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Indy apparel marketplace Colabination launches from Quorum

As a young fashion designer out of Penn State, Scott Latham learned how hard it is to reach the marketplace. Now he is founder and CEO of Colabination, a site he describes as an Etsy for independent streetwear apparel brands.
 
Latham launched the company less than a year ago, and found a welcoming home at the University City Science Center’s Quorum. Today, Colabination employs 16, offers more than 200 hard-to-find streetwear labels from around the world, and recently moved into its own space in Fishtown.
 
The enterprise boasts a three-member fashion buying team -- they scour the globe looking for cool independent brands that represent quality and value (most items are under $100), and have "a great story to tell," which often means a socially or environmentally conscious mission, a unique aesthetic or intriguing origin tale.
 
The site charges a 30 percent commission for every sale in exchange for its web-optimized sales platform and sophisticated marketing. The brands do their own order fulfillment.
 
Latham is effusive in his praise for the help he got at Quorum. Free workspace alone was huge for the startup, and they benefited mightily from the camaraderie and networking opportunities. He recruited his chief technology officer at Quorum. Upstairs neighbors Nick Siciliano and Ben Pascal, founders of Invisible Sentinel, became trusted mentors. And he still can’t get over the day last fall when Science Center President Steve Tang introduced him to "Jim," who turned out to be then Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney.
 
"Quorum was a huge stepping stone for us," he enthuses.
 
For now, Colabination is focused on streetwear for millennials, but Latham hopes to expand to a broader selection of men's and women’s apparel. The company is testing its XCollection, now in beta, which allows customers to shop their personally curated brands with an algorithm that reacts to their preferences.  
 
The goal is to be "a destination to discover new brands for all types of products and shop them on demand," he concludes. "A modern day mall.”

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 September, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival celebrates 20 years

After three years in its new headquarters at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival -- presented by FringeArts -- is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The 15-day extravaganza, which will feature 178 shows all over the city (a handful curated by FringeArts and the rest mounted independently), is running September 9 through 24.

On July 19, FringeArts gathered media and presenters for a look at this year’s curated lineup of shows from homegrown and international artists. President and producing director Nick Stuccio, who assembles the slate along with FringeArts programming director Sarah Bishop-Stone, touched on some notable returning artists along with those new to the festival.

Fringe audiences of two years ago might remember the inaugural production of The Sincerity Project, an ambitious theatrical happening from Philly’s Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, with plans to span 24 years. Every two years, the same seven-person ensemble will converge for a performance mixing theater, music, ritual and dance "to reveal stories from the performers’ respective pasts, to display their bodies in the now, and to reveal their evolving desires and aspirations for the future."

Italian director Romeo Castellucci is also returning (after past festival hits The Four Seasons Restaurant and On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God) with Julius Caesar. Spared Parts. A man with no vocal cords performs Mark Anthony’s funeral oration while another holds forth with an endoscope displaying his vocal cords in real time.

Other notable artists include Stew & Heidi Rodewald, who are partnering with the The Wilma Theater to offer Notes of a Native Song, a "concert novel" homage to James Baldwin. Cesar Alvarez will mount his extraordinary musical The Elementary Spacetime Show (about a girl who has to play her way through a surreal game show to win her right to suicide) in partnership with University of the Arts. (The show premiered at UArts' inaugural Polyphone Festival in 2015.) Three-time FringeArts presenter Reggie Wilson’s Fist & Heel Performance Group will open the fest with Citizen, which Stuccio said is inspired in part by "famous African Americans who left this country to fulfill their identities."

This year’s "masthead show" is coming from director Brett Bailey, a white South African whose controversial work probes post-colonial Africa. Bailey’s Third World Bunfight will present a condensed 100-minute version of Verdi’s Macbeth in partnership with Opera Philadelphia, reimagining Shakespeare’s tragic figure as a dictator in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (It comes with a host of associated discussions and events.)

Find the full lineup of curated shows online.

As for the rest of the fest, audiences can find 11 types of shows in the categories of music, dance, comedy, film, theater, spoken word, interdisciplinary, happenings, visual art and circus. 2016's iteration will branch out into West Philadelphia, and there will also be lots of work in Fishtown/Kensington, the Northwest, Northern Liberties, Old City, South Philly and more, including the second year of the Digital Fringe, with work presented exclusively online.

Audiences can sit in graveyards, forage on a farm, drink, laugh, interact, share stories and more. Shows will take place in venues including a yoga studio, a gay nightclub, Elfreth’s Alley, museums and parks. The full lineup will be available in print and online August 5.

Markman especially appreciates "artists who use our platform to find their own unique audience."

And for local beer lovers, FringeArts announced one more new partnership: "Fringe Benefit," a limited-edition pale ale from Kensington’s Saint Benjamin Brewing Company.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Nick Stuccio and Jarrod Markman, FringeArts

The 9th annual ACANA Festival will draw thousands to Penn's Landing

The ACANA Festival started small, but after eight years, it’s exploded into an event that draws thousands to Penn's Landing. Attendees come to explore the modern and traditional music, foods, crafts, and cultures of the African diaspora.

The African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA) is our current On the Ground home in Southwest Philadelphia (check out this recent profile of the broad-based African and Afro-Caribbean social services organization). August 7 will mark the ninth year that ACANA has hosted the event as part of the PECO Multicultural Festival Series, which brings eight free festivals to the waterfront between June and September.

ACANA originally made the series roster nine years ago with the help of a recommendation from the Kimmel Center. The nonprofit's founder and executive director Voffee Jabateh served on the community advisory board.

In 2015, the ACANA Festival drew an estimated 10 to 12 thousand people to the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing in a single day. This year, with headlining singer Pape Diouf -- a Senegalese star -- those numbers will only grow. Other performers at this year’s festival include Sharon Katz and the Peace Train South Africa, Chilton James Reggae Band, Deng, and the Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble.

Jabateh says the festival is gaining international traction and becoming a destination for African artists who want to connect with the vibrant African diaspora in the United States.

"[Diouf] is top of the charts in Africa," says Jabateh, but "many in the [American] community cannot afford the cost" of traveling to see him. So the ACANA Festival is bringing him here, free of charge to fans.

"Most of the artists in the ACANA Festival for the last five years have come from outside the United States," he adds. They’re "doing very well in their career back in Africa, and the diaspora group wants to see those artists here in America."

ACANA makes it happen.

The fest will also feature a huge range of African food, arts and crafts, and activities for kids.

The ninth annual ACANA Festival is coming to Penn’s Landing on Sunday, August 7 from 2 - 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Voffee Jabateh, ACANA

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.

MilkCrate for Communities helps companies and institutions reward sustainable living

About a year and a half ago, local startup MilkCrate began an incubator residency through Project Liberty. This came after a potent mix of bartering, bootstrapping and crowdfunding helped to launch the sustainable-living app. Now the company is ready to add a major new level to their platform that goes beyond individual users.
 
The free MilkCrate app officially launched in early 2015 as a resource for people who want an easy way to connect to socially and environmentally conscious businesses and services. It has since expanded beyond Philly to Denver, Boston and Asheville. Co-founder and CEO Morgan Berman, who earned a master’s degree in sustainable design from Philadelphia University, was pleased to see traction from the original concept, but the team quickly realized that more was on the table.
 
"We actually took a pretty radical approach to both our business model and our product," she says of the revamp, launching this month.
 
MilkCrate for Communities isn’t replacing the original free app -- it’s an add-on service that companies, universities and other enterprises will be able to purchase and extend as a perk to their employees, students or residents. It will also let buyers quantify and collect data on real-life social- and eco-conscious practices within their organizations, which can be harnessed both for external branding and marketing as well as internal messaging, all while encouraging sustainable living.
 
The company realizes that app platforms aimed at boosting sustainable practices at large institutions or companies already exist, but MilkCrate has a major edge because they already have a comprehensive localized directory and calendar within their existing product.  
 
Berman says MilkCrate for Communities is a premium, private "game-ified" social experience that clients can tailor for their users. Members of participating groups can download the free app and, unlike in the public version, log in and begin earning points for things like checking into a farm-to-table restaurant or fair-trade coffee shop, signing up for a composting service or CSA, or volunteering.
 
Participating companies and schools can use MilkCrate to tabulate the eco-friendly and socially conscious steps users make, and incentivize them with quarterly or semester-based rewards.
 
The first official buyer of the MilkCrate for Communities platform is Berman’s own alma mater, Philadelphia University, which will launch the experience for students and faculty this summer. Other clients are already in the pipeline, including the co-working provider Benjamin’s Desk, home to MilkCrate’s offices. Berman says a customized pilot product for Comcast is also in the works.
 
"We are looking for more corporate and academic clients that want to be part of the big launch this summer,"she adds. Anyone who wants to bring a demo of MilkCrate for Communities to their campus or office can get in touch.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate 

Teaching the Teachers: Science Center launches FirstHand Institute for Educators

For years, the FirstHand program has brought Philadelphia schoolchildren to the University City Science Center, aiming to spark interest in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Now FirstHand is adding a professional development program targeting middle school teachers to further boost STEM learning.
 
The goal of the pilot FirstHand Institute for Educators is to integrate the classroom with the 21st century science- and technology-oriented workplace. For three days (August 16-18) about 14 teachers from Philadelphia School District middle schools will meet with Science Center scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs, taking what Danielle Stollak, FirstHand program manager, calls a "deep dive into careers here." The participants will visit working labs at the Science Center’s Port Business Incubator and, working in teams at the FirstHand Lab, develop projects for their students that can inculcate the real-world skills that employers are looking for.
 
Those skills are not all technical -- the focus will be on what educators call the "Four Cs": critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

"Technical skills are teachable," says FirstHand Director David Clayton. "These are experiential."
 
The expectation is that the teacher teams will implement their projects in classrooms this fall as part of ongoing engagement with FirstHand, bringing their students to the Science Center and reconvening in January. A further benefit, adds Stollak, is the multiplier effect of training teachers, who not only reach many students, but can also become "brand ambassadors" and mentors for other educators.
 
This year’s pilot program, supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation, offers participants continuing education credits and a modest stipend. Teachers who are interested should email Stollak. 
 
Meanwhile, FirstHand continues to challenge young minds with Taste Test, a new summer program that is introducing 15 youth from Sunrise of Philadelphia to molecular gastronomy and culinary innovations through active experimentation.

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.
 

Primal Supply Meats brings sustainably-raised, nose-to-tail products to the masses

Even for farm-to-table chefs who are invested in serving humanely and sustainably sourced meat, connecting to the right supplier is difficult.
 
"It’s just a really broken chain," explains former Kensington Quarters (KQ) head butcher Heather Marold Thomason. Many chefs and home cooks want to minimize waste and know exactly where their meat comes from, "but it’s not easy for anybody to use whole animals."
 
Enter Thomason's new company Primal Supply Meats.
 
Over the last year, the idea for the startup evolved as she got to know her customers at KQ’s retail meat counter. Word was spreading around the city about the quality of the locally sourced meat for sale at this Frankford Avenue retail/restaurant hybrid.
 
"More and more people were approaching us," she recalls. "We had a really awesome relationship with people in the Fishtown area who were our everyday customers." She also began to notice shoppers coming from other parts of town -- from South Philly to Mt. Airy -- saying they wished KQ delivered or had other locations. "I also had a lot of chefs approaching me, saying, 'How are you getting this meat? Can you help me?'"
 
She realized there were farm-to-table chefs all over the city who aren’t able to take a whole animal into their kitchen, but didn't want pre-cut frozen meat either.
 
Primal Supply Meats, while not a retail counter like KQ’s, bridges that gap, acting as a liaison between farmers and chefs. The entire butchered animal is used, but shared among as many as three or four different clients asking for different cuts.
  
"I think that our customers have actually been receptive to what we’re doing and their responsibility as customers," says Thomason. With a fresh, whole-animal model at the KQ counter, part of her job was guiding customers to what was available that would also suit their tastes and needs. "Our customers were super-receptive to that."
 
That’s part of why she has high hopes for the CSA-like subscription model Primal will launch in a few weeks (those interested can visit the website). Individuals or families will be able to purchase meat packages on a rolling month-to-month basis, and have confidence in knowing where their meat is coming from.
 
While she hopes Primal will eventually gain its own space, it’s currently operating in West Philly via a partnership with the new FDA-certified facility 1732 Meats. For trucking and cold storage, Primal is partnering with North Philly’s Common Market.
 
This summer, things are still getting off the ground -- Thomason is visiting farmers one-on-one, learning both sides of the business.

"We’re working on getting all the infrastructure in place, making sure our supply chain works and our production processes are solid," she says. "[That way] we can make sure we’re ready to meet demand as it comes."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Heather Marold Thomason, Primal Supply Meats

Temple nabs nationwide grant to develop the archives of the future

Joseph Lucia, Dean of Libraries at Temple University, is ready to start work on what he calls a "monumental challenge" of the 21st century.

"How do we render the digital records durable for the longterm in the way that physical records have been?" he asks. "What does digital permanence look like? [How can we achieve it] in a complex inter-organizational way that’s not just about one place and its records?"

In late June, Temple University School of Media and Communications received a $35,000 grant -- it lasts through December 20, 2016 -- from the Knight News Challenge, which awarded grants totaling $1.6 million to libraries across the country "for ideas that help libraries serve 21st century information needs."

Future-Proofing Civic Data, the Temple-led project helmed by Lucia, was conceived for this grant, but it relates closely to a lot of work Temple has been involved with for a long time.

First, Temple is home to a collecting enterprise called Urban Archives, which focuses on "social, cultural, ethnic and demographic history of 19th through 21st century Philadelphia," explains Lucia. "It’s a very broad and fairly unique archival collection of materials documenting urban life in a major American city."

Temple has also been a leading partner in the Pennsylvania metadata service hub of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which works to "narrow the cultural and intellectual record into a public space that is not commercially oriented, and fill the library mission in the digital world."

That work means diving deep into the realms of both traditional collections and digital data.

"We’ve been looking at ways of expanding that collecting motion and focus," adds Lucia, "making sure that the digital, cultural, and social record becomes part of what we can provide access to."

That in turn led to close ties with OpenDataPhilly, which, while it identifies and aggregates data from a wide range of city institutions and organizations, does not have the mission of developing a permanent archive.

It’s what Lucia calls "an essentially unaddressed emerging issue." The days of poring over nineteenth century census data on paper archives, for example, are limited. As the world goes digital, what will archives look like and how will they function? Who will own, fund, maintain and access them?

"What happens right now with a lot of digital data is that it’s very ephemeral," he says. "It’s online for the duration that its providers see some value or benefit in having it there," but most providers of digital content aren’t thinking about its life in the long term.

$35,000 from Knight won’t solve the issue or even finish defining it, but it will "help us put time and thought into describing the scope of the problem and some possible solutions that could be deployed over time to address the problem," Lucia continues.

The initiative will involve partners at OpenDataPhilly as well as professionals from Temple’s School of Media and Communications.

"[It's] a project to really build a conceptual foundation for how would this look," he concludes. "What would the technical requirements be? What would the organizational requirements be? And who would come to the table to work on something like that?"

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Joseph Lucia, Temple University

Newest resident at Port Business Incubator plans to disrupt cancer treatment

Quantitative Radiology Solutions is the latest company to hang its shingle at the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator

By taking up residency at the Port, Quantitative gains access to an extensive network of resources to grow its business. Quantitative is also a participant in the Phase I Ventures Program, which allows early-stage companies to test their business feasibility in a low-risk environment. Quantitative received $213,000 in direct financing from P1V and additional grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

The startup is developing a technology that promises to disrupt radiation therapy and treatment for cancer patients. We asked Joe Camaratta, Quantitative's president and CEO to tell us more.

What is your big idea? 

Quantitative Radiology Solutions helps physicians make optimal treatment decisions through analysis of medical images. Our initial product, Automatic Anatomy Recognition (AAR), supports recognition, delineation and quantification of anatomical objects and diseased tissues in multiple body regions using CT, PET/CT and MR images. 

Unlike existing automatic segmentation approaches that work on only three to five objects in a specific body region and require an unacceptable number of manual adjustments, AAR recognizes and delineates all anatomical structures in a given body region accurately and efficiently.  

What is your origin tale? 

The company was [founded by] Drs. Jayaram Udupa (computer science) and Drew Torigian (radiology) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Udupa was developing a novel image segmentation algorithm that used hierarchical modeling and machine learning techniques for object identification and delineation. Dr. Torigian, who focuses on quantification of disorders using computer-assisted techniques, applied the algorithm in body fat quantification and obstructive sleep apnea to demonstrate its usefulness in radiology.  

Dr. Udupa presented the new approach during a seminar to physicians and physicists from the Department of Radiation Oncology, and was approached by Drs. Peter Bloch (medical physics) and Charles Simone (radiation oncology) about its application in radiotherapy planning. Drs. Udupa and Torigian contacted the Penn Center for Innovation and created Quantitative Radiology Solutions as part of the UPstart program to commercialize technology. I joined as president and CEO to lead these efforts. 

What is ahead for Quantitative Radiology Solutions?

Our initial application area is radiation therapy planning. We believe there are applications of our technology in medical oncology to help assess tumor response to therapeutic interventions. There are also potential applications in surgical planning and 3-D printing using medical images. 

Why does the marketplace need your company? 

The global market for medical imaging is forecasted to reach $50 billion by 2020, and advanced modalities such as CT, MR and molecular imaging will account for 50 percent of that market. The rise in the number of imaging exams and number of images per exams necessitates new approaches to augment a physician’s ability to effectively evaluate exam results in a timely manner. A quantitative approach to medical imaging interpretation can improve early disease diagnosis, standardize assessment of disease response to treatment, and enable the discovery of new disease biomarkers. 

What is your elevator speech? 

We combine 75 years of expertise in clinical imaging, computational theory and algorithm development, and product development and commercialization [experience] from industry-leading organizations in medical imaging. When applied to the field of radiation therapy planning, our approach enables a robust standalone software solution that significantly improves the speed and accuracy of imaging contouring to support initial treatment planning and adaptive radiotherapy.

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.
 

Strawberry Mansion celebrates first Schuylkill River Arts Day

The Strawberry Mansion area (our recent On the Ground home) has plenty of artists, but there’s rarely an opportunity for them to come together on their home turf, says INVISIBLE RIVER spokesperson Sylvana Joseph. The Schuylkill River Arts Day (SRAD) on July 16 is going to change that.
 
Founded in 2009 by Artistic and Executive Director Alie Vidich, INVISIBLE RIVER has been "celebrating our local rivers through live public performances and river advocacy." A mix of art, programming and interactive outdoor offerings serve the mission of engaging the public with both the Schuylkill and the Delaware.
 
For the last few years, Vidich has created one of Philly’s most eye-popping interdisciplinary performance events: an aerial dance suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, with audience members watching on shore or from boats on the river below. Beck Epoch, this year’s incarnation of the show (an "aerial exploration of swinging, swimming, swiveling and suspension from above the Schuylkill River") is coming up on Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16. Audience members will be able to watch for free from the eastern shore near the bridge, or they can buy a ticket to watch by boat on the river itself (everyone should arrive by 6:15 p.m.).
 
SRAD will kick off at 10 a.m. at Mander Recreation Center with an interactive drum and dance procession led by the Strawberry Mansion-based group Positive Movement and the African Diaspora Artist Collective. The group will take Boxers’ Trail from the rec center to Kelly Drive, where the arts fest will take over until 2 p.m. Other performers include Kulu Mele, Anne-Marie Mulgrew & Dancers Co, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and many more. (Here’s the full line-up of participating artists.) There will be visual arts, crafts, and even fishing and boating lessons. Families are encouraged to bring a picnic and stay for the day.   
 
"We’re really focused on getting the Strawberry Mansion area and the people in that area to come, to use the Schuylkill River [and] learn about the river," says Joseph. "All of us that live in the Philadelphia live right in proximity to all of these great things, but we never use them. There are many musicians and dancers and artists of all stripes that live in that area but leave the area to perform -- it’s great to have this opportunity to have people from the area perform in the area."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sylvana Joseph, INVISIBLE RIVER

 
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.

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


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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.
 
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