Friday, February 26, 2010

Channel Your Inner George Bernard Shaw with This Great Offer for Art-Reach members!

Y’all know that the snow is going to (eventually) melt, and you will soon be itching to get out of the house to do something fun and different to escape the winter blahs.

But what to do, you ask?

Here’s an awesome idea: You can see some great experimental theater for $1, indulge your fantasy of playing a real-live theater critic, and support our local playwrights and their original works, all at the same time! (Did I mention tickets are only $1?)

Art-Reach has 25 tickets to offer Art-Reach members for Bootless Artworks’ annual one-act play festival, “Simply Short: An Evening of One Acts.” Visit thier listing on the Art-Reach Member Calendar for more information.

This is a juried event, which means the artists' work are being judged, and you are part of the process! The audience gets to vote on their favorite production, actor, actress, and director. Bootless Productions is part of Arden Club, Inc. in Delaware who is a long time arts partner with Art-Reach. How cool is all that?

Tickets are available for March 5 and March 6 at 8pm at Arden Gild Hall in Arden, Delaware. Now, I know Delaware seems far, far away; but it really is only less than a half-hour’s drive (20 miles!) from downtown Philly, promise! It also includes free parking! It takes longer to get to most Philly burbs than to our sister state. The event is also accessible for people using wheelchairs. Contact Rachel Robbins at (215) 568-2115, ext. 5 or at for tickets.

-By Kathy Spillman

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Outside, it was the aftermath of a February blizzard. Piles of shoveled snow created a cold, bleak backdrop. But inside the Adams building on Presidential Boulevard, the stage was set for warmth and music. Chanta Harris, teaching artist from Art-Reach, had come to the NOVA ll community to prepare the residents for their afternoon at the opera. With the help of their activities director, Jenaya Parker, a group of about ten adults with psychiatric, cognitive, and physical disabilities had gathered to learn about Tea, the opera, and the Academy of Music where they were all invited by Art-Reach to share in an exciting cultural experience.
The NOVA residents were ready, and Chanta was prepared! Alternating information with interactive projects, she skillfully engaged the group. The history and categories of tea led to a sampling of tea, and Chanta’s “students” assessed both taste and fragrance.  Her condensed biography of Chinese composer Tan Dun morphed into individual creations of unique and organic musical instruments that modeled his.  Goya beans, rubber bands, cups, paper, and stones blended into a strangely pleasant cacophony, ending in a rousing finale!  Finally, Chanta’s summary of the opera’s storyline culminated in a dramatic reading, enhanced by spontaneous singing, by two of the residents, of the entire libretto. Meanwhile, another group member provided her version of the action, complete with pantomimed embracing, weeping, and stabbing, along with sound effects using water to suggest the background’s natural setting. Chanta had indeed generated excitement for the upcoming trip to the opera!
Curriculum for Tan Dun’s opera Tea: A Mirror of Soul, was provided by the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Sounds of Learning Program. Opera Company of Philadelphia is an Arts Partner of Art-Reach, and just as planned, on yet another cold February day, The Opera Company of Philadelphia warmed the theater with its final dress rehearsal of Tan Dun’s opera Tea: A Mirror of Soul. The Academy of Music was packed with Philadelphia school children, but among them sat four groups of adults representing Art-Reach members. Two are long-term residential communities: Little Sisters of the Poor, from Newark, DE, and Evangelical Manor of Wesley Enhanced Living, from Philadelphia. Two other members serve people with disabilities: Silver Springs and People’s Choice Center, also from Philadelphia, and, of course, NOVA ll. For the next few hours, youthful and elderly, able-bodied and physically-impaired, white, black, Hispanic and Asian---invited guests equally shared the experience of opera with all its sensory appeal and artistic beauty.

Preparation was the key to understanding and appreciating this sophisticated genre.  Referencing her teaching artist from Art-Reach, a resident from “Little Sisters” Community said “Michael [Borton] explained it so well. We knew just what to expect!” When questioned about what they remembered from their earlier prep session, some folks noted “pretty colors, especially red”, “the water dripping into the bowls”, “that high-pitched voice”, “beautiful costumes and headdresses”, and “that big Chinese symbol!” Indeed, it was clear, as one woman reported, that traveling even from Delaware was “worthwhile, just to be able to see a performance like this!”
The program ended inside the historic Academy of Music, and the audience slowly leaked out into the cold February afternoon. “We’ve had so many good experiences through Art-Reach”, one client concluded. Hopefully others agreed and felt the same spiritual warmth and restorative value from their time at the opera that tea drinkers experienced at their ceremonies long ago.

-By Barbara Speece

Monday, February 15, 2010

Get to know new artist and presenter at Day of Healing, Tony Mascara, Jr. of The Audio Lab

On a windy autumn afternoon, I raced to the Art-Reach building on John F. Kennedy Boulevard in anticipation of my initial meeting with Tony Mascara.  I had read a brief synopsis of his program and spoken to Mascara on the telephone three times.  Over the telephone, his baritone voice was relaxing with a cheerful edge.  I walked up the steps to the building, then turned the corner and recognized Mascara instantly.  He wore a goatee, shoulder-length brown hair, flip-flops, and a tailored straw hat.  He carried a backpack, a cellular phone in one hand, and in the other hand, an object about 24 inches tall, neatly wrapped in black cloth.  Mascara finished his telephone conversation, carefully sat the object on the ground, and embraced me with a friendly hug.

As we made our way into the Art-Reach office, we discussed parking, evening plans with friends, and his wife.  Just like that, we were friends.  We sat down, and as Mascara casually removed his straw hat, the interview commenced.

Tony Mascara of the Audio Lab is an Art-Reach In-Facility 
Roster artist and presenter at Day of Healing

How did you get started in music?  Both my parents are musicians.  My mom is a piano and voice teacher.  And my father is an entertainer, he plays the keyboard.

What is the first instrument you learned to play?  Drums.  My first Christmas, my parents spent a couple of dollars on toys.  Instead of playing with the toys, I went into the kitchen and dug out the pots and pans. My first set of drums.

When did you start performing professionally? My dad was a performer, I started performing with him when I was eleven-years-old.  We performed at the Jersey Shore at a place called Moore Inlet (The Pointe at Moore Inlet is located in North Wildwood, New Jersey).  When I was twelve-years-old, I opened for Bobby Rydell (Bobby Rydell was an American teen idol from the early 1960’s era of Rock and Roll).

What do you love most about performing? I love meeting people, I’m a social person, I like making connections, and using my talents to make connections.

How did you get started with Art-Reach? Art-Reach saw me performing at the library with Daria (Daria is another Art-Reach In-Facility artist).  I met with Stephanie (Stephanie Borton is the Associate Director at Art-Reach) and thought this was something I could get behind.

How was your first performance as a solo artist with Art-Reach?  It was a great performance, everybody was receptive.  A young girl came up after the performance and said, “I was feeling bad before the performance, but now my spirit has been lifted.”  There were about fifteen people on Sunday at Steninger (Behavioral Care).  I like a smaller audience a little better, because I like lots of audience participation.  The performance was about 45 minutes to an hour.  At the performances, I bring enough drums of all sizes and shapes from around the world for everyone to participate.  

Where do you see yourself in ten years?  Doing the same thing, playing with musicians, but playing better, so I can be good!

Following the interview, Mascara revealed the object underneath the black cloth.  It was a Djembe drum from West Africa.  The drum is shaped like a large goblet, with a brown, sort of skin color, and it is covered in unique black carvings. Mascara demonstrated the swatting technique, hitting the drum as though you were swatting a bug.  The top of the drum is called the head.  To create a bass sound, you swat the head, to create a different sound; you swat the edge of the head, creating a sound similar to hitting a water jug.

After Mascara’s demonstration and mini lesson, I took over.  With the city’s skyline as our backdrop, Mascara and I sat in the Art-Reach cafeteria and jammed.  Almost an hour had passed, so we packed up, and rode the elevator to bottom floor and departed close to where we had initially met. 

With another warm embrace, we went our separate ways.  Mascara walking towards 17th and JFK, excited to meet some fellow musicians.  And I, trotting down the street towards 16th and Locust, with a smile on my face, feeling as though my spirit had been lifted as well.

To view Tony's program listing with Art-Reach's In-Facility Program click here. Tony will be a featured artist at Art-Reach's Day of Healing event scheduled this Friday, February 19th. Art-Reach liaisons are invited to participate in the event and experience Tony's program first hand. To attend the event contact Stephanie Borton via email or by phone at 215-568-2115 x3

-By Tammy Walker          

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day of Healing for Art-Reach Caregivers

On February 19th Art-Reach and Buildabridge team up to host an event called Day of Healing meant to care for caregivers. BuildaBridge, a long time Art-Reach member, will invite their staff and Art-Reach has extended invitations to their member liaisons; those individuals at member agencies who act as the main point of contact ensuring that the clients they serve receive Art-Reach programming. 

Throughout the year Art-Reach member liaisons work tirelessly to bring the arts to their clients who have disabilities and/or economic disadvantages. Day of Healing provides these dedicated professionals the opportunity to spend a day focusing on their own well being so that they can be revitalized, more effective caregivers. Planned activities are geared towards invigorating the mind, body and essence that drives these individuals to help others daily. This event also serves to introduce our Art-Reach member liaisons to arts partners and In-Facility artists, who they perhaps have not yet experienced thru hands on workshop activities.
Penelope Reed, Producing Artistic Director of Hedgerow Theatre will kick the festivities off with a group activity using interactive theatre games and exercises to relieve stress and share experiences creatively. The motivation is that participants learn to use theatre techniques as a fun, effective way to promote open dialogues with the clients they serve concerning challenging subject matter that allows both caregiver and client the opportunity to view the world from a different perspective.

Also featured will be In-Facility artists Beth McGuigan, leading a session on self introspection through sculpting clay; Angel Baby Music, a 3-piece trio also trained in music therapy and individual music lessons, performing during lunch; and Tony Mascara, who will present his interactive Art-Reach program The Audio Lab and conclude with a group drum circle.

Art-reach Ambassadors will be on hand to ensure the day runs smoothly and Second Street Baptist Church of Germantown has donated its majestic facility for the event, offering free accessible parking. Smaller group break out sessions will be offered to participants including workshops teaching jewelry making, poetry, yoga, dance, papermaking and baking. In fact those participating in baking will bake bread and present it to their peers during lunch. Throughout the day chair massages will be offered to participants. Like Second Baptist Church of Germantown , these artists and massage therapists have also generously donated their time and talents in order to make this event possible so that Art-Reach member liaisons are able to rejuvenate and get a refreshed start in bringing the arts to their clients in 2010!

The program runs from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm on February 19th at, Second Street Baptist Church of Germantown 6459 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19119-2345. Cost is $10 per person and participants must be current Art-Reach members in good standing. Limited space is still available, and those interested in participating should contact Stephanie Borton via email or 215-568-2115 x3 for registration information.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The gift of design

Since 2002, Hypno Design, Inc., a marketing and design firm, has pulled one really impressive all-nighter per year. October 15th-16th, 2009 marked the 7th annual CreateAThon, a 24-hour marketing marathon where volunteer artists, designers, photographers, and copywriters work around the clock to create unique marketing materials for five local non-profit organizations. And did I mention that they do it for FREE?

Hypno collects proposals from local organizations all vying to be a part of this awesome opportunity. As you may have already guessed, Art-Reach was chosen by Hypno’s owners Richard Cardona and Allison Judah as one of the lucky beneficiaries! After we received the good news, Executive Director Michael Norris and I booked a PhillyCarShare and drove out to the Hypno office in Moorestown, New Jersey to meet with the team.

While Richard and Allison had read in the proposal about Art-Reach and the initiative we were looking to promote (A secret soon to be revealed!…stay tuned!), they took this opportunity to learn even more about the spirit and mission of Art-Reach. We left the meeting confident that they understood where we were coming from and would represent us in a unique and effective way. And then, we waited…

On Friday, October 20th, Michael and I crossed state lines again to see what Hypno had cooked up for Art-Reach. We arrived at an office full of coffee, chocolate, and pastries, all the essentials to work through the night. We met with the talented artist and copywriter who put our ideas into words and images; they spoke about their creative process and the buzz words they used to describe Art-Reach: connector, agent (there’s a clue!).

Finally, the moment arrived – our professionally designed materials were presented to us. We are going to debut them VERY soon and they are amazing! The Hypno team distilled our goals and ideas into a distinctive design concept, which is also cohesive with our general logo and graphics. I enjoyed this experience for many reasons, but mostly because it’s so interesting how an outside party (especially one consisting of design professionals!) can describe your organization in a way you’ve never imagined. We provided the tools, but these artists created a masterpiece! Within the next two weeks, these materials will be shared and Hypno's brilliance is sure to be appreciated by all who believe in the power of the arts and Art-Reach!

-by Sage Young

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Norman Rockwell

Artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell was born on today’s date, February 3rd, in 1894. He began his career as an illustrator young. In 1913, he became art director of and painted several covers for the Boy Scout magazine, Boy’s Life. In 1916, he painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post, titled “Mother’s Day Off.” This cover began Rockwell’s long career with The Saturday Evening Post that would last until 1963. During that time, he would create 321 original covers published by the Post. In 1916, Rockwell married his first wife, Irene O’Connor. They divorced in 1930. Afterwards, he married his second wife Mary Bartow with whom he had three children.


In 1943 Rockwell painted one of his most famous works, “The Four Freedoms.” “The Four Freedoms” consist of four paintings, titled “Freedom of Speech,” “Freedom to Worship,” “Freedom from Want,” and “Freedom from Fear.” They were inspired by a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and were published in The Saturday Evening Post along with accompanying essays. Later, the U.S. Treasury Department took the paintings on tour to promote war bonds. Unfortunately, 1943 was also the year that a fire destroyed Rockwell’s studio along with many original paintings.

After the death of his second wife, Rockwell married Molly Punderson in 1961. They would set up what would later become the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In 1977, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. Norman Rockwell died November 8, 1978 at the age of 84.

-by Michael Endres

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hot on the Trail of Cultural Treasure Hunt

Some seek the elusive, ivory-billed wood pecker.  Others try to track down Sasquatch. In our city on Thursday, January 21, 50 enthusiastic tenth and eleventh grade Philadelphia Academies students and their dedicated teachers traveled on their first of five cultural treasure hunts.  This series of treasure hunts are the result of a collaborative partnership between Philadelphia Academies, Art Reach, local hospitality businesses, and cultural institutions.

The students, from Benjamin Franklin, Horace Furness, Jules E. Mastbaum, Swenson Arts & Technology, and George Washington high schools, participate in the Philadelphia Academies Restaurant and Hospitality magnet program. As part of the program, they had the chance to take a behind-the-scenes look at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park, dine at the hotel’s 4-star restaurant Azalea, get career tips from Philadelphia Academies Academy Resource Manager Corvette M. Kittrell, hear updates on the city’s tourist scene from Katherine Ott-Lovell, Mural Arts Chief Advancement Officer, participate in an orientation on the Treasure Hunt with Art-Reach Program Manager Matt Bryan, and experience live theater with InterAct Theater Company.

I tagged along as an Art Reach board member/Ambassador/culture vulture to share this fun, fast-paced, informative experience.

The hotel’s Director of Sales, Christopher Laufer, arranged for a cooking demonstration with Executive Chef Bamba Konate. Chef and Sous Chef Beni demonstrated how to make Azalea’s signature crab cakes and fresh tomato bruschetta. Not only did all of the students get to sample the food, but Chef also provided take-home copies of the recipes altered for the students’ home kitchens. Morgan, a tall, serious student interested in cooking and baking, shared with me his interest in trying the recipes at home to surprise his parents on Valentine’s Day!

Tony Venuto, Executive Housekeeper and staff provided room tours of the 150-room European-style boutique hotel. The students were able to visit typical rooms and learn about room amenities (cushy bed linens, cozy bathrobes, mini snack/bar, and room service). William, a quiet, handsome student and avid Philadelphia sports fan, asked questions about providing security for visiting sports teams and had a close-up look at the room safe. Overall, he liked the room amenities, especially the flat-screen TV and internet access. I definitely can picture William as the Director of Security for a major hotel some day.

Having completed the tour, we headed back to the hotel’s restaurant Azalea for a delicious, three-course dinner prepared by Chef and staff.  While eating dinner, Corvette M. Kittrell reminded the students that the restaurant and hospitality field was not just about “cooking and housekeeping.” For example, she indicated the need for attorneys, accounts, and decorators to support the tourism industry in Philadelphia, a world-class tourist destination. Kathryn Ott-Lovell talked about the Mural Arts Program's mural tours, which served 10,000 visitors in the last year by taking guests to see the artwork on walls in our neighborhoods. The Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association presented its 2008 award to MAP for its outstanding promotion of tourism in our city. Many students in the audience have murals in their respective neighborhoods or have worked on painting a mural at their school, so they were very familiar with MAP and its mission.

After dinner while we were lining up to ride the school buses to InterAct Theater, I asked fashionable, pretty Kareemah what she thought of the treasure hunt so far.  She told me that “the food was outstanding and [she] loved the plates and decorations” in the dining room. She also mentioned that the demonstrations and tour made the textbook information more “real and understandable”.

For our final experience of the evening, we arrived at InterAct Theater. Artistic Director Seth Rozin greeted us in the lobby before we took in the play City of Numbers. Seth talked about the history of the theater company and its mission of providing work with socially topical themes for Philadelphia audiences. City of Numbers was produced by InterAct in conjunction with the Mural Arts Program and the Violette de Mazia Foundation, and illustrated yet another way that hospitality, tourism and the arts work together. The production is a one-man show telling the story of a young writer who travels to Graterford prison in an attempt to understand the inmates’ lives and the impact of art, specifically murals, on their time behind bars.

Sean, the actor and playwright, transforms himself from warden, to inmate, to prison guard and other characters in this 75 minute production. His greeting of “Yo Philadeldelphia Academies, wassup?” was heartily returned by our Cultural Treasure Hunters. The play covered many sensitive topics, like the Philadelphia murder rate and the tedium of life behind bars.  The students enthusiastically responded to Sean’s hip-hop dancing and became thoughtful at the photos of our city’s murder victims. The play moved very quickly and soon our first Cultural Treasure Hunt experience had ended.

What an experience for all of our participants. One of the student participants, shy tenth-grader Daria, best summed up the experience: “I am not sure what I want to do…but I am here to explore…this [event] makes everything so much more clear than the class and books and it’s fun!” 

Stay tuned to this blog for the second Philadelphia Academies Restaurant and Hospitalities Cultural Treasure Hunt program in March, 2010.
-By Maureen Zug