Rain around the Rally

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It started raining right around 4 o’clock yesterday, rally time for those opposed to Mayor Street’s $4 million budget cuts targetted at Philadelphia arts organizations.

When I got to LOVE Park, site of the rally, at 4:25 the rain had stopped and there was a modest crowd (200 people maybe) listening to Arts Sanctuary students reading their poetry.

Art Sanctuary is the North Philadelphia arts organization started by writer Lorene Carey. ( image is the LOVE statue symbolically draped in black. Note the rain-slick plaza)

The Philadelphia Cultural Alliance crew, which had organized the rally — and indeed the entire grass roots “stop the cuts” campaign — was mopping up tables, drying out some wet postcards and bumper stickers and carrying on. I loved the bumper sticker. (image above)

The Cultural Alliance is one professional group. They even had a media table with press kits. And their staffers walked among the crowd handing out blue postcards which people filled out on the spot and handed back to them to be sent to the Mayor.

The walkway outside the Philadelphia Tourism building at 16th and JFK Blvd., which makes a perfect dais for speakers, was full of folks waiting for their turn. Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum was there. Her institution may lose $2.25 million if the mayor’s cuts get approved.

University of the Arts President Miguel Angel Corzo, who gave a wonderful speech saying everything you might want an arts advocate to say (like you think it’s only sports that brings people to Philadelphia? How about the orchestra, the museums, Old City galleries, the dance troupes and the art schools!) (image shows D’Harnancourt shaking hands with an Art Sanctuary student who had just read a poem. The man in the white baseball hat is Corzo.)

Homemade signs abounded, many of them handed out by Cultural Alliance folks to people who said they’d hold one. Artists Joy Feasley and Paul Swenbeck brought their own signs, which had a nice, Venturi-Scott Brown no nonsense quality. (image of Feasley, Swenbeck and a friend)

Several puppets loomed above the crowd. I thought this orange and blue one was a beauty. (image below) Brian Wallace, Curator at the Galleries at Moore College of Art and Design told me he thought the puppet was made by Moore student Michelle Posado.

Lots of students showed up. Moore College had a contingent carrying school banners. In addition, artists, administrators, educators and curators were all over the place, including many from the Art museum.

I saw familiar faces, like Ashley Peel and Jacqueline van Rhyn from the Print Center, Thora Jacobson and Warren Angle of Fleisher Art Memorial.

Artists Jennie Shanker, Candy Depew, Janet Samuel, Nancy Lewis, Kate Abercrombie, Kent Latimer, Olivia Schreiner, Sarah McEneaney, Randy Dalton, Leslie Kaufman and Doris Nogiera Rogers were there.

Nick Stuccio of the Fringe Festival was there. Matthew “Mattyboy” Hart of Spiral Q Puppet Theater was there. (pictured are McEneaney and Hart holding a banner)

PMA Photography Curator Kate Ware was there, as were PMA staffers Bay Hallowell, Janet Cooke and Rebecca Hoenig of the Education Department. (pictured below are Hallowell and Cooke with a rally supporter)

Molly Dougherty, Director of Galleries at Moore and Sean Stoops of Asian Arts Initiative were in attendance.

Councilman Michael Nutter came in near the end with a great short speech that began: “I work in a little building across the street (meaning City Hall)…and I never saw a rally I didn’t want to be in.” Then segued quickly into: “I have no artistic ability but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about art.” And ended with the fact that his daughter wore the “art” pants in the family. According to today’s newspaper, “a final budget is due by the end of the month,” which means you still have some time to send in a postcard or pick up the phone if you haven’t done so.

Five break dancers from Olive Dance company (pictured is one Olive dancer) took turns spinning and hopping on their hands, each one with his own style and twists. What a gang. They were so happy with the crowd’s response they did a couple of encores. More about Olive here including a quick time movie of them performing at the Kennedy Center.

Kulu Mele dancers in blue (left) danced an African dance barefoot on the wet pavement, using drums to create a mesmerizing beat. This group, affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Folklore Project is amazing. (read about them here at the project’s website which also has a quick time movie of them performing)

Art Sanctuary with younger dancers dressed in gold were accompanied by a shamen figure (image right) who mingled among them. Their moves echoed some of the previous troupe’s dance steps. They also were very good.

The event ended when staffers lifted the shroud from the LOVE statue and everybody cheered. Someone from the platform started the chant “Don’t cut culture” and that seemed a bit weak but people barked it out with vigor so what do I know.

My First Friday trek began after that as Bay and I hit the trail to Vox Populi, Gallery Joe and the new outlier in Northern Liberties Media Bureau Networks. More on that tomorrow.

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