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What's next for the Philadelphia School District?

Last Tuesday, the latest Exchange PHL Breakfast Series drew a crowd of over forty people for a special conversation on the future of the School District of Philadelphia.

Hosted by the nonprofit-centric co-working space, these morning meetups bring a dynamic group to the Friends Center on Cheery Street. On June 21, attendees represented a wide range of organizations eager to hear Fund for the School District of Philadelphia President and CEO Donna Frisby-Greenwood discuss "Engaging with the School District of Philadelphia.”

Those organizations included People’s Emergency Center, Philly Fellows, Women of Tomorrow, the Fleischer Art Memorial, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, the William Penn Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services, and many more.

Frisby-Greenwood provided a snapshot of the District and its challenges: It serves a total of 135,000 children (not including the 50,000 students who attend charter schools), 39 percent of whom live below the poverty line. It encompasses 149 elementary schools, and 69 middle and high schools. During the 2014-2015 school year, PSSA performance at District schools reached a proficient or advanced level in 37 percent of schools for science, 32 percent for English, and just 17 percent for math.

So what is the District doing to better harness resources for its students?

The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia is a reactivation of the former Philadelphia Children First Fund. Upon assuming his role as superintendent, Dr. William Hite "wanted a more robust fund," explained Frisby-Greenwood. Under its new name, this arm of the School District went from being a passive "fiscal agent" for dollars already arriving at the School District to a much more active development force as well as a way to "identify and coordinate partnerships on behalf of the District."

One major funding goal supports the District’s ongoing efforts to make sure every child is reading at grade level by fourth grade. (Last year, we took a closer look at this initiative for teacher coaching and new classroom libraries, funded in part by grants from the William Penn and Lenfest foundations.)

Other initiatives on deck include the continued roll-out of sustainability and recycling goals within the School District’s GreenFutures program (here’s our piece from earlier this year), and a push to get automatic electric defibrillators into every elementary school, which, unlike middle and high schools, often lack the life-saving devices.

The organization also aims to create a database of Philadelphia School District alumni; develop a comprehensive listing and map of private, nonprofit, and corporate partners for individual city schools; and improve outreach to garner more school partners, especially in schools which currently lack this community investment.

"I’ll remind everyone we’re just a year in as a team," said Frisby-Greenwood of the revamped Fund and its staff -- she envisions good things ahead for the District.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Donna Frisby-Greenwood, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia 

Flying Kite is the media partner for the Exchange PHL's Breakfast Series.

Flying Kite is #OnTheGround in Kingsessing!

Flying Kite has been searching for an #OnTheGround home in Kingsessing, and we’re happy to announce that we've landed at the nonprofit African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA) near 55th Street and Chester Avenue.

Founded in 1999 by a group of African immigrants, ACANA worked to support African and Caribbean artists and musicians in their efforts to integrate into the U.S., while preserving their community and cultural values.

Over the last 15 years, that mission has expanded as the organization's target population of immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers grew, particularly in ACANA’s Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood. The nonprofit began offering a wide range of social services, including ESL (English as a second language) and literacy classes, youth and after-school programs, a food bank, healthcare-related services, and more.

ACANA Wellness Coalition Coordinator Marjorie Anderson says people often don’t realize the breadth of ACANA’s programs or the fact that they’re available to everyone.

"[ACANA] is open to serving the entire Southwest Philadelphia community, and African and Caribbean people no matter where they were born," explains Anderson. "I think that’s something folks don’t know. It’s a resource that’s for the entire community."

For those who want to get to know ACANA better, the organization's youth activities arm is hosting a day-long youth arts showcase on July 9 out of its Chester Avenue space. The event will feature food, art and talks from the kids about what they learned in the programs. And on Sunday, August 7 from 2 - 8 p.m., the ACANA African Festival will take over Penn’s Landing.

Anderson is excited about partnering with On the Ground because of the opportunity to expand ACANA’s relevance to the entire neighborhood.

"I think a lot of organizations are familiar with ACANA [and executive director Voffee Jabateh]," she continues, but she hopes the residency will help "organizations as well as individuals in the community know that there’s a social service resource for the entire community."

Come say hello during our On the Ground hours at ACANA: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through August.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Marjorie Anderson, African Cultural Alliance of North America


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Intergalactic Geographic Retrospective lands at the Science (fiction!) Center

Alien lifeforms. Time machines. Comic books.
 
It's not the usual University City Science Center material, but the Center's Esther Klein Gallery is greeting summer with a lighthearted, farcical exhibition that spans 3,000 years and promises to "offer some answers to those who are willing to suspend reality and take a trip into the future."
 
Angela McQuillan, the gallery curator, agrees that the show is "more imaginative and fun. There's not a lot of real science going on."
 
The sci-fi and comic book-inspired exhibition features the work of Philadelphia artist Pat Aulisio and New York artist Josh Burggraf. The two have created a multi-media exhibition that incorporates sculpture, video and a special-edition printed copy of the "scientific journal" Intergalactic Geographic, which will be available for sale. The farcical publication features work by "the future's galactic journalists, photographers, holographers, dark mirror reporters and primetime superstars."
 
A fan and hobbyist in Philly's comic book scene, McQuillan was very familiar with the collaborators. Aulisio is a local artist and educator primarily focused on comics featuring hobbies such as amateur time travel. Burggraf works as a commercial animator and storyboard artist, and is editor of the Astro Plus Press where he constructs alternate personal universes on paper, the web and on screen.

According to McQuillan, comic books and science fiction "can be a portal to real science." And she has another motive in mounting the show: "Philadelphia has a big scene of people who make comic books and self-published art books. I wanted to draw attention to that scene and bring it to the Science Center."
 
Intergalactic Geographic Retrospective launches Thursday with an opening reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at 3600 Market Street. It closes Saturday, July 30 with a closing reception from 5 to 8 p.m. at Innovation Plaza, the Center's pocket park located on 37th Street between Market and Chestnut streets.

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Empowered CDC expands community-driven change in Southwest Philly

Regina Young never set out to found a community development corporation. A New Haven, Conn., native who now lives and works in Southwest Philadelphia, she had a career in teaching and social work before going back to school for her masters in community development.

She says her inspiration for the CDC simply came from living in the neighborhood and interacting with friends and family there. In 2014, she launched Empowered Community Development Corporation out of Meyers Recreation Center at 58th Street and Kingsessing Avenue, not far from Flying Kite’s new On the Ground digs.  

Southwest CDC has been operating in the neighborhood for decades, but Young still saw a need for her group.

"The geographic area of Southwest is so large," she says. "It’s just pretty evident that one organization cannot possibly effectively handle all of the community in this particular area."

Young sees Empowered CDC as part of a local matrix that will see success in cooperation.

"This has to be a collaborative approach," she explains. "There’s not anything that can be done that’s sustainable if we’re an island. We have to deal with other organizations; we have to really get the community reinvested in beautifying and building and transforming the Southwest area."

Currently, Empowered holds some programs out of Myers, but because of needed building repairs there, the organization has moved its offices temporarily to nearby Tilden Middle School.

Their health and wellness program is the one Young is most excited about: A recent community garden initiative in a former vacant lot has spurred beautification, education, healthy food access, safe space for seniors and youth, and community cohesion. Empowered obtained a lease for three lots on the 2000 block of Cecil Street, and in the course of a year, formed a community garden club and installed benches and garden beds for flowers, fruits and veggies. This summer, the CDC is launching new educational programs around the garden for youth, seniors and everyone in between.  

"I charged the community with really leading the design of what this parcel of land looks like," says Young.

And the transformation there is spreading.

"It started with the garden," she explains, but now locals are saying, "if we can do this with a parcel of land, what can we do with our own block?" It’s lead to new painting, more street cleaning, a movement to get planters installed, and "really being a more cohesive block. That’s what Empowered is all about."

The organization is still new, but Young has high hopes for building and utilizing the skills of community members.

"Our biggest asset as an organization, being very new, is simply human capital: understanding how relationships matter, how communities have a voice," she says. "That’s what really propels us as an organization."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Regina Young, Empowered CDC


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Pennovation Center wants to get inventors into the garage

Last week, we looked at what Pennovation Works Director of Development Paul Sehnert calls "a real differentiator" for the new campus’s flagship building: wet labs for small local start-ups.

But the wet labs aren’t the only assets that might catch the eye of Philly entrepreneurs in need of space. The ground floor of the Pennovation Center (slated to open later this summer on the banks of the Schuylkill) features twelve units the designers have dubbed "inventor garages," and they're available for lease.

These 500-square-foot spaces are pretty simple: they’re finished and painted on the inside, and have a small complement of moveable (or removable) desks and chairs that can accommodate three or four people.

"They’re super-cool," explains Sehnert. "They actually have a garage-style door opening onto a small plaza, and a glass and wood door on the inside. It’s a fun and useful feature, but it’s about more than just function. We all know that Apple and Hewlett Packard started in a garage. That’s why we called [them] 'inventor garages.'"

Companies who lease the spaces (as of mid-June, seven were spoken for, with five still available) will also be part of the larger community at the Pennovation Center and be entitled to six hours of meeting space outside the garage each month.

But "you’ve got your own clubhouse," Sehnert continues. "You retreat to your garage and on a pleasant day, you can open the garage door and get daylight. You can actually use the garage door if you have equipment that you load or have materials that you’re moving in and out.”

Uses for the garages might include a combo of storage and work space, light duty fabrication, space for programmers or coders to get working, or simply a welcoming, utilitarian spot for folks who need to roll in a whiteboard and brainstorm.

And as with the wet labs, the inventor garages are designed as a launch pad -- not a permanent home -- for the companies who land there (some of whom may progress into larger lab space Pennovation is developing). The garages will have lease terms of one year, though this is negotiable.

“We want you to start your company and then graduate," insists Sehnert. "We want you to face the world and move on."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Paul Sehnert, Pennovation Works

Sick pet? The One Health Company sends clinical trials to the dogs

The One Health Company is sending clinical trials to the dogs. And cats. And horses.

The startup, a participant in the University City Science Center Digital Health Accelerator, offers a new model of contract research by conducting pre-clinical trials on already ill patients: aka peoples' pets.

The science behind the idea is strong, says founder and CEO Benjamin Lewis. Disease induced in lab animals is often a poor proxy for natural human disease. Currently, 92 percent of animal cancer trials fail in people.

But pets, many of them genetically similar to humans -- and who typically share our environment -- are ideal proxies for 350 natural human diseases. Lhasa Apsos and male cats develop bladder stones. Poodles are frequently afflicted by cataracts. Golden Retrievers get Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Horses suffer from osteoarthritis.

The approach, says Lewis, is also far more humane that inducing disease in lab animals.

"We have so many sick animals," he says. "Why create more so we can kill them and study them?"

One Health operates out of 350 specialty animal hospitals across the United States. Founded only this year, it already has 450,000 animals in its database and expects to have millions by the end of the year.

The company is currently conducting two trials. Details are proprietary, but their testing is mostly in cancer and endocrine diseases. One Health will test only for efficacy of pharmaceuticals, biologics, injectables, large molecules, medical devices and diagnostics. Testing for toxicology or safety is far too risky for client-owned pets.

Animals enrolled in One Health clinical trials remain with their owners and stay at home for care, returning to the hospital for evaluation by veterinary specialists, rather than being shipped to a lab or a longterm veterinary clinic. At the conclusion of the study, the hope is that the animal is cured or its symptoms ameliorated.

"I’m not asking anyone to do anything I haven’t done with my own pet," adds Lewis. One of his three rescue dogs -- Lulo, a Doberman -- participated in an osteosarcoma trial three years ago. Lulo lost a leg, but is going strong three years later. The prognosis is usually just three months.
 
WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

This summer, the Pennovation Center opens sought-after wet lab space for small startups

For a small startup ready to research or develop chemical or biological innovations, finding lab space can be a challenge. Dry labs, which host technological or computer studies, or studies in fields like psychology, aren’t hard to outfit and rent. But wet labs -- featuring the equipment and safety measures needed to work with chemical and biological materials -- are another story.

This summer, labs at the soon-to-open Pennovation Center will help to change that for a select group of local companies.

About a year and a half ago, we covered the groundbreaking at University of Pennsylvania’s new 23-acre Pennovations Works campus on the south bank of the Schuylkill River: the three-story, 58,000-square-foot Pennovation Center at 34th Street and Gray’s Ferry Avenue will be the centerpiece.

The Center is slated to open this August. Its second floor will feature wet lab space available for lease to local startups.

"Wet labs are pretty unusual commodities" for this market, explains Paul Sehnert, director of development for Pennovation Works. "They’re usually built on a customized basis for companies under a long-term lease… If you're a startup company, it’s really a top dilemma. You need a space to work out of, but you can’t sign a lease and find a lab without making a long-term [financial] commitment."

The Pennovation Center hopes to remedy this with a 32-person lab available for customized leases (some as short as six months) for startups and inventors. These will come with all the typical wet lab gear: benches with view hoods, glass wash and sterilization centers, centrifuges, microscopy, and cell tissue culture and bioinstrumentation suites, in addition to safety measures like security systems, emergency eye wash and air change stations.

Senhert says the initial demand for the space is "robust" -- Penn is working now to "curate" which companies will be the best fit.

"Given that these are young companies, the more you can provide…this kind of sharing of basic services, that keeps the price more affordable and the [rental] terms shorter," says Anne Papageorge, Pennovation vice president of facilities and real estate development.

The Center will also provide programming, networking and training opportunities as a part of the package. This summer, they’re working on negotiating and executing license agreements for participating companies; the labs will be ready for occupancy in August.

The site offers two other lab spaces, adds Papageorge: a dry lab, and a currently empty lab building that Pennovation Works is holding with the intention of letting qualifying companies continue their work onsite in the future with a more customized, longer-term lease. The team hopes that as interest in the Center grows along with its companies, startups could "graduate" out of the shorter-term labs and into larger space. 

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Paul Sehnert and Anne Papageorge, Pennovation Works

 

What's on tap at The Oval for summer 2016?

For the fourth straight year, Eakins Oval will become The Oval, bringing a little summer fun to the Parkway. Running July 15 through August 21, this year's installation will also feature special events related to the Democratic National Convention.

"It’s a wonderful time in Philly," says Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. "We’re having this renaissance of things to do outside in the summer. It’s really becoming something [Philly is] known for."

The eight acres of the Oval feature lots of lawn, shady trees and a new 25,000-square-foot ground mural from the Mural Arts Program (Ott Lovell says the artist will be announced soon). The beer garden is also returning, and will have Sunday hours for the first time. A rotating food truck line-up will be on hand offering plenty of dining options. Last year’s popular themed days are returning, too, with Wellness Wednesdays, Arts & Culture Thursdays, Food & Flicks Fridays, Game Day on Saturdays, and Family Fun Sundays. (Click here for the full line-up.)

The annual pop-up park is a partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philly Parks & Rec, with support from PNC Bank, Warby Parker and Park Towne Place.

The site will host a wide range of summer programming, including games, live music, movie nights, workshops, performances and Saturday Quizzo. Offerings in honor of the DNC (July 24-29) will include special beer garden hours -- Sunday, July 24 from noon to 5 p.m. and July 25 - 29 from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. (featuring Ales of the Revolution from Yards Brewing) -- and an "All-Presidents" Political Quizzo night, 7 p.m. July 25 with Johnny Goodtimes.

Ott Lovell says the park attracts a diverse mix of people from across the city, as well as plenty of travelers.

"I was stunned at how many tourists came through," she recalls. "They’re not from here, so they don’t know the Oval as anything but this beautiful park. They don’t realize that in December it’s actually a giant parking lot."

Over the last few years, Oval participants have pushed for expanding the park’s dates of operation, but it stays the same year to year due to the Welcome America and Made in America festivals.

That doesn’t mean Parks & Rec doesn’t have its eye on how to utilize the space year-round.

"I think longterm we need to start thinking about the future of the Oval," adds Ott Lovell. "Do we continue to pop it up every year [or] do we continue to think about longer-term investment? What’s a more permanent way that we can activate the Oval year-round?"

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation


Telesis Therapeutics takes the long view on drug development

In Greek, "telesis" means "planned progress." Or as Maurice Hampton puts it, "'progress consciously planned and produced through intelligently directed effort.' Which characterizes how we get our work done at Telesis Therapeutics." 

Hampton is founder of the startup which is based at the University City Science Center's Port Incubator. The early-stage life sciences company is working to develop and license its first acquisition, "TTL-315," a promising cancer drug discovered at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research.

"What I figured out is that molecules don't start out in [clinical trials.]," says Hampton. "They start out in the lab."

But the journey from lab to saving lives is a long, risky and expensive one. Telesis' role, he explains, is to identify, develop, de-risk and ultimately license the drug to a big pharmaceutical company that will conduct later-stage clinical trials, obtain FDA approval, take the medicine to market, and into the hands of patients in need. It's a process that takes years and millions of dollars, accelerated and made less risky by the work of the team at Telesis.

TTL-315 was developed to treat solid tumors such as pancreatic and triple negative breast cancers.

"Telesis Therapeutics preclinical, bench and animal, data for TTL-315 was published this past February 2016 in Oncotarget, a peer-reviewed medical journal focused on oncology," explains Hampton. "Preclinical efficacy results were positive: It worked! Preclinical toxicology reports were also positive -- a good sign -- and bode well for TTL-315's safety profile, a critical consideration in drug development."

The young company is pursuing a National Cancer Institute SBIR grant application and planning outreach to big pharma companies and other local funding sources to secure the necessary dollars to continue the preclinical research program. 

Hampton is ideally suited to the task: A serial entrepreneur, he has an MS and MBA, two years of medical school and years of international and domestic experience working at big pharma on blockbuster drugs including Prilosec  and the biologic Enbrel.

The lifesaving potential of TTL-315 is huge. The drug is initially aimed at pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.  Eventually it could treat triple negative breast cancer,  lung and liver cancers. The potential payoff also could be huge. Current forecasts for the drug, at the time of launch, are estimated to be under $100 million in year one, growing to over $2 billion by the sixth year.

With the drug still in its infancy, Hampton takes the long view.

"At Telesis Therapeutics, we realize that this is not a sprint, it is an endurance run," he insists.

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Knight Cities Challenge funds the development of 20 new Philly cooperatives

"There are many different expressions of cooperation and mutual aid in Philadelphia, among very diverse groups of people," explains Caitlin Quigley of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA). Now, thanks to a $146,000 award from the national Knight Cities Challenge (check out our peek at the four Philly winners here), the organization hopes to expand interest in co-ops citywide.

PACA’s Knight-funded 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses initiative aims to gather learning groups of six to 12 people from a variety of Philly neighborhoods. The organization will help guide the book clubs through a tailored process to master the building blocks of building a cooperatively-run business of any type, based on the community’s interests and needs.

So what exactly is a "co-op"?

A cooperative grocery store (like Philly’s Weavers Way or Mariposa), for example, "is a business you own with your neighbors," explains Quigley. "You make decisions about the products that are on the shelves, how the co-op should treat its workers; how the co-op should decide how to be in the community.”

The latter includes things like representation at events, education and outreach, and making donations.

"You and your fellow co-owners can decide how you want that business to serve you," she adds.

And while grocery stores might be the most prominent local example, PACA is a consortium of all kinds of co-ops across many industries. These range from banks to housing to community gardens, green space, or land trusts, or child-care or artist co-ops.

The 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses project, operating on a year-long grant cycle from April 2016 to April 2017, will continue outreach this summer, with the goal of organizing project participants by September. Each group will meet twice a month for six months, with guidance from PACA staffers and volunteers, and a comprehensive curriculum of suggested learning materials, from books and comics to field trips and podcasts.

Author Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, whose book Collective Courage is a major inspiration for the project, is collaborating with PACA on the study guide.

In March of next year, participating groups will convene at a large event that will include cooperative business pitches. Beyond that, PACA hopes to support interested groups in more intensive business planning, such as drafting articles of incorporation and writing bylaws.

"Not all of the groups that do the book clubs are going to necessarily decide to move onto this phase," says Quigley, but that’s ok. "Even if it doesn’t happen right now…They have a new set of tools and perspectives that they can bring to anything they do in their communities from then on." Ultimately, it’s about building "a strong movement around a just and inclusive economy, with all of these different sectors of cooperatives and their members."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Caitlin Quigley, Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance

Meet Broad Street Ministry's new executive director

Last summer, we featured Broad Street Ministry (BSM), a powerful local organization offering an ever-expanding range of services and resources for thousands of Philadelphians experiencing homelessness, poverty, housing or food insecurity. This month, BSM is installing a dynamic and dedicated new leader: Michael J. Dahl.

"I had a desire to start working with the most vulnerable in our community at the grassroots level," says Dahl of what prompted him to make this career shift (he’s former senior vice president of Pew Charitable Trusts, overseeing the Philadelphia program). "It became a personal matter -- where do I think I could have the most impact at this point in my life, in my career? I was looking around for what the next chapter could be."

He was impressed by BSM’s model and services. He went and volunteered, and participating himself is what confirmed his desire to get involved.

A Stanford alum, Dahl is taking over for BSM founder Rev. Bill Golderer, who left the organization last November to seek a seat in U.S. Congress (Golderer will remain on the BSM Board of Directors through the transition).

Before his 15 years with Pew -- which encompassed planning, public policy, fundraising, evaluation, research, finance and legal affairs -- Dahl had a hand in two successful business startups spanning strategic advisory, and insurance and financial services software. He was also an economic, tax and policy advisor to Senator Bill Bradley.

Dahl argues that it’s become far too easy for us as a society to "dehumanize" entire populations. He appreciates BSM’s rigorous approach not only to programming (including offerings as diverse as art classes and mail service for people without homes), but to evaluating and strengthening its approach.

"I come from the model that if ain’t broke, fix it," he says of applying ongoing, measurement-based improvements. "How can we do a better job of helping these people, people who are facing hunger or housing insecurity? Can we help them find their way to reclaim their lives and become more productive citizens?"

Dahl especially appreciates the existing Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative, "but I think the real upside is once you gain the trust, what are the fleet of services and supports that can be provided that truly let these people move back into society?" He’s also a fan of BSM's inclusivity as a faith-based organization that’s "open to all faiths, and people of no faith."

Dahl will officially start as BSM’s new executive director on June 13.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael J. Dahl, Broad Street Ministry 

KIND Institute preps for a summer of arts and community in Point Breeze

The KIND Institute -- a young arts and community center in Point Breeze -- isn’t just providing an outlet for arts education when cash-poor schools cut programs, but putting a new lens on arts education itself.

"There’s a lot of misinformation about arts education and its value in society today," says Min Kim, who manages the KIND Institute’s blog and helps out with the nonprofit’s operations. "It’s called a dead end; there’s no way to make money off of it."

But in reality, he insists, there are a lot of strong careers to be had in "the living arts." Towards that end, KIND offers classes targeting kids ages five to twelve (though the model is inclusive) in pursuits ranging from watercolor, sculpture, and graphic design to computer-building, languages, and music. New sessions will kick off this summer.

KIND co-founders Maria Pandolfi (an award-winning educator who’s been teaching art in the School District of Philadelphia for 22 years) and Ronald Kustrup (an internationally exhibiting artist) spearhead the program, which formally launched in August 2013 and now occupies a building at 1242 Point Breeze Avenue. This summer, locals will be able to meet them and learn more about KIND’s professional studios, gallery and classroom spaces: the co-founders will open the doors every weekday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. July 5 through August 26.

Funding for the space and programs is a currently a mix of donations, grants, space rentals, ticketed events and commissions on resident artists' sales through the gallery. KIND holds monthly exhibitions and music performances with themes like women’s empowerment, sustainable living and compassion for animals.

Coming soon is a re-launch of the KIND website, integrating a platform for resident artists’ work and the organization’s blog, which will continue to feature artist profiles.

"Our focus here is the local community and helping local artists showcase their work," says Kim. "When you buy the art it becomes more than just a piece to hang on your wall -- you get a real story of the person who crafted it."

So why Point Breeze?

"We see it as representational of a lot of neighborhoods in Philadelphia right now," he explains. "It’s changing, there’s a lot of growth, and there are a lot of people who are scared of changes that are coming to Point Breeze. [The KIND mission is] to make people understand that we are a community regardless of how the community is shifting, and really just make sure we’re keeping people unified."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Min Kim, KIND Institute 


Philadelphia Public History Truck brings 'a houseless museum' to Asian Arts Initiative

How do you get local history out of the museum and into the neighborhood? For about three years, Erin Bernard -- founder of the Philadelphia Public History Truck (PPHT) -- has been exploring the answers: "I had this intention to create projects with people in Philadelphia neighborhoods, as opposed to for them at a museum," she says. 

A traveling oral history and research repository, block party instigator, and capsule of local culture, PPHT and its newest off-road installation are coming soon to the Pearl Street storefront at Asian Arts Initiative (our former On the Ground Home). 

The Temple grad first got the idea for PPHT -- which Bernard calls a culmination of her degrees in journalism and history, her work in nonprofit public relations, and a lot of strolling past food trucks -- back in spring 2013. She approached community groups with her plan. The East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA) proved an enthusiastic early partner; former EKNA president Jeff Carpineta even donated a truck.

PPHT is now on the cusp of completing its third year-long neighborhood cycle -- Kensington, then North Philadelphia, and most recently Chinatown North/Callowhill. Its next project in the Fairhill neighborhood (in partnership with Taller Puertorriqueño) is now getting started.

Each of the truck’s "exhibit cycles" has nine parts, beginning with a neighborhood association partnership, growing into oral history interviews, a storytelling and "neighborhood object"-themed block party, archival research, community art happenings, a temporary exhibit in a neighborhood building, and then a compression of the exhibit back into the truck, to bring the stories to other neighborhoods.

At Asian Arts June 3 through 25, PPHT’s will present, "A Houseless Museum: Home and Displacement Around the Vine Street Expressway." Bernard volunteered at the nearby Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and part of the History Truck’s mission in that neighborhood became researching how to best serve "a transient community."

The exhibit, which features stories from the neighborhood’s homeless community, will have a cabinet with supplies like socks, t-shirts and dry shampoo for those who need them. There will also be a TV installation playing the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation-provided documentary "Save Chinatown," detailing the demolition wrought by construction of the Vine Street Expressway. There will be artwork by Pew fellow and Chinatown North resident Leroy Johnson, and "archival reproductions and text, and space for people to explore actual historical documents," says Bernard.

The show also incorporates work from Bernard’s graduate students in the Museum Exhibition Planning and Design program at University of the Arts, as well as local high school students they mentored.

"I’ve found working in this neighborhood extremely difficult, compared to the work in Kensington and North Philadelphia," explains Bernard of her stint in Callowhill/Chinatown North. "It’s a very transitional community…That’s part of the story."

Not all of the neighborhood’s community groups agree on the way forward when it comes to development, including projects like the Reading Viaduct rail park project.

"There are a lot of serious issues of contention as to who owns the space," she explains. "I think that’s part of the reason it’s been challenging to have a history truck here, but it’s always good to learn something new."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Erin Bernard, the Philadelphia Public History Truck


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