo rule when speaking about or to any person who has a disability is to use People First language. This is simply positive language that recognizes the person first, the disability second.


Examples of People First language include:
  • People with disabilities
  • People who use wheelchairs
  • People who are blind
  • People with a mental illness
  • People with cognitive disabilities
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • People with mental retardation
  • People with a congenital disability
And so on.

And some examples of language not to use?
  • The handicapped, not normal, not able-bodied, lame, crippled
  • Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound
  • The blind
  • Insane, crazy, psycho, nuts, lunatics
  • Morons, idiots, retards, “slow”
  • The deaf
  • Mentally retarded, retarded, retards, “slow”
  • Birth defect (As in, “She suffers from a birth defect.” By the way, don’t use the verb “to suffer” when referring to a person with disability, either. Another biggie to avoid: the noun “victim.” And when using “People First” language with a person with a disability, always address the person, not the caretaker/translator.)
What happens if you mess up in front of a person with a disability? Do you have to blog a public confession like I have here? Absolutely not! We are all human, and we all make mistakes. The important thing is that you own up to your flub, apologize sincerely while not making too big a deal of it (thereby embarrassing yourself further), and think before you speak next time.  Here are a couple of educational links on People First language and why it’s important:

*Abelist: somebody who exhibits discrimination, or uses prejudiced language, against people with disabilities or in favor of able-bodied people.

-Kathy Spillman

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How could a person who is blind enjoy a trip to the zoo?

The Philadelphia Zoo is one of Art-Reach’s newest arts partners. It may seem odd that the zoo is included among that group; but upon closer look, the zoo is an art institution in more ways than one.

In addition to being the nation’s first zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo features more than 1,300 animals. It is a 42-acre Victorian garden with beautiful foliage and architecture, and Gladys, one of the group members, commented during the visit on how the scenery was lovely and peaceful.

My first blog assignment was to report on an Art-Reach arranged trip to this venue. I would be accompanying a member group from Associated Services for the Blind (ASB). This is a non-profit organization in Philadelphia that serves people who are blind or visually-impaired. I make that distinction because not everyone they serve is completely blind, and I learned this after talking to a man in the group named Rafael, whose impairment affected only his central vision.

I arrived early in the day of the visit. I was not really sure what my expectations for this trip were, but there was one question I had in the back of my mind that I was too afraid to ask: How could a person who is blind enjoy a trip to the zoo?

I met with the leaders of the group outside of the front gate. I asked the participants, consisting mostly of senior citizens, what they wanted from the trip and was given a multitude of answers that included hearing the animals roar, learning about the animals, and not being mistaken for one of the animals. I was glad to see that I was accompanying a group with a good sense of humor!

After entering, we met the tour guides Gail and Caleb. They were both docents - volunteer teachers for the zoo, and they reminded me of Art-Reach’s Ambassadors.

The first stop on the tour was the reptile house, but the group did not enter. Instead, they sat on the benches outside of the reptile house while Gail and Caleb let them feel snakes’ skins and a tortoise shell. The next stop on the tour was the hippo exhibit, where our guides answered questions and provided all sorts of information on everything from the hippos’ diet to the design of their pen. The guides continued to answer questions about all the animals we passed on the way to the last stop, including donkeys, rhinos, eagles, and peacocks, which have free reign of the zoo. The final destination of the tour was the childrens' zoo. Here the guides took the group to the petting zoo and helped them pet the goats.

After a quick lunch, the group decided to continue seeing more of the zoo. They ended up going to the big cat exhibit. It was here that I got the answer to my question. I noticed that when we approached an exhibit, the guides were able to show the members of ASB where the animals were by describing the structures between them and the animals, and then giving them distance of the animal. With this information, the members seemed to have a greater appreciation for the zoo exhibits. I saw this displayed somewhat ironically when we stopped at the theater there. The members of our group listened intently to hear the sounds of the big cats, but a small child held his hands over his eyes, because it was too scary for him.

At the end of the day, I felt I had a greater appreciation for the zoo and the widespread ways it can be enjoyed, and I wasn’t the only one. As one of the group visitors humorously told me,"they didn’t get to see much, but were glad to see what they did."

-Michael Endres

Interested in visiting the Zoo as an Art-Reach member? Contact our Program Department who can help you arrange a trip!

If you have a cultural arts experience you would like to share, we want to know about it! Contact Stephanie Borton, and your experience could be featured on this Blog, or add to this experience by posting a comment at the end of the article! Let us know what you think!

Monday, November 9, 2009

One of the hardest things to do is to explain visual art with mere words

This fall I had the pleasure of visiting the Institute of Contemporary Art. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and when I arrived I certainly was not fully prepared for what I was about to experience, which was one of the best museum visits I have ever made. Now, I may be only sixteen, but I have had my fair share of visits to museums, and I know when something is truly unique.
The first exhibit I encountered was called "Dance with Camera." It consisted of film, video and still photography of different dances. Dance, in video and film, is a more regular occurrence, but still photography is not. Dance focuses on timing, and changing the timing of similar movements of the same dance, can completely change the mood the dance creates. In still photography, those motions are shown without any timing at all. The dances are permanently held in place and it makes you wonder what emotion you are "supposed" to get from the dance. It can be completely different experiencing a dance in person.

After the still shots, there is a large room filled with various types of video screens and projectors with an eclectic selection of dance films and videos being played. Some have sound, and others do not, but all the sounds mesh together and somehow seem to work. You might think it would be overwhelming, but the elements seem to compliment each other even though each dance and soundtrack is vastly different. There is some nudity in this exhibit, and you may choose to accept that, or you can even ignore that part of the exhibit if you may feel offended by it. It is worthwhile to just ignore it and be able to appreciate the rest of the exhibits in the Institute.

To make your way to the next exhibit from "Dance with Camera," you must make your way up the ramp towards the second floor. But, it's not just an ordinary ramp. This ramp is the centerpiece of an ongoing exhibit at the Institute appropriately named the "Ramp Project." Each changing of the exhibits also includes a re-vamping of the ramp. As of now, its name is "Third Space" and is a collage of geometric patterns made of stiff lines and bold colors and worth taking the time to admire before continuing to the second floor.

Following the ramp is a screening room and a film is playing with dialogue that doesn't quite seem to match. Only after leaving the museum and reading the pamphlet did I understand this exhibit and now I am sorry that I didn't take more time to recognize the true value of it. I won't tell you what the secret is, that would just ruin it and you'll have to find out for yourself, but I'd advise that you go in and take a look and listen to the video for a few minutes then read the information about it in the pamphlet. After you've done that you should go back and watch a little more, I promise, you'll be able to appreciate it much more.

After the video exhibit ("Video Art: Replay Part 1. Asking Not Telling"), you enter a white room filled with many paintings, drawings and "sculptures." It may seem unoriginal now, but upon closer examination, you'll realize that each of these works of art is created over top of a canvas layered with pages of a book, newspaper, comic, or music sheet. Some of these books you may know, and some you may not but you'll still discover that the tales depicted in those stories are enhanced by the artwork that uses each book as a base. Not just a theoretical base, but also a physical one. I'm sure you'll be amazed, just as I was by the astounding layers of meaning in each of these works of art.

As you (probably reluctantly) begin to exit this final exhibit, you'll see the information about it posted on the wall. This summary explains that everything in those two rooms you were just exploring was created by collaboration between a former art teacher in the Bronx named Tim Rollins and his former students, now called the K.O.S. (Kids of Survival). This group work has taken up a special place in my heart, and I really hope you'll take the chance to see if it can do the same for you.

I've come to realize that one of the hardest things to do is to explain visual art with mere words. You will never be able to truly do the piece justice. All I know is that there will never be enough positive adjectives in the dictionary for me to accurately describe my visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art, and especially The Tim Rollins and the K.O.S. exhibit.

To arrange a visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art contact the Programming Department of Art-Reach at 215-568-2115.

-Mary Altamuro

Mary is currently an Art-Reach Ambassador serving an Independent Study with Art-Reach via the ILP Program at Science Leadership Academy.  All photos in this post were taken from the ICA website.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brunch Recap and Brand New Concert!

Art-Reach would like to thank everyone who worked, attended, or supported the 2009 annual brunch. This past Sunday more than 225 guests joined Art-Reach at the Bellevue for our 18th annual fundraising brunch: “Dixieland Jam: A Celebration of New Orleans Jazz.”

Christine Rouse accepting her award

Amy Murphy Nolen accepting her award

Complete with a live auction by Mayor Nutter for lunch with the Nutters, music from John Hoey Orchestra, a terrific meal and a silent auction packed full of goodies the event was dubbed a smashing success. Our volunteer ambassadors were charming, our donors were generous and we are pleased to share that our goal was exceeded. The entire event grossed over $74,000, far beyond what we aimed to achieve! We thank everyone involved. Because of your support, Art-Reach will continue to be successful in bringing the arts to people who need it most.

Mayor Nutter auctioned breakfast with the Nutters, and then added a second dining session that doubled the amount raise. We can not thank him enough!

We thank David Cohen for introducing our 2009 Commitment to Cultural Access Honorees during the awards ceremony and for representing Art-Reach beautifully.

For more brunch photos, visit us on facebook.

The brunch may be over, but the fun continues with another fantastic way you can support Art-Reach. This Monday evening The Monsters of Folk will perform in concert at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia as a benefit for Art-Reach. A portion of each ticket sold will be donated to us, and Art-Reach staff members will be on hand to provide information about our services. When Monsters of Folk began 5 years ago, they deliberately gave their band a name to throw audience expectation off kilter as a way to stress their versatility and illustrating that they touch on many types of music without easily being categorized into one type specifically. As Michael Hill writes on their web site, “Though there are elements of country, blues, easygoing rock and, yes, folk to be heard throughout, the overall sound defies instant categorization.” The concert begins at 8pm, and tickets can be purchased by visiting

We hope to see you this coming Monday evening, November 9, to support Art-Reach and a band that is not only talented, but makes it a point to give back to the communities they entertain. For more information about Monsters of Folk, visit .

Listen to Monsters of Folk Music:
Whole Lotta Losin’
Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.) 
Say Please  

- Stephanie Borton

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jazz Synonymous with New Orleans Identity

Art-Reach is pleased to announce this year’s theme for the annual fundraising brunch: “Dixieland Jam: A Celebration of New Orleans Jazz.”  Jazz has been a part of New Orleans just as much as Mardi Gras and Cajun cuisine since the turn of the twentieth century, and it has influenced music across the nation and the world from the time of its inception right up through the present day. 

In the beginning, it gleaned influences from the brass bands that were popular at the time and also from West African and Creole styles.  As the two modes merged, the result was a rhythmic, syncopated, improvised ragtime with cornets, clarinets, and trombones bleating out different tunes against a rhythmic section of drums, guitar, and bass.  And while we may not be lucky enough to have been among the saloon-goers of the 1920s who danced and swayed along to the hot new thing called jazz, we are lucky enough to have Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Mortonchannels on our personal Pandora and iTunes accounts to enjoy a little nostalgia.

On top of that, jazz is still alive and well and is celebrated at the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  Festival-goers can expect to hear new jazz and gospel artists performing their own compositions as well as already famous stars drawing on New Orleans jazz from eras gone by, as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan did at the 2006 festival following Hurricane Katrina. But whether they play old or new music, the one thing that all jazz musicians seem to have in common is that they find solace and resonance in jazz as the music that gives the city part of its identity, helps it overcome hard times, and makes good times that much better.

-By Alli Blum

  • The 18th annual Art-Reach Jazz Brunch is around the corner, kicking off at 11:30am tomorrow. Don't forget to turn your clocks back for daylight savings time in order to be on time for the festivities.
  • If this post is the only article visible, be sure to check our older posts for more information on this event and many others! Visit our archives in the right hand column or click "Older Posts".

Happy Halloween Everyone!

We are making final preparations for the brunch, and still found time to celebrate the holiday! We wish everyone a safe and sweet Halloween!

This is what happens when you feed Matt Bryan, Art-Reach Program Manager, candy corn!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Art-Reach Gives Back to NOLA through Annual Jazz Brunch!

This year’s Jazz Brunch will honor the rich history and spirit of New Orleans. To give back to a region still facing so many challenges, Art-Reach has formed a unique partnership with New Orleans non-profit, YA/YA (Young Aspirations, Young Artists). This organization, which provides cultural and entrepreneurial education for artistically-talented inner-city youths, has contributed an original painting by one of its young artists, 19-year-old Quinton Gilmore, to Art-Reach’s Jazz Brunch. This artwork (pictured left) depicts popular New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty. It is featured on the Jazz Brunch invitation and the original piece will be auctioned at the event, with proceeds benefiting YA/YA. 

YA/YA has a broad vision for its young participants, which is why their programs focus on artistic growth and business savvy. These young artists are also encouraged to give their time to various community service projects and create socially-conscious artwork. Galleries around New Orleans display and sell the students’ artwork, and the artist earns a commission on each piece sold. As they progress through the program, passing milestones, their commissions increase. It’s no wonder these young people emerge from the program as well-rounded individuals primed for personal and professional achievement. According to YA/YA, “students who join YA/YA for at least one year achieve exceptional rates of high school graduation, college enrollment, and professional success.” Many graduates of the program return as apprentices and mentors to inspire a new generation of artists.

Art-Reach is thrilled to partner with an organization whose mission aligns so closely with our own. To buy a ticket to the Jazz Brunch and have a chance to bid on the YA/YA artist painting, please visit the Art-Reach website. For more information about YA/YA, visit their website .

- by Sage Young

This is your brain...This is your brain in brunch mode --- ANY QUESTIONS?

Hi folks, we will be posting many fantastic articles over the next two days in celebration of our annual brunch. To start off the day, we bring you the inner workings of our office in brunch preparation mode. Sage Young is heading the whole shebang and doing a tremendous job. However we fear the stress may be getting to her. She's gone from 'glam' girl to fuzzy little monster --- take a look!!!!!!!

That is Sage, behind the desk, directing Rachel and Nicole in creating brunch packages.

Do you think she needs a break?

Actually, as you may have guessed, this is an auction item that will be paired with our brunch package entitled "For Your Little Monsters". It includes two tickets to Sesame Place (donated by one of our fabulous ambassadors who works at Sesame Place, Curtia Goode) and this fuzzy little friend provided by Cutesy but not Cutesy. Our staff has fallen in love with her, and will be sad to see her go, but you can have a chance to bid on this great package at the event.
          -Stephanie Borton

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Get To Know The Ambassador Of The Year

This year the 1st Annual Ambassador Appreciation event was held on September 23rd at the Arden Theatre Company’s final dress rehearsal of The History Boys. At the event, we presented the Ambassador of the Year Award to this year’s recipient, Christine White.
Christine is an Administrative Ambassador, which means that she volunteers in the Art-Reach office. “Programming” at Art-Reach is a huge undertaking and incorporates many different types of programs, including In-Facility, Livearts and Museum ticketing, and more.  Just ask Program Manager, Matthew Bryan, who has seen the programs grow firsthand. As our programs grow, we realized we needed a computerized system that could keep track of it all, so that we can best serve our members. Enter “the database”. For the past five years, Art-Reach has been developing a database that will manage our programming and streamline our ticketing system. It was created from scratch specifically to handle the work that we do here at Art-Reach. After years of development, all of the information from the past year’s events had to be entered into the database in time for our yearly audit. Thanks largely to Christine White, it happened!
Christine exemplifies what makes Art-Reach Ambassadors so special. They are committed, and always remind us through their smiles and dedication why we are involved with this organization.


Rachel Robbins (Art-Reach Program/Development Assistant): Christine, what made you want to get involved with Art-Reach in the first place?
Christine White: I wanted to volunteer for an organization that was involved with something that I enjoy and had a mission that I could support.

RR: What do you find most rewarding about being an Art-Reach Ambassador?
CW: Doing small acts of kindness means so much to others. That's a great feeling.

RR: What has been one of your favorite Art-Reach moments?
CW: I was at the Morris Arboretum for Earth Day. There was a group of school children who were giggling and screaming as they raced toward a straw structure in the garden. As they ran in and out of it, they were so excited. It was touching to see them having so much fun!

RR: How do you feel about winning the Ambassador of the Year?
CW: I was truly touched by the award. I'm very happy to be part of such a great organization and group of people. I smiled the entire next day (and still smile today)! Thank you!

Christine’s Favorites:
Book: Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
Art form: Painting
Philadelphia Museum or Attraction: The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Logan Circle

Join Art-Reach on Sunday, November 1st at the 18th Annual Jazz Brunch and Silent Auction where we will honor Christine White as well as our 2009 Commitment to Cultural Access Awardees Christine Rouse (Founder & Executive Director, Acting Without Boundaries) and Arden Theatre Company.

- Rachel Robbins

Click here to learn more about the Ambassador Program and how to get involved.

Help us name the Database! Now that it will be a part of daily life here at Art-Reach, it needs a name. Have ideas? Send them to Rachel Robbins at

Friday, October 23, 2009

Time for Temptation!

8 days to go! When we say we have great items for bid, WE MEAN IT!
Do you have your tickets yet? When the auction officially begins on Sunday, November 1st in the Grand Ballroom, Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue - be ready for some bidding wars!

The Daily Show

Yes, we are auctioning off four VIP tickets to attend a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Yes, the winner requests the taping date at least three to six weeks in advance.  Of course it takes place at the Daily Show Studios in New York City.  Yes, I think it’s a great opportunity as well.  But no, I’m sorry, you can’t bid early.  See you at the brunch!
Fair Market Value: “Priceless"

Reading Terminal Market: Ice Cream Party!

For those of you with a sweet tooth, here’s an auction item you don’t want to miss.  Reading Terminal Market has donated a free ice cream sundae party at Bassett's Ice Cream.  Grab a few friends, forget about vegetables, and enjoy your choice of Bassett’s “World Famous” flavors.  Don’t worry about diets, it’s a party! And this ice cream is too good to pass up.
Fair Market Value: $35.00

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two Shared Experiences for the Price of One!

Mural Arts ASL Tour
The Nor’easter rains finally cleared and Sunday, October 18th turned into a fine, soft and gray day for the first ever Art-Reach/ Mural Arts Program (MAP) ASL tour.  A small but mighty group of about 14 tour participants got together with Art-Reach Director Michael Norris, Donna and Brian, our ASL interpreters from Hands Up Productions, and me, Maureen Zug, Mural Arts Guide and Art-Reach Board Member for a tour of Broad Street murals. Our group included both hearing and deaf participants who came from Bethlehem, Hopewell, NJ and the Philadelphia area.

We saw over 32 murals -- the day’s gray diffused light really made the paintings colors pop from the walls. As a special feature of the tour, we stopped at the “Independence Starts Here” mural located at Broad and Race Streets. MAP artist Don Gensler boarded our trolley and talked about his work with the disability community to make this mural a reality over a period of three years.  Don answered our questions about the artist’s process of painting this very large and complex work.  Of particular interest was the ASL alphabet depicted on the wall.  Don worked with students from the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf who modeled the individual letters.  He talked about the challenge of retaining the kinetic nature of the ASL letters on a static medium, which is the painted wall.  After our stopover with Don, our group proceeded on our tour.  Along the way, we talked about the individual murals we viewed, MAP’s community-based art program, the Broad Street neighborhoods, and buildings, a little history of the city and the importance of providing art access to all Philadelphia communities.

Louis, our trolley driver, negotiated the narrow streets in North Philadelphia to give us great views of murals just off Broad Street.  With the street traffic, weather, and other external factors, mural tours are not like a visit to a gallery or art museum! I always say that mural tours show “real-time art” in a community context.  The final phase of our tour showcased murals on the Avenue of the Arts South and the 2 “Lincoln Legacy” murals on the return to the Independence Visitors’ Center.

Our tour was a great way to celebrate Mural Arts Month and the 25th Anniversary of MAP.   The post-tour surveys were very positive and a typical response was “I would love more ASL tours…it was amazing…More, More, More Please!”  As a tour guide working with Donna and Brian, I realized the exciting possibilities of including more folks in the beauty of the art experience.

If you are interested in finding out more about accessible cultural events in Philadelphia, please visit

-Maureen Zug

Serving Reshaped My Thinking

Tonight will be my first time serving as a Host Ambassador for Art-Reach and I’m really excited! I find the opportunity to help serve the community through the arts to be uplifting and fulfilling. Over the summer I served an abbreviated internship in the Art-Reach office as an Intern Ambassador. Though not the best fit for my serving interests and capacity, the Intern Ambassador track had lasting impact and helped reshape my thinking about the accessible needs of others. This became apparent to me a few weeks ago when attending class.

I am an architecture major enrolled in the Drexel University part-time evening track program. This term I’m attending classes with a gentleman who uses a wheelchair. Our first assignment required a site visit to Mt. Pleasant – a historically commissioned mansion here in Philadelphia which is not accessible. Upon visiting the site, I thought of my classmate who uses a wheelchair and how I could help serve his need to complete the assigned task. I photo documented the site and e-mailed the photos to the professor to forward to my classmate.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m neither saint nor sinner but, I’m convinced that volunteering with Art-Reach helped reshape my thinking and encouraged greater consideration on my part for the accessible needs of others. Some have said to me “oh, poor guy; that was nice of you”. I beg to differ however. Poor us who don’t take the time to share our experiences with others who may not have the good fortune to experience them in the same capacity… thanks Art-Reach for sharing your capacity to serve with me.

For more information about serving with Art-Reach's Ambassador Program visit

-Dawn Hood

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sneak Peak to Wet Your Whistle!

With 11 days until Art-Reach's big Jazz Brunch and Silent Auction Event, we thought we would entice you will a sneak peak of some of the tremendous auction items that are lined up for bid. Each day we will post a couple items, so keep checking back and don't forget to purchase your tickets and have your game face on when the auction officially begins on Sunday, November 1st in the Grand Ballroom, Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue!


Looking for a different type of cultural experience?  Our Jazz Brunch has you covered! PNC Bank has donated the exclusive use of their suite at the Wachovia Center for a face-off between the Flyers and Florida Thrashers.  The highest bidder and 13 friends get to watch the game on Sunday, March 21, from PNC’s luxury suite.   All you have to do is get there on time.  The game starts at 7:00PM.
Fair Market Value: $2,030.00

Philadelphia School of Circus Arts
Ever dream about running away and joining circus?  Well, we’re going to help your dreams come true.  Check it out; the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts has donated an Intro to Aerial Skills Private Group Class to our jazz brunch auction.  This one-hour lesson offers a basic introduction to static trapeze, rope acrobatics and aerial skills for kids or adults.   These guys have been named to Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philadelphia” two years running, they aren’t just clowning around.  Class is held at the circus school, scheduled at the winner’s convenience. 
Fair Market Value: $150.00

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Boogie on Down with the John Hoey Orchestra at the Art-Reach Brunch on Sunday, November 1, in the Grand Ballroom at the Park Hyatt!

Yo, Philly! The hottest ticket in town is Art-Reach’s 18th Annual Jazz Brunch and Silent Auction featuring the Dixieland roots of Jazz by our city’s very own incomparable Swing Band, The John Hoey Orchestra!

Where else can you indulge in yummy cocktails, enjoy Cajun-inspired culinary delights, bid on really cool stuff in a silent auction, and dance the Sunday away? Sound good? It gets better! Best of all, you will be supporting the fabulous mission of Art-Reach, and helping to expand access to the arts and culture for underserved communities. THERE’S STLL TIME TO DUST OFF THOSE DANCING SHOES AND RESERVE YOUR TICKET!

I had the pleasure of chatting briefly with John, affable founder and awesome drummer of the John Hoey Orchestra, and he shared his excitement with me about performing at the Art-Reach Jazz Brunch.

I asked him, why Dixieland Jazz as the theme of this year’s brunch? You know, what’s so special about it? John informed me that Jazz itself was born out of the New Orleans sound and old spirituals that sprang from that great city. “There would be no Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller without the music heard in the street parades and funeral marches in New Orleans,” John says. “All Big Band music was influenced by early 20th century Dixieland!”

John wants our blog readers to know that he loves Art-Reach’s mission, and especially Executive Director Michael Norris and his marvelous staff for all they do to bring the arts and culture to those who would otherwise not have access. He also hopes their gig will bring in lots of green for Art-Reach programs. “I also hope we gain new listeners for the Big Band sound. It’s rare to experience a real live Big Band, so this is a unique opportunity for people to come out and hear this great music. We also have the privilege of Joe Smith of Peter Nero and the Philly Pops joining us for this event!”

Oh, and John will be taking your requests. I already made mine, but you will have to come out to find out what it is (hint: see the second-to-last paragraph).

Call Sage Young at 215-2115 x2 to reserve your tickets NOW!

-Kathy Spillman

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sounds of Learning Program is Celebrated!

Opera Company of Philadelphia (OCP), a stellar Art-Reach arts partner, recently garnered attention from NBC for its Sounds of Learning Program™. OCP extends this program to Art-Reach members so they may enjoy opera's powerful art form and take part in the Sounds of Learning Program™ through Art-Reach, which prepares them for a tremendous experience.

OCP extends the next opportunity for Art-Reach members to participate in its Sounds of Learning Program™ In February 2010, when they present Tea:A Mirror of Soul. Those members interested in participating, should contact the Art-Reach Programming Department or email

View more news videos at:

Piano Stairs

Your daily dose of "fun" care of Volkswagen.
Art truly keeps us healthy!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Art-Reach thanks their volunteer ambassadors who visited neighborhoods in Philadelphia this week handing out postcards and posters to businesses, arts venues, recreation centers and senior centers who serve individuals likely to benefit from the Independence Starts Here! Cultural Calendar.  This was so successful that Art-Reach ran out of materials advertising the calendar, and will be making more to continue to spread the word to even more neighborhoods. The initiative has been featured in the Philadelphia Business Journal and Philadelphia Gay News. Take a look at the articles and contact Art-Reach if you have any questions about how the calendar can help you or people you know.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Check Out the Community Education Center's Open House and Outdoor Arts Festival

Need something to do this weekend? Check out the Community Education Center's Open House and Outdoor Arts Festival this Sunday October 11th at 1pm. For more information, please visit the PhillyFunGuide.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Celebrate the Sights and Sounds of New Orleans at the 18th Annual Art-Reach Jazz Brunch and Silent Auction!

Join Art-Reach this fall for a party in the French Quarter! Staff and volunteers are quickly wrapping up the final stages of planning for this year’s big event. Dixieland Jam: A Celebration of New Orleans Jazz will be taking place Sunday, November 1st, 2009 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue in Center City, Philadelphia. At the event, 250-300 guests will be treated to a delicious, authentic Cajun brunch, traditional cocktails, the sounds of New Orleans performed by the John Hoey Orchestra, and an array of exclusive silent auction prize packages.

In addition to celebrating another year of bringing quality arts and cultural experiences to underserved audiences, Art-Reach will also be honoring the recipients of this year’s Commitment to Cultural Access Award. This award recognizes the outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations that are making the arts more accessible to people with disabilities or economic disadvantages. This year’s honorees are Christine Rouse, Founder and Executive Director of Acting Without Boundaries; and The Arden Theatre Company.

The Jazz Brunch is Art-Reach’s most important fundraising event, generating over 15% of our annual operating budget. Tickets to the Jazz Brunch are $85 or $175, the latter including free parking at the Bellevue and admission to the exclusive VIP Brunch Preview in October. Corporate packages range from $1,500 to $5,000 with various benefits. For tickets and more information about the Jazz Brunch and; Silent Auction, call us at (215) 568-2115 or log on to

-Sage Young
Development Manager

Monday, October 5, 2009

Learning is Fun Especially with the Arts: Echo Singing

Happy Monday! Let's start the week off right with an educational song.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rally Against the Art -Tax

Held Friday, October 2, 2009 Arts Supporters raised their voices to keep the arts accessible to everyone.

Local actor, Ben Dibble, and his family attended. Ben spoke passionately imploring our government to veto the proposed tax as it would surely lead to downsizing actors as well as various jobs held in the non-profit cultural arts sector. Proudly proclaiming that he and his family are natives of, and want to remain in Pennsylvania, he explained how he may be forced to choose which of his 3 children gain exposure to the arts; his very own craft.
"I am an actor. It’s what I am skilled at and what I am trained to do. As a family, we accept that we will always live a simple, financially austere life. It is the pact you make with the universe when you decide to become an artist," he said. “I can no more envision cutting culture from my kids' lives than bringing them out here today without shoes on their feet. But if this tax were ever put into effect, I would have to ration it. Which membership would fall by the wayside to balance our family budget – Please Touch? The Zoo? Longwood Gardens? Which of our three kids gets to go to the ballet? Which to a youth symphony concert at the Philadelphia Orchestra? All of my children deserve each of these experiences, but how could we afford a family outing with the additional cost?
The truth is this: it will affect the livelihoods of countless Pennsylvanians. Here is how it could affect my family. It will add a cost to theatre tickets during an economic downturn. This will keep people out of theatres: older audiences, younger audiences, audiences who have lost their jobs or their nest eggs. Ticket sales will suffer. Theatres will have to eliminate staff positions. They will produce fewer shows. And – here’s where it affects my family personally – they will choose smaller shows with fewer actors and possibly pay those fewer actors less. Artist positions will, in a very real sense, be downsized. Fewer jobs for artists will make an already competitive market even more competitive and will make providing for my family even more difficult than it already is. And I, of course, am far from alone.

That’s how it will affect artists. But, I’ve got to tell you, it will affect audiences just as much. I LOVE the theatre audiences in Philadelphia, from the thousands of children I’ve met doing shows at People's Light and Theatre Company and the Arden, to the thousands of adults I’ve met at the Walnut, Wilma, and Lantern. In the last ten years I’ve seen these audiences grow and diversify. I want this to continue. Every, every family, no matter how much their parents make, should be able to go to the theatre together. No state should penalize its families by assuming that culture is created only for the wealthy. Especially when our non-profit theatres are working tirelessly to keep ticket prices low while continuing to pay artists a livable wage.

Culture is a fancy word, but its importance in our lives is not frivolous. It is essential. It brings people together. At the very least it brings people joy, and at its best it changes lives. It opens conversations. It sustains us. It is NOT a luxury."

 Barbara Gregson of Independence Art Studio, and a member of Art-Reach, spoke on behalf of the disability community in support of Art-Reach's work and the need to keep ticket prices low. She explained that without the help of organizations like Art-Reach, the people with whom she works would not be able to access the arts, and adding an additional cost to an already economically struggling population would ensure their allienation from the arts.

Arden Theatre Company and Please Touch Museum were among the arts organizations present.

Lois Welk of Dance USA Philly also raised her voice to the cause, and made sure that Art-Reach was included in the rally.

To learn more about the proposed tax and how you can take action visit The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

A Night of Partnerships: Art-Reach and Arden Theatre Company Present The History Boys

On Wednesday, September 23rd, Arden Theatre Company presented its final dress rehearsal of The History Boys, a play by Alan Bennett. Art-Reach was there to celebrate our Volunteer Ambassadors and to support the Arden as they kicked off their 22nd season. The event served as the 1st Annual Art-Reach Ambassador Appreciation Event, where attendees were invited to “Pay-What-You-Can.” All proceeds from the night benefited Art-Reach.

It was a night to celebrate partnerships, and the event raised more than $2,200. The celebration began with the Ambassador Appreciation reception, which recognized all participants of Art-Reach's Ambassador Program, included awards and amazing food donated by Max Brenner and The Corner Bakery, as well as wine from Ristorante Panorama. Art-Reach ambassadors have contributed so much to our growth as an organization and every day help us to carry out the Art-Reach mission of enriching lives by connecting underserved audiences with cultural experiences so that they may enjoy and benefit from the transformative powers of the arts. Ambassadors help us to achieve this in the office, at events, and with our members. They are a dedicated team of individuals that continually keeps Art-Reach staff sane and entertained. We were delighted to have them all in one place and to publicly say “thank you for all you do at Art-Reach”. Stephanie Borton, Associate Director of Art-Reach read quotes from Art-Reach staff about the Ambassadors:

“Our Ambassadors are constantly going above and beyond the call of duty, performing the smallest to the largest of tasks with smiles on their faces. We’re lucky to have such a wealth of talent, compassion, and determination at our fingertips.” – Sage Young, Development Manager

“Our ambassadors are incredibly helpful and add tons of joy to our office! We are so appreciative of everything ambassadors do for Art-Reach. They help to make members’ experiences as rich as possible. They’re Grrrrrrrrrreat!” – Rachel Robbins, Program/Development Assistant

“Simply put, Ambassadors make Art-Reach possible. I am grateful to work with such dedicated volunteers and words cannot accurately express the depth of my gratitude for their efforts. Ambassadors keep me sane. There is no way that I would be successful in serving Art-Reach’s mission without their tireless efforts.” – Matt Bryan, Program Manager

Ths year, we are pleased to recognize one Ambassador in particular who has contributed greatly in the past year. The Ambassador of The Year Award was given to Christine White, an administrative ambassador who has worked diligently to help us get our programming database up and running. The partnership between Art-Reach and our ambassadors is one that we are incredibly grateful for and it was a pleasure to share in a night of culture and History at the Arden.

The Arden Theatre Co. itself is a long-time Arts Partner and a leader in accessibility (as well as in the Philadelphia arts community). It is also this year’s organizational honoree of Art-Reach’s 18th Annual Jazz Brunch and Silent Auction fundraiser. Dixieland Jam: A Celebration of New Orleans Jazz will be held on November 1st at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue. Two tickets to the Jazz Brunch were raffled off to a lucky audience member before the show began, and the show went off without a hitch. Overall, the night was a huge success. The Arden was full of Art-Reach supporters and we look forward to seeing all of you (and more!) at next year’s 2nd Annual Ambassador Appreciation Event.

-Rachel Robbins
 Art-Reach Program/Development Assistant