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Using art to open a dialogue between both sides of the corner store glass

Many low-income Philadelphia neighborhood are spotted with Latin- and Asian-owned corner stores; often, they can feel disconnected from the surrounding community. An upcoming collaboration between the Asian Arts Initiative and Amber Art and Design seeks to address that divide.
 
Titled "Corner Store (Take-Out Stories)," the multi-disciplinary art project takes an up-close-and-personal look at this racially and culturally charged aspect of urban living -- namely, the ubiquitous immigrant-owned corner store and its prevalence in largely black communities.  
 
"We use art to look in a deeper manner at a lot of social issues," says Amber Art's Keir Johnston, who adds that because immigrant-owned corner stores are the reality of commerce in many marginalized communities, there's an extreme social dynamic that takes place within them daily.
 
And yet, as Amber Art's Ernel Martinez explains, due to "an underlying tension that's been building for many decades" between black communities and the immigrants who serve them, the opportunity for social interaction between cultural groups is often an afterthought.      
 
Running June 6 through August 22 at Asian Arts Initiative (1219 Vine Street), "Corner Store" is a multimedia exhibition featuring video interviews with corner-store owners, still photos and mixed-media work. Pop-up performances will take place in mock corner-store structures where handmade currency and merchandise will trade hands. And ultimately, the artists hope, a dialogue will begin to emerge within the city's real-life corner stores.  

"One of the major points of this project is to collect the stories from one community and share them with another," explains Johnston.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez, Amber Art and Design
  

Can selfies influence the outcome of Philadelphia's primary elections?

If you're the politically active type, you're well aware that Philadelphia County's primary elections are being held on Tuesday, May 20.
 
But according to Ben Stango of Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP), an organization working to increase civic engagement among young people, many millenials are hearing about the primaries for the first time right now.        
 
Stango and YIP launched a Get Out the Vote-style marketing campaign on May 8, the results of which you may have seen in one of your social media streams. The concept is basic: Young voters post a selfie to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram declaring their intention to vote. Most are displaying handmade signs decorated with the #YoungPHLVotes hashtag.
 
"This is the first time we've done a voting push," explains Stango. "And for the primary, we wanted to do something that was pretty simple and straightforward."
 
Over the past year, YIP has started to focus more of its efforts on advocacy -- specifically on finding ways to connect millennials with politics and policy. And as Stango explains, "There's a lot of good research showing that if your friends are voting, and if there's peer pressure to vote, you're more likely to vote yourself."
 
While Stango describes the selfie campaign as "an important push," he's also quick to admit that it's really a practice run for a more aggressive effort YIP plans to launch prior to the upcoming general and mayoral elections. The group hopes to target the city's under-voting millennials with a series of interactive education projects this fall.
 
"We want young people voting," he insists. "We want them talking about voting. And we want them thinking about voting."
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Ben Stango, Young Involved Philadelphia 
 

The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby turns to Indiegogo to raise funds

It's a perfect example of an organization hampered by its own success: In the early days, the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby -- a beloved annual parade of unusual human-powered floats -- attracted less than 10 teams of sculpture riders and maybe a few hundred spectators. But that was eight years ago. When the annual Derby kicks off this Saturday, May 17, the hosts expect upwards of 10,000 fans.

For the event's organizers at the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), that means more street barricades, more fences, more portable toilets -- the works. Or, as NKCDC's Joanna Winchester puts it, "as [the event] has gotten bigger, the costs have gotten a lot bigger."    
 
In an effort to tackle those costs while still preserving the Derby's authenticity and local vibe, NKCDC has embraced crowdfunding. On April 22 -- Earth Day -- their Indiegogo campaign went live, with the goal of raising $5,000.
 
Kensington-based Philadelphia Brewing Company, long one of the Derby's most ardent supporters, is matching every dollar donated up to $5,000. And for a $500 Indiegogo donation, PBC is also offering one of the campaign's quirkiest reward perks: an opportunity to work the bottling line at the brewery, and to take home a case of your spoils come shift's end. Other perks include Derby T-shirts and Pizza Brain gift certificates.
 
The campaign ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, May 16, which means you have just a few more days to kick in. The real perk, of course, will arrive when the Sculpture Derby kicks off on Saturday, and when once again, the entire city has the opportunity to witness the artistic brilliance your largess made possible.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Joanna Winchester, NKCDC

 

Creative Mornings, a monthly breakfast lecture series, arrives in Philadelphia

Josh Goldblum is founder and creative director of Bluecadet, a respected local design agency. He's also pretty keyed-in to the local creative community.
 
Recently, a couple of Goldblum's friends relocated from New York City to Philadelphia, and asked the same question: "Where's the Creative Mornings chapter here?" They were surprised to find that he didn't have an answer.
 
"In New York, [Creative Mornings] is a huge thing," explains Goldblum. "It's like a part of the local fabric there."
 
Launched in 2008 by designer Tina Roth Eisenberg, Creative Mornings is often referred to as "TED for the rest of us." More simply, it's a breakfast lecture series specifically geared towards the creative community. Each early-morning event features one speaker speaking for roughly an hour on a pre-chosen topic.
 
And while the events now take place monthly in nearly 70 cities worldwide, Philadelphia's chapter is brand new. Goldblum is the city's host -- he applied after fielding those inquiries from his two friends. At 8:30 a.m. on May 16, he'll be hosting Philadelphia's second Creative Mornings speaker at Drexel's URBN Center. Game designer Will Stallwood of the video game studio Cipher Prime will be riffing on the topic of freedom.
 
"I think he's going to be talking about creative freedom," says Goldblum, "because he has complete creative freedom himself."
 
Creative Mornings events are free, and as for the 8:30 a.m. call time? "Basically, the whole idea is that it's always early in the morning, so you can go and get your inspiration, and then get to work on time for your first meeting," explains Goldblum.
 
Sign up here to receive announcements about future events and to reserve tickets. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Josh Goldblum, Bluecadet

 

Camden is now home to New Jersey's second small-scale distillery

"It's definitely a long saga," says James Yoakum, sharing the story of how the three-week-old Cooper River Distillers, the first legal distillery to be based in Camden, N.J., since Prohibition, came to be. The gist features a mix of plucky entrepreneurial acumen and plain ole career dissatisfaction -- the same recipe that has given birth to so many creative endeavors before it.
 
After finishing the Wharton School's undergrad program and spending a few years in real estate brokerage, "I decided that I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life," says Yoakum. "And I've always been kind of entrepreneurial."

He'd also been brewing beer at home on the side, and about four years ago, he stumbled onto the concept of craft distilling, a growing trend that's now represented in all 50 states.
 
After finding a mentor in Paul Tomaszewski of MB Roland Distillery, he realized it was actually doable. And thanks to the three years Yoakum spent in business-building mode -- during which he acquired four silent partners and enrolled in Cornell's Artisan Distilling Workshop -- Cooper River's first product, the retro-tinged Petty's Island Rum, should be available in South Jersey bars and liquor stores by the end of May.
 
According to Yoakum, it was New Jersey's relatively liberal liquor regulations -- which allow small distillers to legally self-distribute -- that led to him choosing the state for his distillery's home.

"I love the idea of making a product one day," he says, "and then the next day taking it down the street to a bar and giving them a sample, and saying, 'Would you like the carry this?'"
 
For details about the availability of Petty's Island Rum, which Yoakum also plans to sell from his headquarters on Fourth Street in downtown Camden, visit CooperRiverDistillers.com.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: James Yoakum, Cooper River Distillers

 

Comcast and PEC team up to boost digital literacy

If you're a regular subway commuter, you've probably spotted one of the poster-sized Comcast advertisements touting Internet Essentials, the company's heavily discounted broadband Internet service for low-income Philadelphians.
 
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 26, as part of Comcast's 13th annual day of employee community service, the multimedia juggernaut will attempt to take its broadband-for-all philosophy one step further by hosting an entirely free computer education event, the Digital Resources Fair, in a temporary pop-up location at 3846 Lancaster Avenue in West Philly's Mantua neighborhood. 
 
According to Bob Smith, Comcast's VP of Community Investment, the company has been hosting digital literacy classes for low-income locals throughout the city for years now. The upcoming Digital Resource Fair is an opportunity for Comcast, along with volunteers from the People's Emergency Center (PEC), which is co-hosting the event, to bundle together a series of basic computer and Internet education workshops with one-on-one assistance from specially-trained volunteers.  
 
"The backbone of the day," explains Smith, will involve a number of "short, very easy to succeed at workshops" on topics that include search engines and email, and finding and applying for jobs online. Attendees will also learn where low-cost computers are available for purchase, and how to access free and low-cost Internet service throughout the city.  
 
Smith points out that the Digital Resources Fair is a no-strings-attached event. No appointments are required and participants need not be Comcast customers.

"Relevancy has been a big barrier to Internet connections for a lot of low-income families," he says. "What we're trying to do is help people understand that there's something in it for them when they sign up for the Internet."  
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Bob Smith, Comcast; Tan Vu, People's Emergency Center




Philly's newest collaborative workspace now accepting applications

The independent workforce in Philadelphia certainly isn't hurting for shared workspaces. In fact, during the TEDxPhiladelphia conference in late-March, a speaker shared a PowerPoint slide featuring the logos of roughly a dozen local co-working spots, a number of which have opened over the last two years.
 
Now the University City Science Center and Drexel University have announced the launch of the city's latest flexible workspace, known as the Innovation Center @3401. In order to differentiate themselves, they've crafted a specific mission.

"We don't think of the Innovation Center strictly as a co-working space," explains the Science Center's Christopher Liang. "It was designed very purposely to house a mix of residents."
 
The Center was also designed to fill a gap in the University City incubation and startup spectrum. The Science Center's Quorum, for instance, is a social gathering place for local entrepreneurs, while its Port incubator is home to offices and labs.
 
"We've been talking for some time about how we can broaden our offerings to include companies that maybe don't need wet labs," says Liang. "So, the Innovation Center is related to a desire to be more inclusive of the entrepreneurial community -- particularly the tech companies that are starting to become so important to the city."
 
The Center is currently accepting applications from potential residents, which will include a mix of investors, entrepreneurs, startups and stand-alone professionals.

"We're less concerned about the structural format of the residents," adds Liang. "[We're] more concerned with their ability to fit within the general theme of [being] tech and digital creatives."
 
The Innovation Center @3401 plans to open its doors in early June.
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Christopher Liang, University City Science Center



Nab tickets for the 2014 Filadelfia Latin American Film Festival

Thirteen percent of Philadelphia's population is now of Hispanic or Latino descent -- that's nearly 200,000 people within the city limits alone. The organizers of the third annual Filadelfia Latin American Film Festival (FLAFF) -- the only annual festival of its sort in the Greater Philadelphia area -- have released the scheduled lineup for this three-day event, which runs April 25-27 at The University of the Arts, the Kimmel Center and International House Philadelphia. This year's films represent a diverse range of Latin countries and include full-length features, documentaries, shorts and even a family-friendly animated film from Uruguay.

Standouts include Cesar's Last Fast, a film about a one-man hunger strike held by Cesar Chavez in an effort to shine a light on the negative effects of pesticides, and Yo, Indocumentada, an exploration of the Venezuelan transgender community.    
 
According to FLAFF co-organizer Beatriz Vieira, "part of what we want to do [with FLAFF] is to make sure the audiences are being built very, very carefully." To that end, a fair amount of community engagement has been baked into the festival, she says, "to make sure [it] has a lot of relevance for the region."
 
For example, a student member of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians will discuss the struggles of learning to read and write as an adult following the screening of Las Analfabetas, a Chilean film about a middle-aged illiterate woman. FLAFF is also partnering with The Food Trust and Fair Food; representatives from both groups will discuss their work with the audience after the screening of Cesar's Last Fast.   
 
Click here to view film trailers or purchase tickets.
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Beatriz Vieira, FLAFF

 

Downingtown's Victory Brewing Company announces its summer beer lineup

According to the Colorado-based Brewers Association, a trade group responsible for supporting the craft beer industry in the United States, that industry is now worth some $4 billion in Pennsylvania alone.  
 
And the Commonwealth's largest craft beer producer? That would be Downingtown-based Victory Brewing Company, best known for its wildly popular india pale ale, HopDevil.   
 
Victory also has a reputation for its limited releases and seasonal brews. They recently announced their upcoming summer lineup, which includes a variety 12-pack known as Summer Selection, as well as the return of Victory's WildDevil IPA, a Belgian twist on its flagship beer.
 
But the summer lineup's most unusual offering is a rotating IPA series known as Moving Parts, which will be released in a staggered series of "batches" -- the recipe will be slightly tweaked every four months.  
 
"We're referring to it as our 'ever-evolving IPA,'" says Victory's Melissa Thomas. "The idea behind it is that in each release in the series, there will be a part that 'moves. [Moving Parts] celebrates the simple yet really cool ingredients in beer. It's kind of fun for consumers, to have an idea of how just one small change to an ingredient can really have a significant impact on the flavor profile."
 
Along with WildDevil IPA and the Summer Selection 12-pack (which will include the Visit Philly-commissioned Summer Love Ale), the first release in the Moving Parts series, MP01, will be available in May.
 
Source: Melissa Thomas, Victory Brewing Company
Writer: Dan Eldridge
 


Startup PHL announces 2014 Call for Ideas grant winners

The local entrepreneurial initiative known as Startup PHL has announced the 2014 winners of its second Call for Ideas grant round. This particular round focused specifically on the matter of student engagement with Philadelphia’s tech community.
 
Five micro-grants have been awarded to local internship programs, business incubators and boot camps that plan to hold seminars, workshops and various other programs aimed at area students.
 
Here is a complete list of the winners and their ideas:
 
PennApps Fellows Internship Program received up to $25,000 to fund 10 internships. The program will connect student interns from across the nation to Philadelphia-based companies for a 10-week internship during summer 2014.

Philadelphia Fashion Incubator received $25,000 to create a series of monthly seminars, panels and interactive workshops focused on the business of fashion.

Zivtech Developer Boot Camp was awarded $24,000 to support a six-week developer bootcamp for a class of 30 participants.

NextFab Fellows Co-op Program received $25,000 to support four co-op fellowships. Students will receive training and materials while gaining experience working with NextFab companies in need of talent.

Technical.ly and Philly Startup Leaders were awarded $25,000 to create and execute a series of eight workshops to better connect the PHL tech community to students and universities.

The $500,000 Call for Ideas grant program -- one of two initial measures supported by Startup PHL -- was specifically designed to fund innovative projects that support Philadelphia entrepreneurs and startups, regardless of which industries they work in.
 
According to Rebecca Lopez Kriss, a Department of Commerce entrepreneurial investment manager, Startup PHL has plans to announce two more rounds of Call for Ideas. One of those will likely happen later this year.
 
If you or your organization is hoping to claim one of the micro-grants, take heed: "Essentially, we're looking for ideas that will improve the startup community in either growing companies or improving talent," says Lopez Kriss. "Or maybe create some sort of network that helps people work better together."
 
For more information about the specific ideas Startup PHL is hoping to fund in the future and the collaboration they hope to encourage between entrepreneurs, mentors and investors, visit their FAQ page.   

Source: Rebecca Lopez Kriss, Philadelphia Department of Commerce
Writer: Dan Eldridge





Grocery delivery-service Instacart announces same-day liquor delivery in Philadelphia

If the rise of Web 2.0 has taught us anything about why we love the Internet, it's probably that convenience trumps all.

Instacart
, for example, a grocery delivery service startup with roots in San Francisco and operations in Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., has just announced that its Philadelphia-area customers can now have alcoholic beverages from Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores delivered to their homes in as little as one hour.
 
If you've never heard of Instacart, you're not alone. In fact, when the company launched its local service on February 18, Whole Foods was literally the only choice available to customers willing to pay anywhere from $3.99 to $14.99 for the convenience of having groceries brought to their doorstep.
 
Super Fresh and BJ's Wholesale Club have since signed on (customers aren't required to have BJ's memberships), and with the recent addition of its liquor service, Instacart seems primed to capture a large portion of the food delivery market.

The company's deliveries are handled by a team of "personal shoppers" who use their own vehicles. And because Instacart has no warehouses, trucks, retail locations or full-time drivers, their overhead remains manageable.    
 
"We're growing every week," says Instacart operations manager George Shotz. "It's just constant."

Asking customers to complete wish-list surveys is one way Instacart aims to fill its customers' needs. According to Shotz, liquor has consistently been one of the surveys' most-requested items.

Securing an alcohol delivery license with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was a breeze: "We just applied and followed their rules," he explains. "And they approved us. They were great."   
 
Visit the Instacart website to view a map of the company's local delivery area and to open an account. 

Source: George Shotz, Instacart
Writer: Dan Eldridge





A group of beer-loving mechanical engineers at Bresslergroup automate the home-brewing process

Three craft-beer enthusiasts who work for Bresslergroup, a local product design consultancy, have developed a consumer home-brewing appliance that may one day turn the growing home-brewing industry on its head. The Bresslergroup Brewery, as the team calls its new venture, has created an Arduino-powered automated system that brews computer-assisted beer.

The idea for the appliance was the result of an informal conversation between a small group of employees, all of them home-brewing hobbyists. "One of our partners thought, 'Hey, it'd be pretty cool if we could do this here,'" recalls Todd Sack, a Bresslergroup product design engineer. "Sort of leverage the expertise and talent we have at Bresslergroup to take [home brewing] to the next level.'"
 
And that is exactly what they did.
 
The team's "yearlong quest to innovate … and automate the typical home brew process" -- as it's explained in a company blog post -- has resulted in a setup that still requires a decent level of computer literacy to operate. Should the kit ever make its way to market, however, it would likely include a kettle, a heating element and a thermocouple, as well as an Arduino-operated control box with a user-friendly interface, and an app that could be controlled from a laptop or mobile device. The product would probably come with a retail price-point in the $500 to $600 range. (Similar commercially available units capable of brewing beer are generally priced in the $1,200 to $2,000 range.)
  
As part of this year's upcoming Philly Tech Week, a presentation of the automated system, complete with a beer tasting, will take place at the Bresslergroup offices (6 - 8 p.m. April 9). Reserve your seat here.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Todd Sack, Bresslergroup



Calling All Students: Campus Philly's Online Internship Fair is underway

When Campus Philly launched 10 years ago, urban life in Philadelphia was a very different experience. Back then, the group's greatest concern was "making [the city] cool and interesting to students, to make them want to stay," says program manager Jen Devor.

That effort largely involved a busy schedule of marketing and outreach efforts, such as the organization's annual College Day on the Parkway, now known as CollegeFest.
 
"Now, students want to stay," argues Devor. "It's just a matter of getting them jobs, and giving them the ability to set down roots here."
 
Campus Philly's Online Internship Fair is one way Devor and her colleagues hope to accomplish that goal. Running from March 24 through 28, the virtual fair operates via the organization's online job board, which is open for business year-round and free to students at Campus Philly's 31 partner schools. But, as Devor explains, the twice-annual Internship Fair "is a scheduled time and place for employers and students to meet."
 
Along with the volunteer, internship and job listings that students can find on Campus Philly's Careers site year-round, hundreds more internship opportunities are made available during the fair. Positions in the technology and creative economy fields tend to be especially well-represented.
 
The group's long-running efforts to retain smart students seem to be paying dividends; according to Campus Philly's research, 70 percent of Philadelphia-area college students with summer internships now stay in the region after graduation. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jen Devor, Campus Philly




Welcome to N3rd Street: Officially rebranding the city's tech hub

Thanks to the efforts of Indy Hall's Alex Hillman and the local tech firm Jarvus Innovations, the expanse of North 3rd Street between Market and Girard is celebrating a transformational moment. As a nod to the growing number of tech operations and innovative companies located in the area, the stretch has been officially dubbed N3rd ("Nerd") Street.
 
According to Hillman, during a casual conversation some three or four years ago, Jarvus founders John Fazio and Chris Alfano pointed out that the corridor's street signs -- which are written as "N. 3rd St." -- could very easily be interpreted as "N3rd St."
 
"We all sort of slapped ourselves on the forehead for not having realized it earlier," recalls Hillman. And while the phrase was initially nothing more than an inside joke, "before we knew it," he adds, "it was being used in circles outside of our own."
 
Both the city's Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid and Mayor Michael Nutter have referenced N3rd Street during discussions on the city's tech community. The group is careful to point out in its N3RD St. Manifesto that the street's renaming applies not only to "technology nerds," but also to the entrepreneurs and creatives from any number of fields who are doing important work in the area.   
 
"The long-term, large-scale vision for N3rd Street is for us to create a community that makes the area better to work and live in," says Danny Harvith, the Jarvus employee responsible for the majority of the project's outreach work. "And that attracts great people doing great things."
 
A N3rd Street BBQ will take place at Liberty Lands Park on April 11 (2 p.m. - 6 p.m.), with an official naming ceremony scheduled for 4 p.m. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Alex Hillman, Indy Hall; Danny Harvith, Jarvus Innovations



TEDxPhilly announces live webcast and series of post-event 'adventures'

Here's a bit of good news for those who missed out on tickets to this year's sold out TEDxPhiladelphia event, which will be held at the Temple Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 28: You can still experience the entire show, and without paying a dime.
 
A live video webcast of the event -- specifically the individual speaker talks -- will be "available to anyone with an internet connection," according to a blog post on the TEDxPhiladelphia website. (Full disclosure: Flying Kite publisher Michelle Freeman is involved with TEDx Philly's event production.) And while the live stream address hadn't officially been released at the time of writing (past TEDx live streams are archived here), four separate webcast parties, all of them free, have been announced.
 
Likeminded fans of "big ideas worth spreading," as the TED organization refers to its mission, will be gathering throughout the day to watch the event live. Register here to reserve your space at one of the venues, which include Impact Hub Philly and the Philadelphia Center for Architecture.
 
According to co-organizer Emaleigh Doley, the development of additional programming beyond the annual conference is a major goal of the local TEDx team. Post-conference events expanding on the 2014 theme, "The New Workshop of the World," will run March 26 through 30. Eventually, local TEDx organizers hope to offer programming year-round.  
 
Referred to as "adventures," the post-conference events are intended to "unpack the larger conversation we hope to have at the conference," but in the form of talks, walks and tours for smaller groups. More information about the programs, which range in price from free to $10, can be found here

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Emaleigh Doley, TEDxPhiladelphia
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