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Bartram's Garden hosts first annual 'orchard to table' dinner

By now, we've all had a taste of farm to table, but how about orchard to table?

The Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP) -- with help from hosting Bartram’s Garden (near our summer On the Ground home in Kingsessing) -- is launching its first annual Orchard to Table Dinner for 50 lucky guests.

"This is the first year we’ve planned something like this and we’re really excited," says POP second-year intern Alyssa Schimmel, who specializes in promoting POP fundraising collaborations with businesses and other organizations.

The dinner will take place at Bartram's Garden in Southwest Philadelphia, 5 - 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13; the cost is $60 per person. The evening will kick off with a tour of the orchard at Bartram’s led by POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth, followed by a happy hour featuring beverage Yards Brewing Co., Crime & Punishment Brewing Co., and Kuran Cider.

Main courses will be provided by local farm-to-table caterer Seedling and Sage, with dishes including pecan chicken with wilted arugula salad, or a vegetable creation made with produce from Philly Foodworks. Mycopolitan Mushrooms will serve up specially foraged hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, Brine Street Pickelry is bringing the pickles, Metropolitan Bakery has the bread covered, and the coffee is courtesy of ReAnimator Coffee. The meal will be served family-style from platters at joint tables. Artisans, local food and horticulture vendors, and live music will also be on hand throughout the night.

"We’re really focusing on our native fruiting trees," explains Shimmel. "What plants do we use in orchard spaces? And how can we familiarize them to a larger audience?"

That means local apples, pears and figs.

It’s all about "bringing people together for food that’s grown in local farms, and using that to highlight the power food has in our community," she adds.

Proceeds from the dinner will support more community orchards. Each year, POP works on five to 10 newly planted groves across the city with help from volunteers. Dollars from the new fundraiser will help pay for the plants and planting, enable education with the help of on-site POP liaisons, and go towards upkeep.

POP currently manages 54 community orchards comprised of 1028 fruit trees and those numbers are growing every year. After the September 13 dinner, supporters can check out the group’s sixth annual Philadelphia Orchard Week (October 8-16) featuring harvest festivals and other events across the city. Volunteers are also needed for fall planting season, running late September through mid-November.

"This dinner is going to be a great showcase of a lot of wonderful work being done in the community, both by the Orchard Project and all of our partners," says Schimmel. "We feel very fortunate to be in partnership with all those who are working on making local food more accessible."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Alyssa Schimmel, the Philadelphia Orchard Project

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.

Shofuso and Japan America Society merger strengthens Japanese roots in Philly

Many Philadelphians don’t know it, but our city has a rich legacy of cultural and economic ties with Japan dating back to the mid-1800s.

"There’s this long history of friendship, academic interchange and business interchange," says Kim Andrews, Executive Director of the new Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP), which this summer officially merged with the Friends of the Japanese House and Garden (FJHG).

The first Japanese envoys to visit Philadelphia arrived in 1860 and the plantings at the Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens in Fairmount Park near Parkside (our old On the Ground haunt) were installed in 1876. The depth of this history is interesting for an East Coast region with a relatively small Japanese and Japanese-American population (a 2010 survey of the five-county area reported about 3,000 people of Japanese heritage).

"It’s not very large, but it is a very deep and important cultural history," says Andrews.

When she became executive director at FJHG, the idea of joining forces with JASGP had "been bubbling in the atmosphere for a long time" -- the two nonprofits had a lot of overlap in their missions.

FJHG’s two main programmatic goals were interpreting, maintaining and preserving the Japanese house and garden; and creating arts and cultural programming. JASGP’s two-fold mission was building connections between businesses in Philadelphia and Japan, and hosting Japanese arts and cultural events.

The merged organizations' three-fold mission wasn’t hard to develop: to continue the Shofuso stewardship, to "enrich connections between the business and government sectors of Japan and Philadelphia," and "to offer educational public programs about Japanese art, business and culture."

In terms of staffing and budget, JASGP is now the second-largest Japan America society among 37 across the country (second only to New York).

Andrews notes that the original JASGP brought excellent national and international business and political connections to the table, as well as a strong relationship with the Japanese Consulate in New York. It also produced Philly's annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which drew about 14,000 people this year, and which, according to Andrews, is considered one of the U.S.'s most authentic Japanese-style festivals.

For their part, FJHG board members were "subject area experts" on Japanese culture, art and preservation.

"It’s been a really good mix," she says.

In the immediate future, there won’t be much evolution in programming as the two organizations get settled. (The merger was funded by Philly’s Nonprofit Repositioning Fund). The board will take a strategic planning retreat next month, and in 2017 embark on a new formal strategic plan with funding from the William Penn Foundation. New programming should roll out by 2018.

Besides the goal of furthering appreciation for the deep roots of Japanese heritage in Philly, the two nonprofits' merger is good news for the city in general. As Andrews explains, stakeholders no longer have to split donations, and the organization can streamline its budgets and operations on everything from payroll to newsletters while working towards the new joint mission.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Kim Andrews, the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia

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.

'Animal Farm to Table' lets Fringe Fest goers get their hands dirty

Philadelphia Fringe Festival goers who want an unusual, interactive experience should head to The Renegade Company’s Animal Farm to Table, hosted by North Philly's Urban Creators. The show will involve discussion, walking around the farm harvesting vegetables, a communal meal and a roving performance inspired by the George Orwell novel Animal Farm. In other words, it’s not your typical theater experience.

"This is a piece that’s very active for an audience member," explains Renegade Artistic Director Mike Durkin. "You’re going to get your hands dirty and you’re going have bugs fly across your face."

Durkin says his interest in topics like access to healthy food started with his work at the Nicetown branch of the Free Library. Students who came for after-school programs didn’t have many food options besides the snacks for sale at corner stores.

"I began to get more and more interested in access," he recalls. "How we can obtain food? What impacts our food sources?" This year, it seemed like a good idea to integrate those themes of "seeking a food utopia, creating a food revolution" into another long-term goal: adapting Animal Farm into a Renegade show.

In recent years, Durkin’s Fringe work has included Damned Dirty Apes!, performed at FDR Park, and Bathtub Moby-Dick, performed in a South Philly rowhome.

Durkin approached Urban Creators about a Renegade partnership at the start of 2016. The theater company had looked at several area farms as possible collaborators, but ended up choosing the grassroots nonprofit at 2315 N. 11th Street. The organization has a strong relationship with local youngsters and a community-driven mission of economic development, support for social entrepreneurship, and transforming neglected spaces.

The experience will last about 70 minutes, not including an optional "open sharing" discussion circle for all ticket-holders happening an hour before the show. It’s a "ground to the plate" experience, beginning with showgoers finding and harvesting veggies on the farm; Chef Brion Scheffler (the man behind the Philly blog Food Junkets) will prepare a simple meal incorporating the audience members' finds.

The Renegade Company’s Animal Farm to Table, presented as part of the 2016 Philly Fringe Festival (check out our Flying Kite round-up of the fest here), is coming to Urban Creators for nine performances from September 8-18. All shows begin at 6:30 p.m.; come for an hour-long onsite pre-show discussion. Tickets are $20; discounts available for theater industry folks, teachers, students and seniors; pay-what-you-can admission is open to residents of the North Philly community.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Mike Durkin

Boxers' Trail 5K celebrates its fifth anniversary in Strawberry Mansion

It's the fifth year for the Boxers’ Trail 5K Run/Walk in Strawberry Mansion (our former On the Ground home). The race is the perfect kick-off to Strawberry Mansion Day, coming to the grounds of the Mander Playground on September 10.

"In recent years, not as many of the neighbors have been using [East Fairmount Park]," says Philly Parks & Rec spokesperson Alain Joinville. "It’s a beautiful park, and we thought this was a great way to get folks to experience the park again." 

The trail got its name as the training haunt of heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and other Philly boxers. This year’s 5K will honor that legacy with local youth boxing teams conducting free demos at ten rings near the finish line.

Boxers’ Trail is one of Philly’s top running trails, but Joinville emphasized that this 5K (happening in partnership with Parks & Rec, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the Strawberry Mansion CDC and the Strawberry Mansion NAC) is for all ages and ability levels. 

“It’s a 5K, but there’s a strong emphasis on the walk part," he says. "You don’t have to do be in tip-top shape."

The event draws athletes from around the city, but it’s also open to senior citizens and youngsters. To promote health and physical fitness -- and to help make the event accessible to all -- the Boxers’ Trail 5K has partnered with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Philly Powered initiative for a ten-week training program.

Joinville expects about 200 participants this year.

Registration is now open. Participants can register in advance online or by calling 215-988-9334. If you sign up by September 2, it’s $20 to run; $15 to walk (after September 2, the price jumps to $25). Strawberry Mansion residents can register for free by calling the number above, or by visiting the Strawberry Mansion NAC (2829 West Diamond Street) or Mander Playground (2140 N. 33rd Street). The proceeds will benefit community youth programs at Mander Recreation Center and in East Fairmount Park.

The 5K begins at 9:30 a.m. September 10 at Mander Playground, with check-in and day-of registrations at starting at 8:30 a.m. The run is timed, with medals for the kids and for the top male and female finishers.

The day continues with Strawberry Mansion Day (noon 7 p.m.) featuring food vendors, activities and entertainment.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Alain Joinville, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

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.

EXTRA: Community dollars support big transitions at Bartram's Garden

This summer, Flying Kite's On the Ground program took an in-depth look at Bartram’s Garden, a historic horticultural gem on the banks of the Schuylkill River. Now there’s a chance for all Philadelphians to make a big difference for the site.

Gearing up to be more accessible than ever to city-dwellers with the completion of the Bartram’s Mile trail, the 45-acre national historic landmark recently reopened the renovated original Bartram House for public tours, as well as the Ann Bartram Carr Garden. Another burgeoning program is the four-acre Community Farm and Food Resource Center, a formerly a disused baseball field and tennis court. (Here’s an in-depth look at the amazing work blooming at the farm.)

This summer, the nonprofit launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising $30,000 for the farm.

"What we’re doing is raising funds for stipends for the students, the farm co-directors' salaries, and all of the supplies that are needed," explains Bartram’s Assistant Director Stephanie Phillips.

Currently, the campaign has raised almost $7,000. If they can hit $10,000 by September 30, a large donor will match those funds with another $10,000.

"It means a lot to us," says Phillips of donors who give even a few dollars (the campaign currently has attracted supporters donating as little as $5 or up to $200). "The support goes a long way, because this is a very lean program that has a pretty huge impact."

The accumulation of those small donations signals the huge community investment in programs at Bartram’s and locals’ desire to keeping them running.

"We see this Go Fund Me campaign as a way to get our feet under us while we do more longterm strategic fundraising," adds Phillips. That can take the form of government grants, but those dollars move slowly and Bartram’s is already "looking to get outside of our borders."

For example, giving garden boxes to residents of nearby Wheeler Street, and helping them learn how to garden for themselves at home outside of Bartram’s fields and greenhouses.

Anyone who wants to pitch in to support Bartram’s workers, programming and supplies can donate to the historic site’s campaign through September 30, 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Stephanie Phillips, Bartram’s Garden

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.

Greenworks strives towards a more sustainable Philadelphia

Greenworks, a comprehensive sustainability plan for the City of Philadelphia, was launched in 2009. Now it's time to update and streamline the program's policies and goals, making them more accessible and actionable to the public.

On August 9, the Office of Sustainability held an open house at the Innovation Lab on the top floor of the Municipal Services Building. Office of Sustainability Director Christine Knapp spoke about "updating the framework" of Greenworks. After years of developing new policies and integrating them into the machine of local government, Greenworks is turning outward. The updated plan, as developed with continued public feedback, will be "more people-focused," said Knapp.

Rolled out under Knapp’s predecessor Katherine Gajewski, Greenworks is under the umbrella of the national Urban Sustainability Directors Network. Other participating cities include Seattle, Boston, New York City and Chicago. Those cities are also beginning to gather feedback and study changes to their inaugural sustainability programs, as well as share best practices.

The public wants "to see us go deeper at the neighborhood level," say Knapp, to emphasize the viability of sustainable practices on every block in everyday life. Supporters also are hoping for a greater sense of urgency to the sustainability plan, which could go beyond short term goals and emphasize the longterm global impact of taking action on problems like climate change. People also see the opportunity to improve access to the program so no neighborhoods, regardless of socio-economic status, are left out of sustainability programs.        

The original Greenworks concept, with its long list of complicated goals, proved confusing to the public. Through community meetings, expert roundtables, an online survey and social media outreach, the plan is being streamlined into eight "longterm visions."

These include: All Philadelphians use clean energy that they can afford; all Philadelphians have sustainable access to safe and affordable transportation; and all Philadelphians benefit from parks, trees, stormwater management and waterways.

These and the other five vision statements will continue to evolve as they incorporate feedback from the well-attended open house. After a brief presentation and Q&A, the crowd was able to move around the room and brainstorm ideas on Post-it notes, placing them on boards dedicated to topics like waste, transportation, sustainable business and education, energy, and food and water, with space for suggestions on the individual, neighborhood and institutional level.

Knapp estimated that an updated Greenworks plan will launch in late October 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Christine Knapp, the Office of Sustainability 

Meetings at the 12th Police District are fertile ground for community connections

By 6:05 p.m. on a hot July night in Southwest Philly, the line to get into the 12th Police District building at 65th Street and Woodland Avenue stretched out the door. It was time for another monthly community meeting in Kingsessing (our current On the Ground home).

Led by community outreach specialist Officer Arnold Mitchell in partnership with the Southwest CDC and other supporters, these popular meetings take place on the second Wednesday of every month. They draw a wide cross-section of local residents for informational sharing, dialogue on local issues, a friendly meal and raffle prizes.

The District's July meeting featured speakers from the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, including Refuge Manager Lamar Gore. He talked about the Refuge’s goal of educating, engaging with, and connecting to Southwest Philadelphians, who may not realize that this world-class piece of nature -- preserved near the Philadelphia airport as "America’s First Urban Refuge" -- is accessible by SEPTA bus and regional rail.

Gore explained that the "education" portion of the John Heinz mission has involved a lot of work in local schools, getting kids acquainted with this resource in their backyard. The engagement part includes a growing roster of activities available at the Refuge including kayaking (other Heinz speakers solicited programming ideas from attendees and expressed interest in brainstorming with block captains). "Connecting" has many components, from developing new avenues of communication between the Refuge and the community,to  overcoming language barriers for people who might want to visit, to identifying transportation barriers that might keep folks from traveling to the Refuge.

Gore also detailed a Heinz Refuge plan to transform one of Kingsessing's vacant lots (location TBD) into an educational community green space in partnership with Audubon Pennsylvania. (You can read more about the project in our On the Ground coverage here.)

Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) West Philadelphia Outreach Specialist Daniel Schupsky helmed the second half of the meeting, focusing the Green City, Clean Waters program, which will bring improvements in green stormwater infrastructure to the area over the next few years.

He explained the cheaper and more beautifying option of "green" versus "gray" stormwater management projects to mitigate polluting overflow from the overburdened combined sewer system still used in many parts of the city. Schupsky explained that a gray system of pipes and holding tanks for extra water could cost the city up to $10 billion, while green efforts like rain gardens, green roofs, stormwater planters, tree trenches breezeways and more will cost about $2 billion, and be worth the temporary inconvenience of construction.

"This is what we want for the future," he said. "This is what we want for our neighborhood. The conversation starts with meetings like this."

One attendee who lives near 80th and Lindbergh Boulevard declined to share her name with Flying Kite, but said she’s been attending the meetings because it’s good to learn how other people are tackling local issues: "You want to know what’s going on in your community, not just on your block," she said.

The next 12th District Community Meeting is on Wednesday, August 10 at 7 p.m. at the District headquarters at 65th Street and Woodland Avenue.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: 12th Police District Community Meeting speakers

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.

River Wards Cafe finds success in Port Richmond

When River Wards Café founder Joe Livewell gets on the phone with Flying Kite, his need to pause the conversation is a pretty good indicator of where the business is now, and where it’s headed.

Livewell works seven days a week at the café, which opened in March. There are two other staffers on the team so far, but he was behind the counter himself during our interview and had to put down the phone for a rush of customers.

"I think I just sold everything on the menu," he says of the variety of things his customers just bought.

Livewell grew up in Fishtown. The La Salle University alum started his career in finance, working as a high-yield bond trader, and then transitioned to a job consulting for a software company in San Francisco.

But owning his own business has always been at the back of his mind.

"I didn’t know how to transition from career to business owner," he recalls, "It is a pretty intimidating jump when I didn’t know which levers to pull to make it happen financially...I got this really strong feeling one Monday morning that I didn’t want to do [the software job] anymore."

He first branched out into working for himself with a kids’ clothing line that didn’t prove profitable, but it was the bridge he needed to think seriously about a more independent career.

"It got me living differently," he says. "I was flexible; I didn’t have a nine-to-five to go to…Basically, I started making connections and relationships that would allow me to [have my own business]."

Back in Philly, he began working for ReAnimator Coffee as a wholesale bagger in their roasting facility; he also worked a stint at Fishtown vintage retailer Jinxed.

ReAnimator was "a big influence on my coffee practice," he says of adding a passion for the brew to his existing expertise in finance and customer service. His first real look at opening a café of his own came when he bumped into real estate developer and future business partner Laurence McKnight (a family friend) about two years ago.

McKnight was developing a property on Richmond Street in Port Richmond, and there was a vacancy at 3118. They talked about doing a coffee shop. Work on the 800-square-foot space, which seats about 25, really ramped up in winter 2016 with woodwork from Fishtown’s Philadelphia Woodcraft Company.

Now River Wards Café serves ReAnimator’s Keystone Blend, pastries from Au Fournil and soft pretzels from Center City Pretzel Co.

Livewell says his customers enjoy the personalized experience they get at the café.

"We’re very open talking about what we’re serving and engaging the neighborhood," he says. He attributes much of his success so far to the active support of the community. "We’re doing well. Every day new customers come in, and a lot of times they’re so excited." Five months after opening, people are still saying "thank you for coming to Port Richmond. And I think that’s going to continue as businesses come to the street."

River Wards Café opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It closes at 3 p.m.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Joe Livewell, River Wards Café 

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
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