Your guide to Philly's diverse creative scene, nightlife, music, food & more
Experience the power of Full Spectrum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art's latest exhibit celebrating The Brandywine Workshop's generous gift of 100 prints in honor of PMA's late director Anne d’Harnoncourt.
The exhibit not only celebrates the gift, but explores Brandywine's rich forty year legacy in printmaking by showcasing over 50 works by artists like John Biggers, Moe Brooker, Joyce de Guatemala, Sam Gilliam, Mei-ling Hom, Ibrahim Miranda, Kenneth Noland, Howardena Pindell, Betye and Alison Saar, Vuyile Voyiya, Kay WalkingStick,and acclaimed muralist Isaiah Zagar.
September 7 - November 25
26th Street Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Friday, September 7 through Saturday, September 22
Starting September 7, Philly will explode with 16 days of creative genius, as we kickoff the 16th annual Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe! This world renown arts festival is a true arts revival, presenting over 150 shows that bring together thousands of artists and eager art appreciators from around the globe.
This year, the Live Arts Festival will present 17 innovative theater, dance and film productions, including 6 world premieres and 2 U.S. premieres. The Philly Fringe returns this year with almost 150 shows, that continue to build on their reputation for bold, daring work presented by local artists and professional companies.
With so many performances packed into this 16-day festival, deciding what show to see can be a little daunting. But don't worry, I've pulled together a list of my top Live Arts / Fringe Picks. You'll definitely want to catch each and every one of these breathtakingly brilliant performances.
You can click here to checkout the full festival schedule.
September 18 - 23
Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad Street
Fresh from their 2011 Live Arts Festival hit Traces, 7 Fingers returns with the U.S. premiere of Sequence 8. This one of a kind circus production features aerial hoops, rings, Korean board, cigar box juggling, Chinese acrobatics and incredible feats of balance and beauty – all by performers whose basic human desires and qualities audiences can all relate to.
September 21 & 22
Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St.
This interactive installation and per formance blends spoken word, music, film and contemporary and hip-hop dance to re-imagine a green movement that is inclusive of black and brown voices. Immersing audiences in a new mode of kinetic performance, red, black & GREEN: a blues strives to unite communities around a broader definition of “sustainable living” and to be a catalyst for a cultural and creative renewal.
September 15 - 20
Live Arts Studio, 919 North 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Philly-based choreographer Jumatatu Poe debuts this exciting, visceral work that mixes explosiveness and confinement, the effect of exterior on the interior, service and performance, materials and identity. Private Places plays with the stylized movement and high-powered approach of J-Sette, a dance culture developed in black gay clubs with roots in drill team and majorette events of Southern historically black universities.
September 7 - 22
South Philadelphia, Mt. Airy,Tacony and Wissinoming. Special venue information to follow ticket purchase
Who lives in Philadelphia? This Town Is a Mystery combines local performance and dinner in four Philadelphia homes, chosen from more than forty applications. Created by Headlong and each home’s inhabitants over the course of several months, the shows are performed by members of the households in their own homes - sharing their own unique experiences and stories.
September 14 - 15
FortMom, 4613 Newhall Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144
September 20 - October 14
Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Imagine walking along on a balmy evening in late September, and you’re looking up the Ben Franklin Parkway. You speak into your phone and twenty-four robotic searchlights—placed along a half-mile stretch of the Parkway—move to the sound of your voice, interpreting your inflections into motion and transforming the city’s skyline. You stop speaking (or singing or humming or rapping) and the lights continue to move, controlled now by other speakers collaborating with you from up and down the Parkway.
Famous for creating interactive installations on intimate and city-wide scales, artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer brings his distinctly personal aesthetic to Philly and empowers you to animate your skyline. Using the custom-made mobile app “Philly Open Air” your voice brings these enormous three-dimensional formations to life.
On May 19, when The Barnes Foundation opens its new campus, galleries and garden on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia will witness the world's biggest art story unfold right in our own backyard.
The new 93,000-square-foot facility which will house this world famous collection of art has been designed as a "gallery within a garden and a garden within a gallery," and sits on a beautifully landscaped four and a half acre site along the Parkway. The new Philadelphia campus will not only house the remarkable Barnes collection, which includes 181 works by Renoir, a sizable collection of African art and more Cezanne's than in all of France, but also includes classrooms, a 150-seat auditorium, a café and courtyard for outdoor dining and a gift shop.
With a facility and collection of this magnitude being added to the Parkway's already impressive collection of cultural institutions like The Franklin Institute, The Academy of Natural Sciences and of course the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philly really has reason to celebrate.
And, a celebration is exactly what the Barnes and Philadelphia have in mind!
The Barnes will kick off its inaugural week with ten days of free admission beginning May 19. The celebration will culminate with a free Memorial Day Weekend Festival featuring 52 consecutive hours of round-the-clock admission to the collection and an amazing entertainment lineup in honor of the historic institution and collection.
The festival is jam-packed with amazing performances, film screenings, lectures and activities - I can't even begin to list them all here. I've noticed lots of my Philly favorites on the program schedule, including Philly 360° Creative Ambassador Jeri Lynne Johnson and The Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, The Tindley Temple Choir, Relâche, Olive Dance Theatre, AfroTaino Productions, Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra and Transcontinental Verses Poetry Event with Qualified Qool.
And, this is just the short list. There are tons of other performances mixed in with wine tastings, film screenings, artist talks, art lectures, family activities and so much more! I definitely will be stocking up on the Red Bull, coffee, espesso and whatever else it takes not to miss one minute of this 52-hour art explosion. You know I'm always down for a good old-fashioned arts revival, right?
Insider Fact: A number of city organizations and cultural partners have joined forces to celebrate Philly's eclectic and world famous art offerings with the innovative new campaign, With Art Philadelphia. Find out more about The Barnes and Philly's art scene here.
Friday, April 20
2600 N. 5th Street
If you spend a little time in Philadelphia, you are bound to hear a Philly native say, "Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods." And, that's no lie.
Philly is definitely a town with tons of interesting neighborhoods - each with its own charm, characters, cuisine, history and personality. Recently, through my work in the arts, I've gotten an inside look at a vibrant and culturally-rich neighborhood in New Kensington, affectionately referred to as The Barrio.
The Barrio serves as one of Philadelphia's epicenters of Latino culture and community, and is home to many of the coutries leading Latino cultural institutions, like Taller Puertorriqueño, AMLA and Raices Culturales Latinoamericanas. Individually and collectively, these organizations shine the nationally and local spotlight on Philadelphia rich, colorful and growing Latino arts community.
This weekend, Taller Puertorriqueño will kick off its new 7-month performance series, Cafe Under The Stars: Spotlight Arts in the Barrio. This live and innovative performance series in the Heart of Latino Philadelphia, will be staged at the site of Taller's future $10.5 million state of the art facility and will feature a variety of exciting local and internationally talent.
Café Under the Stars opens on Friday, April 20 with Los Pieneros de la 21, an outstanding group that infuses traditional bomba and plena, the heartbeat of Afro-Puerto Rican music, with contemporary influences such as jazz, salsa, and rap. The other six performances include, El Apagón/The Blackout, a awarding-winning bilingual theater work set to popular Latin music of the 50's and 60's, "Crossing Cultures - From Mozart to Guadalupe", a music collaborative featuring musicians from The Philadelphia Orchestra and many other innovative creative collaborations.
And of course, you can't truly experience any cultural without sampling it's cuisine. So, while you are enjoying the sounds of The Barrio, make sure you stop by a local restaurant for a bite. One of my personal favorite restaurants is Tierra Columbiana, which is own by the same folks who run another local favorite center city spot, Mixto.
So, definitely make sure you get out and celebrate all of the sounds, colors and flavors of The Heart of Philadelphia's Latino Culture - The Barrio! I'll see you there.
You can checkout the full schedule for Cafe Under The Stars here
Hey, all of you local-culture-vultures - now's the perfect time to get your spring dance fix!
For the next two weeks or so, our Philadelphia dance community will be showcasing the talents of some of our brightest stars, including a special performance by PHILADANCO featuring an amazing new work choreographed by none other than, Philly 360° Creative Ambassador Rennie Harris!
So, make sure you get out and join these fantastically talented artists and companies, as they help us dance our way into Philly's spring arts season! To get you started, I've listed my top five spring dance picks below.
April 20 - 21
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
260 S. Broad Street
PHILADANCO's spring performance featurs the world premiere of a newly commissioned ballet, Wake Up, by Philly-native hip hop choreographer Rennie Harris and a revival of the 2000 ballet titled Tribute, which salutes the music produced by Philadelphia International Records founders, Gamble & Huff.
April 20 - 21
The Performance Garage
1515 Brandywine Street
The inaugural season of Roger Lee Dance kicks off with three performances at The Performance Garage. The performances combine contemporary jazz dance with soul music to create a memorable, uplifting and entertaining experience for audiences of all ages. This new contemporary jazz dance company is the dream and vision native Philadelphian dance, choreographer and visual artist, Roger Lee.
April 26 - 29
Suzannne Roberts Theatre
480 S. Broad Street
Join Koresh Dance Company for their home season this spring as they present another stunning and beautiful program. The performance will feature three new works by artistic director Ronen Koreshand a special performance by The Koresh Youth Ensemble.
April 19 - 21
Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
3680 Walnut Street
Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal presents a thrilling fusion of ballet and jazz with a polished technique that has dazzled audiences around the world. This special performance will feature an amazing repertoire by some of the best working choreographers, a collection of extraordinarily talented dancers, and the Philadelphia premieres of Night Box by Wen Wei Wang and Les Chambres des Jacques by Aszure Barton.
3620 South Street
Checkout The Penn Museum for an exciting evening of African and African-influenced dance featuring local artists from around Philadelphia. The program features the Umfundalai dance technique of Kariamu & Company, original music and percussive dance by Germaine Ingram and Bobby Zankel, and breakdance by Rennie Harris RHAW!
So, here's a true confession. One of my biggest arts-related regrets is missing the 2009 Broadway premiere and 15-month run of FELA! The Musical. I simply kept waiting, and then it was gone.
But now, thanks to the folks at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, this critically acclaimed, three time Tony Award-winning musical will be in Philly next week! I know I say this a lot, but seriously don't miss it! Trust me.
FELA! tells the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, whose soulful Afrobeat rhythms ignited a generation and changed the world. Fela Kuti used his extraordinary big-band, electrifying brass infused music as a medium to create biting, revolutionary songs protesting the military regimes in his native Nigeria. Fela often paid a steep price for his music with over 200 arrests and countless beatings that left scars all over his body. But even these beatings couldn’t stop him, and the impact his music would have on the world.
This triumphant tale of courage, passion and love features the amazing performances by a breathtaking cast, Fela Kuti's original captivating music and the visionary direction of Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones. The show also boast an impressive list of celebrity producers, including Jay-Z, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Philly 360° Creative Ambassador Questlove of The Roots.
I was very intrigued by a New York Times review of FELA! which read,
"There should be dancing in the streets. When you leave the theater after a performance of “Fela!,” it comes as a shock that the people on the sidewalks are merely walking. Why aren’t they gyrating, swaying, vibrating, in thrall to the force field that you have been living in so ecstatically for the past couple of hours?"
That's where international DJ extraordinaire and Philly 360° Creative Ambassador Rich Medina enters the picture. Rich Medina, The Kimmel Center and Philly 360 have all joined forces to bring you the official FELA! World Tour Jump N' Funk Afrobeat Afterparty. So, after the opening night show on Tuesday, March 20, everyone will head to Fluid Nightclub and dance the night away as Medina spins the hottest afrobeats sounds in honor of FELA!.
This exciting smash musical will only be in town for five short days, and tickets have been selling fast! So, make sure you get your tickets now and join in the celebration of afrobeat, dance, song, art and FELA!.
Tuesday, March 20 - Sunday March 25
240 South Broad Street
Tuesday, March 20
10 p.m. ($5 / Free admission with FELA! ticket stub)
613 S. 4th Street
As the birthplace of the nation, there's no place else that does history quite like Philadelphia—especially African-American history. Philly is the home of historic African-American artists like Billie Holiday, Marian Anderson, John Coltrane and Henry Ossawa Tanner, while famous civil rights activists like Sam Evans and Cecil B. Moore also called our great city home. BTW - did you know that The Philadelphia Tribune, founded in 1884, still stands today as the country's oldest African-American newspaper?
Like I said - no one does history like Philly! For Black History Month, there are lots of exciting events happening all over town celebrating this rich American legacy. To help all of us navigate this fantastic whirlwind of activity, I've broken down a few of my Black History Month top picks below. So here's to a fantastic February full of celebration, history, legacy and of course plenty of Philly love!
January 20 - February 19
480 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
The Philadelphia Theatre Company brings us the Tony® Award-nominated musical, The Scottsboro Boys. An electrifying and emotional tour de force, this semi-controversial musical chronicles the story of a group of African-American young men falsely accused of attacking a white women in Alabama during the 1930's.
It's based upon the once-popular ministrel-show style and features an awe-inspiring cast of triple threat performers more than capable of entertaining and moving any audience. So, don't miss this powerful retelling of a piece of American history told through music and dance.
January 28 - April 15, 2012
205 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
One of the most prolific and pioneering African-American artists of our time, Henry Ossawa Tanner got his start as an artist right here in Philadelphia at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. As an American expatriate artist, Tanner would go on to achieve the highest levels of international accolades, something almost unheard of for African-American artists during his time.
So join PAFA, as they bring Tanner's life and legacy home to Philadelphia, for a unique and truly universal look at the life, art and significance of this luminary figure of African-American and world history.
Saturday, February 4
127 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Celebrate Black History Month with this one-of-a-kind class dedicated to exploring the ever-growing group of African-American winemakers from California to South Africa. This is the perfect chance for all of you budding Philly someliers to come out to sharpen your skills, discuss and of course sample this exceptional winemaking craftsmenship.
This class is certain to be a unique wine experience not to be missed!
February 1 through 29
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
525 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
During Black History Month, the National Constitution Center will highlight the lives of historic African-Americans in their new feature, the Breaking Barriers Show. This show explores the impact of historic African-American figures like Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Bessie Smith and other individuals who have made contributions to American and world history.
Saturday, February 25
701 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
With the contributions of The CIty of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program, Philly has been transformed into a massive beautiful outdoor canvas, complete with over 3,000 murals. For this exciting program, The African American Museum in Philadelphia will explore the brilliant work of the Mural Arts’ African American Iconic Images Collection. Be sure to be on the lookout for murals produced by artist extraordinaire, Philly 360° Creative Ambassador Ernel Martinez!
For more details on what's happening in Philly for Black History Month, you can also check out PhillyFunGuide.com.
Philly is a town full of stories and storytellers, so it makes sense that we're home to the world's only festival dedicated to storytelling, spoken word and memoir arts—the First Person Festival. Starting November 10, First Person Arts will kick off an 11-day, story-filled celebration, taking place in multiple venues across Old City in Philadelphia.
For over ten years, First Person Arts has provided a platform for everyday (and some not-so-everyday) people to share glimpses into their worlds through storytelling. Many of the stories shared at their monthly slams are humorous, some are even downright silly, but many are powerful tales about the triumphant and often fragile human experience.
In keeping with their mission to foster appreciation for our unique and shared experiences, the First Person Festival is filled with the provocative, playful and personal programs they are known for. This year's programming includes theater, storytelling (of course), documentary film, workshops, author readings and more—each inspired by real life experience.
Make sure you visit the First Person Arts website to check out the jam-packed festival schedule. In the meantime, take a look at my top picks to get you started!
Sunday, November 13
7 - 9 p.m.
Christ Church Sanctuary & Courtyard
20 N. American Street
Join the incomparable Sonia Sanchez, as First Person Arts and the Mural Arts Program kick off their collaborative project exploring how haiku communicates peace and urban transformation. Sonia will premier new poetry written for this project and will lead the audience in a haiku writing experience, the products of which will become a visual installation during the festival.
Friday, November 18
7 - 9 p.m.
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine Street
The dynamic poets from the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM) share the stage with their heroes from Spoken Soul 215. Mentors like Just Greg, Lyrispect and Vision will share their own poems alongside the teens of PYPM. No judges or scores, just beautiful and brutally honest lyricism about life in the 215 from some of the best and brightest young poets around.
Friday, November 11, 12, 18, 19
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 N. American Street
April Yvette Thompson’s powerful one-woman show, takes place at the end of the 1970’s Black Power Movement in Miami. Liberty City weaves a rich story of family, race and the value of understanding your history while forging your own path. With chameleon-like skill, Thompson brings to life the many people that shaped her experience, including her Cuban-Bahamian father and African-American mother. The show climaxes with the infamous Liberty City riots and the journey a young girl must take to protect her family.
Saturday, November 12
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Reading Terminal Market
51 North 12th Street
Two Philly food icons come together when Rick Nichols leads you on a behind-the-scenes tour of the historic Reading Terminal Market. The Market is about to get a major overhaul, including a brand new demo kitchen. Get a first hand peek at the renovations, explore the underground staging areas, and try samples from select food stalls. Savor the market’s history and get a taste of its future with insights from Nichols, The Philadelphia Inquirer's former food columnist and other local experts.
Philly is definitely in store for an arts and culture revival as The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) explodes on the scene for 25 days full of performances and creative experiences from around the world! With dozen of concerts, shows, exhibits and classes happening everyday, I can’t wait to get out and experience as much I can!
The Kimmel Center’s Commonwealth Plaza is sure to be a popular gathering place during the festival and will be one of my first stops and regular hangouts during PIFA. The plaza has been transformed and infused with all style of Paris - complete with a dazzling 81-foot lighted Eiffel Tower! Stop by for weekly free plaza events, like happy hour concerts, nightly performances, 10-minute French lessons, wine tastings, light shows and much more!
You can go to pifa.org to check out the plaza and festival schedule, get event details or to buy tickets. So get started planning your festival itinerary and check out my PIFA Picks for the upcoming weekend!
Friday, April 8
26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Start your weekend off in style with Art After Five at the the Philadelphia Musem of Art. This installment features Miro Dance Theatre, as they give audiences a sneak preview of their new work entitled PUNCH - which will have its PIFA world premiere on April 21!
Friday, April 8 at 8 p.m
Saturday, April 9 at 10 a.m and 4 p.m.
Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m.
3680 Walnut Street
Philadelphia , PA 19104
Adults and kids alike will be dazzled by world-renowned master puppeteer Basil Twist’s mix of fantasy and wonder with Petrushka. This show will delight your eyes as life-size puppets, fly, dance and float in midair in this story of a tragic love triangle between three puppets.
Thursday, April 7 through Monday, September 4
701 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
From the iconic performer Josephine Baker to Philadelphia native and opera diva Marian Anderson, Free to Be explores the contributions of African American artists in both The City of Light and The City of Brotherly Love during the era of Jim Crow and jazz. Come out and be inspired by the stories and legacy of these amazing artists!
Saturday, April 09
300 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Hear GRAMMY® nominated Parisian jazz pianist Martial Solal make his Kimmel Center debut with a re-creation of Thelonious Monk's legendary 1959 New York Town Hall concert. Be sure to stop by a little early for a free pre-show lecture on Monk’s life and music!
Sunday, April 10
1837 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Don’t miss this chance to see Philly’s premier youth orchestra in this special night of music featuring the music of classical composers Beethoven, Respighi and Stravinsky. This promises to be an unforgettable night of music in a breathtakingly beautiful venue!
Philadelphia's vibrant arts and culture scene might be one of our city's biggest hidden treasure - but it's time to share the wealth! James' Arts & Culture Revival is your inside look at Philly's rich and diverse cultural community.
As a Philly native, a self taught visual and performance artist and spokesperson for Phillyfunguide, it's been my mission to make sure the world knows just how alive the arts are in Philadelphia. Whether checking out the latest exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art or spending an evening on the Avenue of the Arts seeing PHILADANCO or The Roots in concert--I'll bring you my insider's view of the world class art that happens in our city every single day!
Philly's arts scene has always been my muse--it's diverse, entertaining, inspiring and has a style unlike any city in the world! So come along and checkout all of the cultural attractions Philly has to offer - you definitely don't want to miss a moment!