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FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Sweet sound: Pew awards nearly $700K to local music groups

Money makes music sound so much sweeter. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has awarded 10 area recipients a total of $664,500 through the 2011 Philadelphia Music Project.

This year, Pew chose a diverse roster of performers with a common theme of creating connections. "You have everything from spirituals, to Irish music, to Indian music, to spectral music, which is one of the more hermetic forms of composition," says Paula Marincola, Executive Director for The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. "These projects will reach so many different kinds of audiences. It is an expression of the strength of the Philadelphia music scene."

The Crossing, a South Philadelphia choir, will use its $70,000 grant to fund The Gulf (between you and me), for which three composers write choral works based on the poetry of French-American writer Pierre Joris, accompanied by ambient sound gathered at the Gulf of Mexico. Astral Artists, a 2009 PMP recipient, got a $70,000 award this time around for Spiritual Voyages, a project that showcases the work of African American composers Alvin Singleton, David Sanford, and Evelyn Curenton. Tracy Segal, Development Director for Astral Artists, says that getting the grant was a rigorous process that began in the fall of last year. "It's a very rewarding grant, and a lot of work to put the proposal together," says Segal, who cites new guidelines rolled out this year.

The Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra gets a Pew nod for its collaboration with the vocal group Philip Hamilton's Voices at The Painted Bride Art Center. The drum ensemble and chorus will use its $70,000 grant to create four public performances along with a residency at Philadelphia's Creative and Performing Arts High School.

The newly renovated Rodin Museum will host a performance of work from French composers Tristan Murail and Philippe Hurel, who use Rodin's sculptures as inspiration for their spectral music. The actual grantee is The Philadelphia Museum of Art, where audiences will preview the compositions during its weekly Art After 5 series.

Other recipients include Sruti, the India Music and Dance Society, The Philadelphia Ceili Group, which performs traditional Irish music, and Bobby Zankel's 16 member jazz orchestra Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, featuring the work of Muhal Richard Abrams.

Source: Paula Marincola, Pew Center for Arts & Heritage; Tracy Segal, Astral Artists
Writer: Sue Spolan


Academy of Natural Sciences and Drexel announce historic partnership

Sixteen tons of dinosaur bones. Let's start in a lab somewhere in the vast reaches of the Academy of Natural Sciences. Drexel University paleontology professor Kenneth Lacovara has been using the Academy's research facilities for over a decade.

The Academy of Natural Sciences and Drexel University have announced that they are joining forces. Pending approval of both boards, the Parkway stalwart will henceforth be known as The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

Drexel will take over management of the Academy's $61 million endowment. It is an innovative strategy that could set a standard for institutional partnerships nationwide, says Gary Steuer, head of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy for the City of Philadelphia. Compared to its West Philadelphia neighbor Penn, Drexel has not had signature cultural facilities, adds Steuer.

In what Lacovara terms a win all around, leveraging scientific assets at both institutions, students and faculty at Drexel will have access to one of the greatest science collections, rated top-10 worldwide, and the museum will have access to Drexel's growing Media Arts and Design school to enhance exhibit design. Lacovara points to grad student Evan Boucher who digitally reconstructed and animated a 65 million year-old crocodile whose bones were discovered right across the Delaware in Sewell, N.J.

The Academy is "much more than a place for school trips," says Steuer, who views the Drexel/ANSP partnership as marrying a 19th century museum with forward thinking technological creativity.

Source: Ken Lacovara, PhD, Drexel University; Gary Steuer, City of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Fairmount CDC prepares for Spring Arts Crawl with call for entries, poster contest

Just blocks from one of the premier art museums in the world lies North Philadelphia's Fairmount neighborhood. But once a year, Fairmount is more than just Art Museum-adjacent, bringing all the neighborhood's best artists out of the woodwork and into the frame for the Fairmount Arts Crawl. Started seven years ago by neighborhood art activists, the Fairmount Arts Crawl brings local artists and their works to various neighborhood businesses and meeting places every spring. With the event just six months away, Fairmount CDC officials, who have since been handed control of the event, begin preparations this week, issuing a request for proposals to any and all local artists interested in a neighborhood exhibition.

"This year, we are really trying to cast our net wider this year," says Fairmount CDC Executive Director Rebecca Johnson. "We hope this will give artists another venue, another avenue to expose their artwork to the public."

For the local homeowners in the neighborhood, CDC officials have created a poster contest to bring in revenue and create a seminal event poster to capture a quintessential event in their community. CDC officials hope the poster will be a key advertising feature, a great souvenir and a way to raise revenue. Interested artists should send work here.

"This artist from the community created a famous 'Doors of Fairmount' poster three years ago and people are still really interested," says Johnson. "People who live in the neighborhood want to have a piece of art that reflects their neighborhood so we wanted to create an official arts crawl poster as a keepsake."

Source: Rebecca Johnson, Fairmount CDC
Writer: John Steele




Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele





Knight Arts Challenge offers $9M over three year for next great urban artistic movement in Philly

From the LOVE statue to the Mural Arts Program to Market Street's massive Clothespin, Philadelphia has its share of big, urban art projects. But there is more to creating the next big movement in urban arts than making the largest painting or sculpture. So the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Knight Arts Challenge, a search looking for urban projects to change the artistic landscape of American cities for the better. Started in Miami, Knight Arts brings it's challenge to Philadelphia this fall.

"We are coming to Philadelphia and it would be presumptuous of us to say that we know just what you need in the arts," says Knight Arts VP Dennis Scholl. "So instead of saying that, we're saying we don't know what Philadelphia's next art idea is and we need you to tell us. It's not about large institutions only getting grants, people who have been in the arts forever only getting grants. It's open to everybody in the community."

After three successful years in Miami, the Knight Arts Challenge has spawned poetry collectives and arts education centers and jazz festivals. Philadelphia's challenge, a three-year, $9 million initiative, will provide new funding for established arts institutions, independent artists, businesses, service organizations and anyone else with a great idea and a plan to execute it. The challenge kicks off October 5 with a cocktail reception, where interested artists can find out how they can contribute to Philadelphia's artistic future.

"Philadelphia has two important things going for it: it has incredible, world-class cultural assets," says Scholl. "But in addition to that, Philadelphia has an incredibly hot, steadily rising art scene, with collectives and up-and-coming performance arts groups. And that is really why we were drawn to Philadelphia, because it's kinda happening, frankly."

Source: Dennis Scholl, Knight Arts
Writer: John Steele
21 Fairmount / Art Museum Articles | Page: | Show All
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