Midweek News Podcast, University of the Arts, Forman Arts Initiative, play readings and more

Ryan reports from his trip out west. He's been to Colorado, and is now in New Mexico and on his way to Moab, Utah. Roberta appreciates the travelog! And then they turn to Philadelphia's good news/bad news and talk about Forman Arts Initiative's new campus in North Philly and the disaster of University of the Arts's closing. The talk gets a little philosophical and at the end they turn to what else is going on in Philly and Ryan talks about a play reading by Strides Collective, a queer play producing group. Enjoy the talk and come back next week when Ryan will report from Devil's Tower, WY.

In this exciting episode of the Midweek News, Ryan reports from his trip out west. He’s been to Colorado, and is now in New Mexico and on his way to Moab, Utah. Roberta appreciates the travelog! And then they turn to Philadelphia’s good news/bad news and talk about Forman Arts Initiative’s new campus in North Philly and the disaster of University of the Arts’s closing. The talk gets a little philosophical and at the end they turn to what else is going on in Philly and Ryan talks about a play reading by Strides Collective, a queer play producing group. Enjoy the talk and come back next week when Ryan will report from Devil’s Tower, WY.


Roberta: Hi, it’s Roberta. 

Ryan: And this is Ryan and this is the Midweek News 

Roberta: on Artblog Radio. Ryan, good morning. First off, where are you? 

Ryan: Good morning. I’m in Farmington, New Mexico. 

Roberta: New Mexico. 

Ryan: Yeah. 

Roberta: Is that anywhere near Santa Fe? 

Ryan: No, not terribly close to Santa Fe. It’s a strange town. We’re just kind of meeting my mother here on our way to Moab. We’re going to spend a short time in Moab since Moab at this time of year is triple digits. 

Roberta: Oh, no. 

Ryan: So it’s not an ideal time to see it. So we’re going to spend an abbreviated time there, but it should be a lot of fun. I picked up my kids from a really fun high desert nature camp in Western Colorado, and that was in a town called Paonia, which is beautiful. And then we took a course south along the Million Dollar Highway, which was rather breathtaking. 

Roberta: Wow. 

Ryan: Literally and figuratively and visually stunning. Yeah. It was in the mountains, quite something else. 

Roberta: Rocky Mountains.

Ryan: The Rocky Mountains were just fantastic. 

Roberta: Mm-Hmm. 

Ryan: It’s a section of the country that I hadn’t spent much time in. But it’s well worth it if you haven’t been. There’s a little town called RE that was just gorgeous. Lots of fun. So beautiful. 

Roberta: I’ve never heard all the way down. I’ve never heard of the Million Dollar Highway.

Ryan: Yeah. 550, I think it’s the number 550. 

Roberta: Okay. Everybody Highway 550. Yeah. 

Ryan: Yeah. It was beautiful. The passes were 11,000 feet, so breathing was a little bit more labored. 

Roberta: Wow. 

Ryan: Yeah. You definitely recognize you were higher elevation than usual because Denver’s a “Mile high city”. They say. 

Roberta: mm-Hmm.

Ryan: But then you keep climbing like, oh, wow, okay. I think it’s, it gets serious after that, so. Wow. Yeah. But so far it’s been, it’s been great. No ill effects at the elevation. When we were in the Andes, we had some ill effects, but so far, not so much.

Roberta: Wait, Andes as in Peru. 

Ryan: As in Peru. Yeah. Okay. We’ve done Machu Picchu in the Sacred Valley. So that one, that one had a different effect on us, but so far no ill effects. We’re, I think we’re, I forget the elevation of this city, but we’re, I think a little under a mile high, so, oh. 

Roberta: In Farmington, New Mexico, you mean Farmington? 

Ryan: Yeah. Still up high.

Roberta: All right. 

Ryan: Still up high. Yeah. Still high desert. Beyond the beauty of the mountains, the snow cap peaks were still here at the beginning of June. Is just the amount of water that was coming off of the peaks. There were waterfalls everywhere. There was water flowing off. Every little crevice on the rock, and the rivers are absolutely teeming full. Not beyond capacity, but certainly the, you know, seems to be the standard, normal seasonal effect of snow melt.

But all of the rivers feed into to the larger rivers, which feed into the Colorado, which feeds into 

Roberta: California. 

Ryan: Yeah, feeds Las Vegas feeds Phoenix, you know, feeds the vegetables that grow in Southern California. 

Roberta: Mm-Hmm mm-Hmm. 

Ryan: So it all comes from here. Quite impressive. 

Roberta: And where do you go next week?

Where, where are you going to be talking to me from next week? Let’s just do itinerary here for a minute. 

Ryan: Yeah. Where’s my next stop? So we’re heading up to Salt Lake and then around and then up through Wyoming. And that’ll be our turn back East. 

Roberta: Wow. Okay. Well, Salt Lake, we’re going to have to talk about the Great Salt Lake.

See if you see the Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty, that would be fun to talk about. Yeah. Okay. And Devil’s Tower, something to look forward to, everybody. Meanwhile back in Philadelphia, let’s talk about the news a little bit. Yes, let’s talk about it. Yeah. Oh my God, I just had to put it together, the good news and the bad news in yesterday’s news post.

And so let’s talk about them because it’s, it’s on everybody’s mind, especially the bad news. But I want to start with the good news. Isn’t that what we usually do? Yeah. Good news. Foreman Arts initiative is creating a campus on North American Street about eight blocks north of the Clay studio. They bought a bunch of buildings up there, I think two or three, and there’s Green space.

It abuts up on Pedro Ospina’s Open Kitchen, sculpture Garden. Mm-Hmm. And that brings me to a point that they emphasized over and over and over when I took a tour of the buildings. There was a media tour last week with Adjoa Jones de Almeida, the executive director, and Michael Foreman and Jennifer Rice, the two partners for Foreman Arts initiative.

They were all talking about community. It’s like they know they’re doing this thing, it’s gentrification. It’s coming into a neighborhood that has gone down a little bit. Or is a community that is being gentrified. And so they need to be very careful and they need to really work with the community and Adjoa kept saying, ‘people ask us, “what’s the plan here? What’s the plan? You have all these buildings.”‘ And she says, “our response is ‘we don’t know, We don’t know. We don’t know and that’s intentional. “we don’t know” because they haven’t had these meetings with the community yet, which they’re going to start right away with their partner Theatro Gates, who is well known, widely known and admired for what he’s done in Chicago to help the south side of Chicago come up around the arts. He’s created the Arts Bank and all these other things that have really helped spur growth in that community and make people feel identified with, with the community. And that’s what they’re going to be doing.

Working with the Theaster Gates. I hope they work with Pedro Ospina. Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden is a marvel of community practice. Mm-Hmm. And he could be very instrumental and helpful to them. So the buildings are amazing. One of them is an old PECO building, not a plant of some sort. It’s a big open space with all kinds of columns and large windows.

I don’t know what they did in that building, but it’s going to be a great art space. An open stairway. In the middle of the building, in the middle of the open space that you could just walk up to the second level, which is equally beautiful and has wonderful what do you call it, views of Center City from the second floor.

So that is a showpiece building. And it seems to me just looking at it to be in pretty good shape. Okay. I don’t know what it’s been over the last, I don’t know when it stopped being a, a pico place, but. And then there’s another building up the block that they call the foundry, because apparently it was, and you walk up the steps off American Street to a space that on your right as you’re walking in is a big pit.

There’s, you know, an open chasm. And apparently that’s where the foundry was down below. And the, I guess, the. Steel or whatever,Brass, bronze copper, whatever they were doing was in this pit below. So it’s really an interesting space.

So two buildings that have lots of promise for art to be shown, events to take place, community discussions, a little library, a little whatever it. Plus an outdoor space, I think it’s going to be good. And I felt like the talk about community was front and center. It was very earnest, very urgent. And they know they have their work cut out for them, but they want to do it.

And so I’m, I’m optimistic and very excited about this. Yeah. So that’s my report on the good news. So should we just, yeah, that’s great. Slide right into the bad news. 

Ryan: Well, I’m curious, did they have a timeframe when they were thinking about opening doors? Mm-Hmm. So obviously they’ll have lots of time for planning and programming and that kind of things, but as far as infrastructure and did they say? 

Roberta: They did.

And of course I don’t have my notes in front of me. I took copious notes, but who knows where they are right now, now that I should have had this in front of me? I do believe that a year from now they hope Yeah. To open the big PECO building. 

Ryan: Okay. 

Roberta: I think they said that. And that’s where. The staff will be housed.

They now have an executive director and two people that are also staff that will be headquartered there. So it’ll be, you know, in a year they’re going to have that done. And then after that they’re just, I don’t know what comes next. I do not remember. Sure. But I, it’s a multi-year plan. 

Ryan: Yeah. Yeah.

I thought it was multi-year as well. But I was curious if they had like. A date that they were really trying to aim for. Yeah. So I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be good. It’s an interesting area of the city. Mm-Hmm. A lot of art seems to be going in that direction. Obviously Crane has, has, you know, long been established in that area and played studios.

Yes. And several other places there, 

Roberta: Taller Puertorriqueño. Part of the media event that they did was held at Taller Puertorriqueño, which, if you know this part of North Philly, you’ll know that we were on North American and Susquehanna. Mm-Hmm. And if you just turn onto Susquehanna and go over to Fifth Street, which is a matter of two or three blocks and turn right, you’re at Taller Puertorriqueño. So it’s very close and I hope they partner up with Taller Puertorriqueño for many, many reasons. Taller Puertorriqueño is a wonderful community partner and has been doing arts, arts work in the community for, I don’t know, 50 years now.

Right? Since the seventies. Yeah. Yeah. So you’re right Ryan. There’s a lot going on there and this’ll be a good new thing. Yeah. Yeah. I hope so. I hope it’s a positive thing. Yes, me too. I mean, they’re talking about having artists residencies. In some of these spaces. So working spaces for artists, it sounds like that’s always welcome when there’s a good working space for artists. 

And exhibition space and whatever performance spaces. I think it’s a plus. It’s a definite plus. Interestingly enough, I thought this was curious that there was. Kuda people from the arts community were there, but there was no one from the city that I saw. I thought this was a big, major sort of economic development event.

And it was a surprise to me that I didn’t see anyone from the city. Maybe they were there, but I didn’t see them. Like the council person whose councilmanic district it is, or the mayor even. Yeah. It’s a big thing. Yeah. 

Ryan: Yeah. Well, I’m still not convinced the mayor’s all interested in that in art. 

Roberta: Oh my.

Ryan: Mural Arts and whatever. We’ll save that for next week. We’ll talk about that next week. Yes. 

Roberta: We’ll see how the news goes. to be continued, everybody. We’ll talk about that. Well, I want to say, say Val Gay. Val Gay was a real improvement. Yeah. In the Office of Arts and Culture, we’re very enamored of Val Gay and the hope that she brings.

Yes. So, yeah. But yes, Mural Arts, we’ll talk about that another time. Yes. Okay, so by now, if you live in Philadelphia and you are at all interested in the arts, you know that something terrible was announced on Friday and appeared in the Inquirer on Saturday which was some people’s, including mine first inkling that there was any problem, and that is the University of the Arts is closing on Friday, the 7th of June.

Yeah, they gave seven days notice, or I guess less than seven if you only saw it in the paper on Saturday. Yeah. According to people I’ve spoken with, there’s been no communication with the staff or faculty or students since the first notice went out announcing the closing and promising some town halls.

Yesterday they had a town hall webinar that they set up that I registered for. You had to register for it, and it was to be at four o’clock in the afternoon to answer questions, just to be there. They canceled it at 10 minutes to four abruptly. Yeah. With sort of, we’re sorry we can’t answer your questions right now, but we set up a Google form.

Please go and put your questions in the Google form so that we can address them. And so yeah, really, really, you want us to do the work for you? No, this is not good. 

Ryan: Yeah, it’s not good. 

Roberta: On the good side of things, Tyler School of Art, Moore College of Art and Design and Drexel University have all come forth with their welcome social media.

Okay. Notices saying, please come. We are, we’re eager to work with you. We’ll make it work, whatever you want. Yeah. And there are students that, you know, are high school students that were going to go to University of the Arts and yeah, they’re now in big trouble. Yeah. So there’s so many bad things apparently, and it’s not been announced.

The real problem. It’s been alluded to that there was some dire financial circumstances in this morning’s newspaper in the Inquirer. One of the trustees, Lori Wagman, was quoted as saying, if they had $40 million, they could make it. Dot, dot, dot. But apparently there’s not $40 million.

Well, we also know that they are in, they need $45 million. Maybe it’s $40 million. They have bond debt, so they need to pay that off. There was also something about an endowment, which was $10 million less instead of going up than in 2017 when they did a major capital campaign to boost the endowment and how maybe not all the money pledged came into the endowment.

Maybe they’ve had to spend off their endowment. That’s a no-no. Yeah. So, I don’t know. It’s hard to be optimistic at this point. There’s a lot of people’s lives that are at stake. Some 700 faculty, right? Some 1200 students. Yeah. Staff. You know, the union, I believe, just got its first contract not so long ago, and now they are fundraising.

They have a GoFundMe page set up, which we can put a link into their GoFundMe page if you want to support their dislocation fund. I believe they’re calling it. Man, something like that. Dissociation fund. I, it’s one of those dis words because their members are faculty and staff, I believe. Yeah.

And maybe graduate students. I don’t know. So there’s not a whole lot that we can do except talk about it and speculate at this point, which is where the rumor mill happens. And it does. People, people come up with. Kind of scenarios and then they embrace them and believe them, and it may not be the truth at all.

So we need some facts. University of the Arts, please. Yeah. Before Friday. 

Ryan: Yeah, they’ve kept it pretty quiet. This is, this AUP change. It’s just not good for anyone. 

Roberta: No, it isn’t like they saw it coming.

Ryan: They should have announced it well in advance. They should have taken on a new group of students for the fall and told them to get excited. 

Roberta: Exactly. 

Ryan: That’s pretty terrible. 

Roberta: But we, I am taking some heart from Tyler Moore and Drexel University stepping up and saying that they would accept students. They’re happy to accept them. They have welcomed them, and I hope they do that with the incoming class too. The high school students.

That’s the future of the arts, you know? Yeah. We gotta keep ’em here so. Yeah, for sure. 

Ryan: Really important. 

Roberta: And then I was reading a, a, a story, I can’t remember where about quoting some higher ed experts who had experience and data from other schools that closed. Nobody closes this abruptly, but if you remember back to the Art institutes. Remember that the for-profit schools, the Art Institute, there was one in Philadelphia and there were bunches of them all over the place. Well, there’s some shocking statistics about how those students never re-enroll in some other place and finish their degrees. They just sort of drop out. They’re, they’re left with all this debt.

Yeah. They’re demoralized because. It’s institutional failure, and if you think about what these colleges are, they’re in local parentis is what it used to be called. Maybe they don’t call it or think about it. Like that anymore. But when I was in college a million years ago you were a young person, 18 years old, even less than that, some kids.

And your college was your in local parentis. They had a student health service, they had guidance counselors. They had this and that. These kids need that. Mm-Hmm. And you take that away, your institution fails and you’re failing those, those human beings. Yeah. It’s very sad. Anyway, there’s a lot of kids that are going to be unable to cope with this in a real way.

I hope not. It could be a life changing thing for someone and not in a good way. Yeah. Especially if you’re in the middle of it. I think those starting out could still find some options, but yeah, transitioning is tough. Especially with no notice. I mean, it’s, yeah, 

Ryan: It’s the 4th of June. Yes. So, so yeah. If I could transition, yes.

Roberta: Let’s get out of the pits here and go somewhere else. 

Ryan: PVLA, our friends at PVLA are still going forward with their show, which is happening at 

Roberta: Tomorrow night. I was wondering tomorrow about that. Tomorrow. Mm-Hmm. 

Ryan: Yeah. So the last message I heard was that the June 5th event is still happening. I really hope it goes through.

Man, I mean, it’s all the people are ancillary connected to. They and everything else is connected to them. So that’s June 5th 6-8pm if you haven’t heard about that, it is Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts 

Roberta: Who do great work. Great work. Great work. Yeah. We’ve been on the receiving end of some of their wonderful work, so we’re very happy to support them with their event. 

Ryan: Well, I’ll continue then. 

Roberta: Yeah, right. 

Ryan: This weekend also is the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show. I know a lot of people like going out there. There’s also a lot of food and vendors of other kinds as well. The weather stays nice. Then should be a really fun time. That’s the entire weekend, June 7th through the ninth. 

Roberta: I like those. There’s a lot, those summer art fairs they can be a lot of fun. I used to participate in them back a million years ago. A couple of them. Yeah. And do portraits of people and stuff like that.

And it was just real. Yeah. It’s a different way of doing an art thing. Feels real. 

Ryan: We’ve always enjoyed it too, especially when the weather’s nice too. It’s just a beautiful square and it’s nice to hang out. 

Roberta: Mm-Hmm. 

Ryan: Speaking of that as well, inLiquid’s, art for cash, poor is the eighth. So that’s coming up.

So they mark that on your calendar, if that’s for you. That’s been going on for many years. That will go on again. They usually do a rain date if that comes up. So keep, keep in the loop for that. They’re not calling it right now. And then my theater push for the week is, it’s a queer group of playwrights, part of Stride Collective.

They’re doing New Strides and they’re going to be doing a reading, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a reading. I find them really intimate and fun. There’s, it is just a casual event. It’s one, they’re often just one off events. People are still acting, but it’s just impromptu and Ponte, you know, all the spontaneity of it.

So it’s going to be three playwrights doing one act shows, and that’ll be at the Maas building. That’s 1325 North Randolph. That’s on the 10th of June. That’s at 7:30pm. That event and all the other events are listed on Take a look at what else is happening. Lots of good things.

I’m always surprised, usually the summertime slows down, but even today I think there were six new ones that were posted. So that’s always really, it’s really great. I’m really excited about it. There’s interesting artist talks coming up next week. I’ll put those on my list. And we’ll have time to talk about those.

But yeah, take a look at what’s going on. There’s some art events this weekend and some play rings coming up that are worth seeing. 

Roberta: Cool. Cool. I would like to go to a play reading. You made that sound really good. I like intimate and I am envisioning it as people sitting in chairs, maybe in front of a table with the script open in front of them.

And does one person read, like each playwright would read the entire play, all the characters, or how does that work? 

Ryan: If it’s a company, usually the company will have their actors pick a part and they’ll do probably a couple rehearsals, but they’re a lot of times they’ll come up and they’ll just lay the script out and they’ll just read from it. But act and, you know, there’s no set, there’s no lighting. It’s very casual. But it’s a lot of fun. It’s very intimate. It feels much closer to like a Saturday Night Live skit where anything could just, it’s a live production. Like anything could happen.

That’s the beauty of theater. Anything could happen. It’s not Mm-Hmm. Even though it’s been rehearsed and scripted. Mm-Hmm. You know what happens? Happens. True. Yeah. So I’ve seen a few there. There’s a few that happened, like at the Drake. There’s a few that I’ve seen at the library. The library puts on play readings.

Roberta: No kidding. The central branch. Yeah. 

Ryan: Central branch, yeah. On the parkway. 

Roberta: Cool. Yeah. Our library is very arty. I love our library. It’s just so arty. 

Ryan: They do, they do some great programming. 

Roberta: So I just wanna say that you’ve all heard of chair yoga, right? 

Ryan: Yeah. 

Roberta: So is play reading, chair, acting? 

Ryan: Well, they’re standing.

Oh, they’re standing. 

Roberta: Okay. That’s different than normally.

Ryan: Yeah. When you have preview nights, you know, you have an envisioning of what this is supposed to look like. It’s once you get the show open, you, it is a culmination of all these weeks of effort and casting and the costuming and the scenery and delights and the sound.

And this is, this is much more like if you were just having a, a, a fun night with friends and you’re just kind of, playing games. It’s much more like a game night with friends. 

Roberta: Sounds like fun. 

Ryan: It is fun. It could be a regular thing for people. It’s light, it’s easy, it’s carefree, it’s fun. It’s silly. You still get to see some interesting things. People get to try different theatrical devices that may not make it into the final thing, but you get to see them out upfront and, and respond to them, and they take your feedback. It’s really interesting. 

Roberta: Hmm. Cool. Yeah. Very cool. Well that’s, I like that. Let’s go out on that note, Ryan. Sounds good. It’s very upbeat and I will have to go to a chair reading, or, well, I’m going to call it that now, but, yeah, reading. You get to sit. You get to sit. Yes. I’ll sit. Okay. Alright. That’s about it folks. We’ll see you next week. Ryan will be here from around Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.

We’re looking forward to hearing about the Great Salt Lake, et cetera. And stay cool. See you next week. This is Roberta. 

Ryan: And this is Ryan. Thanks for listening, everyone. We’ll see you next week. 

Roberta: Bye 

Ryan: Bye.