Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Highlights from the 19th Annual Jazz Brunch & Silent Auction

The PECO building announces our event! [Photo by Diane Engler]
Event Co-Chairs Karen Feeney and Mia Meloni

NBC10's Dawn Timmeney presents the award to Bancroft

PECO's Jeff Gordon presents the award to Jean Canfield, with Art-Reach Executive Director Michael Norris.
Linda and Peter from Bancroft dance the afternoon away.
Guests participate in some intense bidding in the silent auction
Our fabulous staff and ambassadors - Thank you!
*Photos at the Brunch were taken by Michael Nathan - http://www.nathanweddings.com/

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Brunch Week!

Here at Art-Reach the band is in full swing. With less than one week left until the 19th Annual Jazz Brunch, I’ve had to enter the stage, score in hand and ready to blow. Nevertheless I feel confident. With the way these seasoned players get down, the brunch is sure to be a hit. Patrons will be eager to place their bids just as well as move their feet.

Folami is typing away to keep track of it all.
By the way allow me to introduce myself. My name is Folami Islam and I’m Art-Reach’s new Fall intern. Working on an auction of this magnitude has been really exciting and upbeat much like our theme for this year’s event. Cool cats Rachel Robbins and Nicole Oidick have made asking for donations seem like a breeze. And it shows. Just like notes off the page, items have been coming off the shelves constantly to be reorganized and arranged to accommodate more. The boxes in the copy room have been put on standby and noted not to be recycled. Well at least not in the usual manner.

So far my job in this ensemble has been a bit tedious but all the while rewarding. Much attention is paid to documenting all donations received and filing it correctly. Item descriptions are being cleverly crafted to appear in the program books. Although seemingly minute, the work really contributes to the overall success of the auction which in turn helps the community Art-Reach serves.


Rachel shows off some fabulous auction items!
To give it to you straight no chaser, the donations are pretty mind-blowing. What’s even more amazing are the companies, sponsors, artists and individuals who are making this year’s event possible. Even though a member of “the band”, I still find myself in awe of the things that make their way on stage. Beautiful paintings and hand-made crafts, relaxing vacation packages and really cool exhibits are all on the bill. Some players that have contributed in the past are coming back full force, sharp and with added material. Newbies like the Barnes Foundation, which is one of my personal favorites, are sure to please. 

Here at the office we definitely have Jazz Brunch fever and are certainly burning the midnight oil to create an unforgettable event. And with all the labor of love put in it’s sure to be smooth sailing here on out.

-Folami Islam

Monday, October 4, 2010

Art Around Town: Check Out The Best Day of My Life So Far

Looking for more great blogs?  Check out The Best Day of My Life So Far.  The blog is run by Benita Cooper with the mission to collect, share, and connect stories from seniors with younger generations.  

Watch the following video to learn more about the project :



Be sure to check out Senior Story Telling Day on November 14th which will feature stories and storytellers from the Best Day of My Life So Far blog.  This FREE community event to be held at the Central Branch Library and will feature Senior Storytellers recalling the best days of their lives. Learn more here.

- Matt Bryan

Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Act On Our Stage


Setting the stage…

The marriage between “Family Stages” and Art-Reach allows Art-Reach audiences of all ages to experience fun, interactive theatre in intimate settings. Joining Art-Reach’s In-Facility Program roster of artists, Family Stages presents a variety of two-person shows on site for Art-Reach members. As a witness for this relationship, I was a guest at one of Steve’s shows, “Puss in Boots”, performed in Oreland, PA. The show delivered just what Steve promised. Nursery school children sat rapt on the carpeted floor of the church hall. Folding chairs provided a heightened view for teachers, parents, and grandparents. On stage, a simple hand-painted backdrop and a clunky green trunk set the place, and one pole of spotlights created the mood. Two versatile actors played all the parts, taking on new roles as quickly as they changed their costumes, voices, and postures. Clearly Steve knows what kids like, for his script included audience interaction. On cue, the children stood up, used imaginary tools, and replied aloud. The actors were equally sensitive to young audiences. When the evil ogre threatened the pretty princess, the kids spontaneously shouted a warning. The adults, too, were entertained. Steve’s subtle puns and contemporary allusions amused the mature members of the audience. Puss snidely remarked that she was “no Garfield.” The end result was an intergenerational audience of happy faces and lightened spirits. 



Meet the lead player…

Steve Seyfried
It’s Steve Seyfried, a man with a deep voice and a warm smile. He’s the actor, director, producer, playwright, and all-around creative mind behind the theatre company called “Family Stages”, a new roster artist with Art-Reach’s In-Facility Program.
Let me tell you their thirty-year story… 



The Exposition…

After graduating college, Steve started his directing career by teaching and his acting career by performing at dinner theatres. That’s where he met his wife, Elise, who also became his artistic partner of many years. After a short time touring with a children’s theatre company into Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, the two settled in Philadelphia and decided to start a project of their own. Thus, with only some make-shift costumes and a modest Chevy Chevette, Duet Productions (later to be called Family Stages) was born.

Photo from Family Stages' Performance of Peter Pan

The Rising Action…
 
Steve and Elise began adapting material for children’s productions. They relied on fairy tales and folktales from around the world, shaping these into plays that could travel to any place that provided a simple stage and an appreciative audience. Soon, their ambitious endeavors gained momentum. The creative couple introduced a summer theatre at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Here, families could share entertainment for an evening, and even laugh at the same things. Another idea advanced the plot… why not offer a summer camp and workshops too? Success was immediately evident as enthusiastic thespians flocked to the shore-based stage. Now, with place established as the tri-state area, and time expanded to all seasons, “Duet Productions” was truly blossoming.

The Turning Point…
 
With five kids of their own by now, (and all the drama they needed right there at home!), Steve and Elise chose to adjust roles. While Elise focused on the family, Steve forged on with the company. “Duet Productions” became “Family Stages”, a non-profit organization. The new name reflected the goals that were now firmly in place: appeal to intergenerational audiences, and reach them in wide and varied settings.

Just some of the many Family Stages performance offerings.

The Resolution…

“Family Stages” has reached its professional stride. Audiences include all age groups. Actors are minimal in number, but experienced, maintaining the intimate but professional nature of the performance. Performances occur in a variety of venues including retirement communities, schools for children with and without disabilities, and public parks for travelers and tourists.  Material is eclectic. In the past thirty years, Steve adapted some forty plays for the stage. Some are funny and fanciful; others are historical and inspirational, but all of them are creative and loyal to the mission of “Family Stages”: to provide entertainment, enrichment, and education to family members of all ages.


The Conclusion…
 
The story arc is now complete, with Art-Reach welcoming Family Stages to the roster. Today, theatre patrons can choose from Steve’s extensive repertoire and “Family Stages” is eager for the opportunity to join forces with Art-Reach. “It’s a chance to touch audiences we might not ordinarily reach…to help those who cannot otherwise access the theatre. It’s great to feel that we are making a difference!” he confessed.  No doubt his performances will reach many Art-Reach audiences, bringing smiles and making a difference in the lives of many! 

Welcome Steve Seyfried and “Family Stages”! 

-by Barbara Speece

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A New Addition to the Art-Reach (...and Borton) Family!

Art-Reach Associate Director Stephanie Borton and her husband Michael Borton welcomed a healthy baby boy to the world on July 19th at 11:51am.

Elijah Adam Borton weighed 8lbs 15oz and was 20.75 inches long. 



 Mom, Dad and Baby are happy and healthy!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sharing the Experience at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Art-Reach hosted "Share the Experience" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) on Friday, June 11th.  The event, a program of Art-Reach's Independence Starts Here cultural access initiative, encouraged guests—including donors, members, and community leaders—to experience art as people who are blind or visually impaired experience it.

To begin the event, the  Philadelphia Museum of Art shared a number of tools it provides through its Accessible Programs to enhance the museum experience for people with visual impairments.  These include Braille and raised-line museum maps as well as touchable interpretations of art such as tactile representations, miniature sculptures, and three-dimensional replications of two-dimensional paintings.  These tools were on display at the event for guests to touch and experience, with written descriptions to serve as a guide for those who are blind or visually impaired.

While such tools help open up the world of art to those with visual impairments, they are only part of what makes visual art accessible to those with disabilities.  As Street Thoma, Manager of Accessible Programs at the PMA says, "The most important way to make art accessible is the language that we use to describe things."  One key element of art accessibility is audio description.

At the event, audio described tours were available for event attendees.  For guests with visual impairments, the tour gave them an opportunity to experience a work of art in the Museum's collection through audio description.  For guests with sight, blindfolds were provided to allow them to experience the art as those who are visually impaired experience it.  Sighted guests were encouraged to put on their blindfolds or close their eyes before viewing the art being described, allowing them to rely on the description alone without any visual point of reference.
  

After the audio describer presented a description of one of the PMA's paintings, guests were asked about their experience.  One guest with sight said, "It was captivating to hear her [the audio describer] speak.  The way she presented information was very thoughtful."  Another sighted guest said, "I enjoyed the way it [the audio description] was presented.  It unfolded like a story, and the description was neutral, so it gave you the opportunity to interpret it yourself."  One guest who is visually impaired said, "It was almost like I could see it [the painting]," while another commented on the importance of asking clarifying questions during any audio description.  "You can't make quick judgments; you have to ask if you can't see the details."

For more information about the Accessible Programs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, including the Form in Art program, call (215) 684-7602 or TTY (215) 684-7600 or e-mail AccessProg@philamuseum.org.

- By Jennifer Oglesbee
Jennifer is a Special Projects Ambassador in the Art-Reach Ambassador Program

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

WOOD TURNING: WHAT A TURN-ON!


TURN IN to 501 Vine Street, and you’ll see what I saw in April: the curves and shapes and colors and grains that define the craft of wood turning. When I arrived, I immediately spotted the lathe, basking proudly in the light on the windowsill, and knew that this device, guided by the deft hands of an artist, was responsible for the beautiful objects I was about to see. Albert, Ron, and William, the inspiration and administrative backbone of the organization, gave me a warm welcome, a hint of the sensory pleasure that pervades the Wood Turning Center in Philadelphia. I began my journey.



HAD I MADE A WRONG TURN? As I entered the gallery, I was struck by the apparent anomaly that I saw ahead. Pieces made from glass and linen and leather and clay in a wood center? Then I saw the sign: “Magic Realism---Material Illusions”, and I understood my mistake. Here was a special exhibit that played with expectation and its intersection with reality. On display were illusions of materials: a child’s cotton dress…really wood; a birch tree branch…really clay; a lacy linen corset…really glass. I had been exposed to the unexpected interconnectedness, OK… the magic… of materials!

TIME TO TURN BACK THE CLOCK by paging through the books and photographs in the next room.  By perusing through the shelves that lined the walls, serious scholars, able artists, and just fascinated folks could read about the history of wood turning, the process that defines it, and the artists who produced its most acclaimed work. Out of sight in a climate-controlled area, the WTC houses a permanent collection of wood-turned objects that are rotated out for display periodically. If time had permitted, I could have researched the past and gained even more appreciation of this special craft.  Next visit!


THEIR TURNSTILE KEEPS MOVING!  WTC also invites hobbyist turners to enhance their skills, experienced wood artists to find new inspiration, and researchers to expand their knowledge. Most importantly, WTC encourages the general public to discover and appreciate this very special place. There are only three craft art studios in Philadelphia, the other two devoted to either clay or fabric. The Wood Turning Center is unique: its focus is wood, and its mission is to elevate the perception of this craft art to the level of fine art! After my visit, I was a believer!


NOW, IT’S YOUR TURN. Be a visitor. You have lots of choices. Three specific and well-defined programs are available for Art-Reach members, each one offering some combination of museum history, process explanation, exhibit information, sample pieces, and lathe demonstration. Also available is a hands-on turning experience! The WTC kindly offers an “on-the-road” alternative, taking portions of the program to member sites, thereby reaching audiences unable to travel. 



 IT’S SOMEONE ELSE’S TURN: Do you need another recommendation? Maybe Brandee will convince you! Brandee, a young woman with many physical challenges, along with Debbie, her nurse, and Lynda, her doctor, spent the morning of April 29th at WTC. I was there too. Wood artist, Philip Hauser, a retired executive who confessed to a long-time love affair with wood, patiently demonstrated how wood is turned on the lathe. He slowly transformed a chunk of unfinished poplar into a “lidded box.” As Philip worked and talked, Dr. Lynda orally conveyed the visual details to Brandee, who is visually impaired. The pleasant smell of burning wood filled the air as the turning continued. With each new curve and detail, Dr. Lynda placed the transformed creation into Brandee’s open hand, thus stimulating her tactile response. Dr. Lynda’s expressive narrative voice reflected the beauty of the evolving piece, enhancing the sensory experience for this special guest with limited independent abilities. When Philip ended his demonstration, he gifted the finished piece to Brandee, concluding what Dr. Lynda described as “unequivocally, one of the best experiences Brandee has ever had.” She added her intention to return soon with other Rec Care folks.

 However you choose to experience this craft and art, whether at the WTC site or on your own turf, you will see the curves and shapes and colors and grains. You will feel the warmth, smell the wood, and welcome the peace. Your senses will tell you… you made the RIGHT TURN!

-by Barbara Speece

Monday, May 10, 2010

Green Room: The meaning behind the term

A green room is a room in a theater, television show set, or public venue used by actors, speakers or other performers when they are not onstage. They can simple or lavish.



While most green rooms today aren’t literally painted green, the origin of the name is unclear and varies in explanation from the usage of green paint in the rooms to green plants kept to provide humidity, which was assumed to be good for the voice. One theatre explains that “In olden times the players performed on a platform or stage referred to as “The Green” and adjacent to this was a room for relaxing, going over lines and other things that players did.”


Today, green rooms might have TVs for actors and actresses who, while waiting for their cue to go onstage, can watch what’s going on onstage currently. On television show sets, celebrity guests and TV show hosts might meet each other in the green room before appearing together in front of an audience. Fans, often with a backstage pass or for a fee, may meet the actors or musical performers in the green room after the performance.

- by Khanh-Anh


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Birthday of the Week

English actress Audrey Hepburn was born this week on May 4th, in 1929. She was born in Brussels, Belgium and was the only child of Joseph Rusten and her mother, Ella Van Heemstra. As a child she took ballet lessons at the Arnhem Conservatory and after World War II ended, Audrey and her mother moved to Amsterdam where she continued to study ballet under Sonia Gaskell. Eventually, she moved to London where she studied ballet under influential British dancer Marie Rambert, while occasionally working as a model to support herself.

She had her first role in the British movie One Wild Oat and then had minor roles in Young Wives’ Tale, Laughter in Paradise, The Lavender Hill Mob, and Secret People. While working on the English and French film Monte Carlo Baby, French writer known as Colette choose Audrey to play the title role in the Broadway adaptation of her novel Gigi. Hepburn won a Tony award for this performance. In 1953, she received her first starring role in the film Roman Holiday, for which she won an academy award for best actress. In 1954, she starred in the play Ondine with Mel Ferrer, whom she would marry later that year. They would have one child together. She went on to star in numerous films, including Sabrina, War and Peace, Funny Face, Paris When It Sizzles, Love in the Afternoon, Green Mansions, The Unforgiven, The Children’s Hour, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, and My Fair Lady.

After her divorce from Ferrer, she married her second husband Andrea Dotti on January 18th, 1969. They would also have one child together. In 1988, Audrey Hepburn became UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador – a role that had a great impact on the organization and on Hepburn herself. She passed away on January 20th, 1993.

-by Mike Endres

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Art-Reach at the Scott Arboretum

Art-Reach held its 2nd annual program celebrating Earth Day on April 23rd.  The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), an Art-Reach community partner, Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB), a long time Art-Reach member agency as well as Art-Reach staff, donors and I embarked on a sensory tour of Scott Arboretum.

Sensory tours are generally given for people who have sensory disabilities. Elements of exhibits, shows or in this case the garden are made available to touch and smell in order to heighten participants’ experience of the event. For people who are blind and receiving descriptions of the place they visit, these tours enhance the narrative and place the descriptions into context of a tangible object.















Scott is a 300-acre arboretum located on the grounds of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA.  Becky Robert, the Member and Visitor Programs Coordinator, was our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide.  The tour began at the Scott Entrance Garden whose plants and layout change every year.  Becky passed around clippings from a shrub with a twisty vine.  We learned that when the leaves die in the winter, the vines add interest to the garden.


Touching the plants was a new way for some of us to experience the garden but it was old hat for our friends from ASB. This organization serves people who are blind or visually impaired and ASB is an active member of Art-Reach. Visiting museums and attending performances year round, this group actively seeks sensory tours where tactile elements are incorporated into the experience offering a far more intimate understanding of the featured activity. In this same manner ASB has visited the Philadelphia Zoo, InterAct Theatre Company, Arden Theatre Company and  Enchantment Theatre Company, to name a few.


When we walked over to a majestic pine tree and felt its deep ridges or furrows, HLAA member Diana told me it was “very interesting to feel the flakiness of the bark.” HLAA provides assistance and resources for people with hearing loss and their families to learn how to adjust to living with hearing loss. They have also been an integral community partner in the Independence Starts Here Campaign, bringing many new audience patrons to enjoy the arts in the Philadelphia region.


Our next stop on the sensory tour brought us to a wooden trellis and Becky passed around some Daphne flowers. Mary Ann, who is hard-of hearing, said she liked “flowers and anything visual” the best. Lavera, one of our blind guests, rubbed the flower in between her fingers and smelled her hand instead of smelling the flower directly. This helped her to “get the scent better,” she explained.

The group then trekked over to a beech tree that was a gift from the Swarthmore class of 1881! The gigantic tree was nearly 20 feet in diameter. Betty, a guest from ASB said the bark felt “all ripply, like when you drop a pebble in a pond.”

Acorns crackled beneath our feet as Becky led the group to a red oak tree and then to a sawtooth oak tree. I felt how the sawtooth oak got its name: it has leaves with serrated edges.

“I love lilacs,” Gladys, another ASB member, exclaimed as we got to a cluster of lilac plants. They were the first official plants at the Arboretum. Lavera echoed that they were her favorite plant of the day.  “It smelled like the most pungent hint of lilac from my childhood,” said Betty.


Sensory tours are also highly enjoyable for anyone with a keen interest in better understanding an artistic art medium. Donor Albert Olenzak, both a supporter of Art-Reach and of Scott Arboretum, agreed with Gladys sharing that he especially enjoyed the portion of the tour where he was able to feel and smell the lilacs. “I’m an outdoors person,” he shared. “I thought it [the tour] was great. It was the best time of the season to smell the lilacs and was beautiful.”

We crouched down to feel a green plant nicknamed Lamb’s Ears, which, according to Betty, felt “better than velvet.”  The final two stops on the tour were a dwarf white pine and a traditional pine.



The day ended with a reception at the Wister Education Center. Cosmic Catering provided organic goodies and we all enjoyed each other’s company. Al Olenzak commented that he had not been to Scott for a while and enjoyed seeing the Wister Education Center. “It was a very pleasant event,” Al shared. “I enjoyed the sensory tour, it was very relaxing and beautiful, but I especially enjoyed meeting the folks participating because they were all very interesting.” For Art-Reach members, donors, staff and ambassadors alike, this event was indeed a relaxing way to end a one-of-a-kind nature experience.

~by Danielle Bullen
Danielle is a Special Project Ambassador with the Art-Reach Ambassador Program.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inside the Mind of a Dancer

Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki featuring dancer Laura Feig
Used with permission from Ballet X

On April 18th, a sunny Sunday morning, families gathered at the Wilma Theater. They were there to attend “Inside the Mind of a Dancer,” a lecture-demonstration presented by Art-Reach Arts Partner organization, Ballet X.

Founded in 2005, “BalletX produces original choreography that expands the vocabulary of classical dance for all audiences.”

Children chattered and anticipation filled the air as co-artistic director, Christine Cox walked on-stage, carrying her young son. This was truly a family affair. Cox began by asking the audience to write down emotions on a slip of paper.  Then 6 of Ballet X’s dancers came on stage and took their places around 2 portable ballet barres. 

Cox explained, “A dancer, everyday, 6 days a week starts by working out at the barre.”  The dancers demonstrated some of the common moves they practice, such as pliés and pirouettes.

Dancing is not as easy as professional dancers make it look.  “A lot is going on in our brains as we warm up,” said Cox. Dancers need to think about the position of all their body parts as they move.

After warm-up exercises, the dancers showed the captive audience some floor routines.  They collected the papers with emotions written on them. Co-artistic director and choreographer Matthew Neenan picked a paper that said “relaxed.”  Neenan then designed a dance and taught it to his fellow dancers. The relaxed ballet told the story of waking up on a lazy Sunday morning.

The audience saw that dancers need a great memory.  Neenan explained they might have 1 or 2 weeks to create and learn a 20-minute ballet. He said, “People don’t realize how quickly we have to come up with movement.”

The dancers then created mini-ballets based on the audience-suggested emotions “excited”, “anxious” and “tired”.

Cox re-emerged and invited the kids in the audience on stage to learn a routine. Young dancers and some parents got up and practiced their 1st positions, their relevés and their arabesques.  To end the family friendly morning, Cox choreographed a routine to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” and everyone danced happily.

Jim and his family attended the event with Art-Reach member, St. Mary Interparochial School.  “My family and I truly enjoyed the performances. Our seats were very close to the stage and this made for a truly memorable afternoon and morning of excellent dancing and informative demonstrations into how a choreographer creates their performances.”

St. Mary Interparochial School has been a long time member of Art-Reach, using the arts creatively to foster family time spent together both during and after school hours. They have found that this approach works to build their school community, increase parent involvement and provide students and their families with fun learning experiences. Jim could not agree more. “I look forward to enjoying many more cultural experiences which are provided by this wonderful program,” says Jim.

After the presentation, Matthew Neenan was kind enough to offer a peek behind the curtain and talk with Art-Reach about Ballet X’s community outreach.

Art-Reach: What are some common misconceptions people have about ballet and dancers?
Matthew Neenan: There’s the misconception it’s a hobby. It’s our job. There are days I don’t feel like doing it, like any job, but I have to do it. Kids don’t realize it’s hard work.  You have to be resilient.

AR: Why is it important for Ballet X to engage in community outreach?
MN:  We have to. Community outreach introduces people to the ballet, develops audiences, and sells tickets. It gets the audience involved. It’s fascinating for adults and children alike. To get grants, we need show outreach efforts.

AR: What inspired Ballet X to create this event?
MN: We wanted to teach about ballet. We’ve done demonstrations before but never for an audience this young. It was kind of an experiment to see if we could hold their attention. We wanted to show toddlers live movement. It’s better for them to see something live than watch TV.  We wanted to do an event at the Wilma. There’s not a bad seat in the house. The audience can really see the dancers for who they are and see the passion and drive very clearly.

AR: What do you hope the audience takes away from the event?
MN: Appreciate the art form, the training, and how smart the dancers are.

~by Danielle Bullen
Danielle is a Special Projects Ambassador with Art-Reach's Ambassador Program

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keeping customers happy, loyal patrons!


Inclusive customer service for everyone: we all know it is important, but what does it truly look like? How do you do it well and execute it correctly?

Independence Starts Here, in partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, presents: 

Keys to Quality Customer Service for Seniors and Patrons with Disabilities.
Tuesday, April 20
9:00-11:00am - continental breakfast provided
The Playground, Adrienne Theater
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia PA

This free workshop provides the keys to making sure that all customers are treated with respect and that first-time customers become long-term patrons. Mimi Kenney Smith of VSA Arts of Pennsylvania will lead this session, providing a wealth of best practices and attainable, easy action steps to make your venue more accessible and service friendly. Mimi knows her stuff and makes it fun to learn. We hope to see you there!

Register for this FREE workshop at:
http://keystoservice.eventbrite.com

Why it Matters:
Serving senior audiences and customers with disabilities provides significant opportunities for the cultural community.  According to a 1998 Department of Labor statistic, more than 20 million families in the U.S. have at least one member with a disability. The estimated buying power for people with disabilities is over a trillion dollars and seniors with disabilities control up to 40% of the personal assets in America. Yet, when speaking with patrons with disabilities, their primary concern is not for the quality of the ramp or the captioning; it is for the quality of the customer service.  This seminar will provide the keys to making sure that all customers are treated with respect and that first-time customers become long-term patrons.

This workshop is presented by Independence Starts Here, a community wide cultural-access initiative led by VSA Arts of Pennsylvania and Art-Reach in partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and Philadelphia Corporation for Aging as part of Celebrate Arts & Aging.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Careers in the Arts: Meet Mimi Kenney Smith

The oldest of 13 children, Mimi Kenney Smith is used to having a lot of responsibility and being around a lot of people. This comes in handy when working in partnerships with over 100 organizations around the country. As Producing Artistic Director of Amaryllis Theatre Company, Co-Chair of Independence Starts Here and Executive Director of VSA of Pennsylvania, Mimi Smith has certainly embraced many opportunities to pursue an artistic career. 

Mimi takes pride in her ability to figure out how to make things work. She believes problems challenge her imagination and force her to find creative solutions. She employs all of these skills in each of her endeavors. The best advice she would offer anyone who aspires to work in the arts is to “take a chance and be open to the possibilities.” 


From a young age she was interested in painting and sculpting. This led her to begin designing sets and eventually taking the stage as an actress. She balanced her love of theater and art through college taking courses in both, and earning two degrees in Theatre.

Education was very important to launching Mimi’s career. After finishing school, she worked at Villanova as a Public Relations Director. While working for their theater department, she also acted. One production Mimi was a part of at Villanova, All My Sons she considers to be one of her most memorable theater experiences. “It was both a great ensemble and my first standing ovation… I felt like I was in the place in the world that I was meant to be…I thought all right, this is what I’m here for."

It is that conviction that later led her to start her own theater company. What has brought her success with her company is her willingness to take chances. Mimi goes above and beyond to emphasize inclusion and accessibility with each production, making Amaryllis a unique and exceptional theater. It has also led Mimi to take on her many roles with other organizations to share her knowledge and ideas with others. 

To learn more about Amaryllis Theater, Independence Starts Here, and VSA visit: http://www.amaryllistheatre.org/, http://www.independencestartshere.org/, and http://www.vsapa.org/.

-by Allison O' Dea
Allison is an Art-Reach Special Projects Ambassador

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Independence Arts Studios offers Spring Session Classes

Independence Arts Studios (IDS), an inclusive artist studio offering classes for persons of every age and ability, has their new spring line up available.  Located at 714 Market Street, IDS offers the following opportunities.

Wheelchair Sculptured Art
Thursdays 1-3 pm, April 29th to June 3rd
Michael Mantis, master jeweler, will be lead students to create an assemblage of various wheelchair parts, put together to create a single piece of arts without welding.

Cast Making for Faces
Tuesdays 1-3pm, May 4th to June 8th
Barbara Gregson, theater artist, will guide students in engaging live models to make plastered casts of the faces of some of the Liberty Resources consumers.

Cost for non IAS members  is $40
Cost for current IAS members is $35

For more information or to register, contact the IAS at 215-634-2000 x333 or send and email to info@artsbuyias.org

Friday, March 26, 2010

Travel the globe without leaving Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology

Travel the globe without leaving Philadelphia by visiting the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Conveniently hop from continent to continent as you stroll through fascinating collections of Asian Art, Egyptian Mummies, and Roman statues.


One of the most stunning features of the museum is the Harrison Rotunda that houses the museum’s collection of Chinese Art. The dome of the rotunda measures ninety feet across and ninety feet from the floor and is one of the largest unsupported masonry domes in the nation. While you’re there make sure to gaze at the breathtaking Crystal Ball that belonged to Empress Dowager Cixi in the center of the gallery. At one point in our history, this ball was stolen and found in a pawn shop in Philadelphia where it was safely returned back to the museum!

Adjacent to the Harrison Rotunda are the Lower Egyptian Galleries, which house the museum’s collection of mummies, sarcophagi, and artwork from the time of the Pharaoh’s. Brave patrons can navigate the corridors of the dimly lit gallery and gaze upon the remains of ancient mummies and learn about the mummification process.

For the classics buffs, the museum’s collection of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art is fantastic! Travel through time and observe how these ancient civilizations influenced and inspired each another through their art and technology.

In addition to their excellent permanent collection, the museum also features unique touring exhibits that feature work produced locally, nationally, and internationally by archeologists, anthropologists, and community groups. Righteous Dopefiend, one of the touring exhibits currently on display until December 2010, features the work of anthropologist Philippe Bourgois and photographer-ethnographer Jeff Schonberg and their documentation of the daily lives of homeless drug users, drawing upon more than a decade of fieldwork. This moving exhibit cannot be missed and is a profound look and call to action to help address the needs and challenges facing people who are homeless and addicted to drugs.

The museum offers both self-guided and guided tours of their collections, and Art-Reach members can request tickets by submitting a museum request form to the Program Department. Guided and Self-Guided experiences can be arranged Tuesday – Friday 10:00am-3:30pm and Sunday from 1-5pm. During the summer months parts of the exhibit are not air conditioned, making spring the perfect time to plan your excursions around the globe without ever leaving your back yard! Please see the UPENN Museum’s listing on the Art-Reach museum roster for more information about visiting the museum and contact the Art-Reach Program Department for help planning your outing.

-by Matt Bryan