Continuing a recent tradition in Philadelphia arts, Hidden City, the month-long arts festival, will open up nine historically-significant yet underappreciated buildings this June for use as backdrops for performance and visual arts. (Eastern State Penitentiary, a ruin once on the brink of extinction, is the first such endangered and underused building we remember housing art projects–for the very successful Prison Sentences exhibit in 1995)
The magnificent hidden wreck on North Broad Street, the Metropolitan Opera House, is one venue for Hidden City, and we got in there last week for the press conference announcing the full extent of the festival’s schedule.
Brisk it was inside the hundred-year old building where two string players in overcoats bowed classical music and the ceiling looked like it might start precipitating plaster at any moment. In the lobby, popcorn was available, and it occurred to us that all press conferences would be made better by the addition of popcorn. Group Motion performed a short dance for us. They were below us on concrete rows that must have included seats at one time (now they are bleacher-like). Our site lines from above sitting on folding chairs were not good so we are hoping they can do something about that. We could have seen fine if the dancers had been on the stage and we think maybe that will happen for the real performances.
Hidden City is part of Peregrine Arts and funded by PEI and others. From May 30-June 28, the festival will bring visual art, performance, dance and music to the Met and other locales. The artists involved are well-known locals like dancer and choreographer Leah Stein and visual artists Steven Earl Weber and Carolyn Healy and John Phillips and national and internationally renowned artists like Sanford BIggers, Stan Douglas, Alexandra Mir and Inigo Manglano-Ovalle.
The productions are affordably-priced ($10-20 a ticket) and all the work is new — commissioned for the site and for the festival. Thaddeus Squires, Peregrine Director who spoke at the press conference, said the festival is about “rediscovering Philadelphia” and we can get behind that. There’s much to discover as well as rediscover.
Tickets for performances are available on the Hidden City website and a nice interactive map shows the locations of all sites with windows opening onto pages with lots more information. We are very interested in getting in to the Disston Saw Works both because of its history creating the Tacony section of the city but also to see what the hardware, lighting and sound specialists Healy and Phillips will do there. And we are mighty intrigued by Alexandra Mir’s project with the Philadelphia Inquirer — focused on women — which includes printing the artist’s project in the daily newspaper.