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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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jewelry company Riot Alliance builds a business plan designed to give back

As the Master of Social Work (MSW) supervisor at the University of Pennsylvania's Child Advocacy Clinic, Sara Schwartz quickly realized that the toughest dollars for hard-working social justice nonprofits to raise are general operating funds. She decided to combine her after-hours passion for jewelry-making with a business plan tailored to give back.

Schwartz founded Riot Alliance in early 2014, making custom jewelry and teaching community jewelry-making workshops. The company partners with a different nonprofit every quarter, donating 10 percent of sales towards the organization's operational costs, while also using online platforms and social media to promote the nonprofit and its events.

"After I got my MSW, I started thinking more seriously about starting an independent artist business that was connected to social justice from its inception," says Schwartz. She focuses on nonprofits working in areas such as immigrant rights; criminal justice advocacy and reform for youth and adults; economic justice; and youth leadership.

"I really wanted to focus on working with organizations in Philly who may have a more difficult time obtaining operational funding," versus grants earmarked for a certain program or purpose, she explains. The Riot Alliance money is available for crucial day-to-day expenses, supplies for community events, or stipends for community workers. For many of these smaller nonprofits, a small amount of money can go a long way.

Looking forward, Schwartz hopes to grow her model in several ways. She aims to make Philly arts fairs more accessible to those who can’t afford the cost of their own tables by purchasing a table herself and sharing it with an artisan from her current partner organization. She also wants to expand her community jewelry-making programming, and look into a stipend-based community or student internship to help her scale up production. Pursuing various independent arts grants and other funding will enable her to donate more in the future.

She also plans to expand her partnerships with other social justice and arts-based businesses via pop-up shops, like a recent one at W/N W/N Coffee Bar.

Riot Alliance's current partner is Juntos, a South Philly-based immigrant rights organization; in May, they'll begin working with Youth United for Change.  

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sara Schwartz, Riot Alliance

Aalta Yarn knits together business and social good

"All knitters are givers," says Christine Forester, founder of Aalta Yarn. Tapping into the national trend toward social enterprise, her business links knitters not only with high-quality hand-knit yarn but with charities in need of knitted goods. 

Forester, a Bucks County native, worked in the yarn industry for years, witnessing the explosion of the knitting craze. 

"The younger generation wanted to make something of their own that was beautiful and unique," she explains, recalling how celebrities like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Jennifer Aniston led the trend, knitting European novelty yarns into simple scarves. 

Knitting's popularity has only increased since then: Philly millennials are showing up to classes at Nangellini in Fishtown or LoopKnits on South Street, and making names for themselves yarn-bombing all over the city (that includes Jessie Hemmons of Ishknits). 

Today's knitters want quality yarn to work with from companies that prioritize purpose along with profit. Aalta Yarn fits the bill. The high-quality Italian product is ideal for creating long-lasting blankets -- something Forester encourages knitters to create and donate to support their partner charities, the local chapter of Project Linus and Tabor: A Family of Services

"I was absolutely amazed at the number of needs [these organizations] had," recalls Forester. "There were so many children in need of blankets." 

Along with coordinating donation points at local shops, the company donates yarn to knitters via website request so that anyone can contribute their skills to make a blanket. 

Aalta Yarn is available in regional yarn shops including The Tangled Web in Chestnut Hill, Finely A Knitting Party in Swarthmore, and Knit in Newtown. The shops also carry Philly-made wool baskets and bags braided with 100 percent wool yarn.

Forester, who grew the business out of her capstone project for an MBA in strategic design at Philadelphia University, sees Aalta Yarn as a way to connect the giving spirit of knitters with quality products for kids who, like Linus in Peanuts, need that extra bit of comfort. 

"I want to make a difference," she says. "I want to make an impact, I want to bring joy and happiness to these children that are in need."

Writer: Martha Cooney
Source: Christine Forester, Aalta Yarn


Food News: Eclectic Double Knot brings coffee, pastries, banh mi, sushi and more to Midtown Village

Coffee. Pastries. Banh mi and lunch bowls. Sushi. Japanese-style small plates. Robatayaki. You can get them all at Double KnotSampan's exciting new neighbor on 13th Street. For Michael Schulson and his MJS Restaurants (of Atlantic City's Izakaya, Sampan and the Independence Beer Garden) the new spot came after a quick turnaround -- it took less than a year from lease to launch. The dynamic space is an intriguing addition to Midtown Village's exploding restaurant scene.

There’s so much happening at Double Knot (120 S. 13th Street) that it's good to have a tour guide. The space has two levels: about 1100 square feet upstairs and a larger downstairs space offering about 3000 square feet including dining rooms, a bar (under beverage manager Zachary Davis), and a twelve-seat sushi and robatayaki bar.

The Double Knot day starts at 7 a.m. in its street-level coffee bar where they serve a buzzy proprietary blend through a partnership with Elixr; the menu also includes coffee cocktails and pastries (from pastry chef Roxxanne Delle Site). From there, it's on to lunch: Schulson says his mid-day patrons have been especially enthusiastic about the midday offerings: create-your-own lunch bowls or banh mi for just $7.

At 4 p.m., the cocktail lounge opens, serving a daily punch, wine and beer on draft, desserts, and selections from the downstairs sushi and robatayaki menus. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. with 35 seats upstairs -- along with a full bar serving sake by the glass and bottle -- and 80 seats downstairs, plus the sushi bar.

"We wanted to do something that made the downstairs feel a little bit more exclusive, more hidden," says Shulson of building a space that patrons will discover "tucked away" down a hallway and back stairwell.

And dinner?

Executive Chef Kevin Yanaga supervises a menu featuring sushi, Japanese small plates (Schulson recommends ordering about eight for a table of two) and 38 robatayaki options. Robatayaki is a Japanese-style skewer slow-grilled over open charcoal; Double Knot’s offerings include duck hearts, lobster, shrimp, venison, chicken breast and asparagus.

As for the small plates, take your pick. The menu has nine sections including meat, fish, sushi, sashimi, hot, cold and crispy. Schulson's favorites include the hearts of palm salad; the tuna tartare with chili oil, avocado and rice pearls; and the rib-eye for two served with sushi rice and lettuce for wrapping.

Kate Rohrer of Rohe Creative designed the space. Upstairs patrons will find a light, earthy palette including exposed brick, reclaimed wood, tile, antiqued mirrors and industrial-style lighting. Downstairs, there's "dark and moody" velvet booths, industrial fixtures and two hand-painted murals.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Schulson, MJS Restaurants


Philly tableware mavens Felt + Fat earn fans far and wide

Port Richmond ceramics company Felt + Fat was founded in 2013 by Nate Mell and Wynn Bauer. In May, over 200 Kickstarter donors raised $26,256 for the young Philly business, which provides custom-made tableware to restaurants such as Fork, High Street on Market, South Philly’s Laurel and other fine dining spots in Brooklyn and beyond. They also offer direct sales to individual consumers through their website and wholesale distribution through shops across the country.

According to Mell, Felt + Fat would have continued without the Kickstarter infusion, but it helped them grow much faster than they could have on their own, adding a new kiln to their studio, acquiring other smaller pieces of equipment and bringing on board a paid employee.

"It’s been full-time since day one," says Mell of the hours he and his partner have put into the business; that said, they also worked part-time elsewhere while the company grew. Mell spent about seven years in local restaurants, which helped him connect with chefs who were looking to showcase their locally sourced ingredients on custom Philly-made tableware.

This past summer the founders were able to quit their part-time jobs and focus exclusively on Felt + Fat.

The name is a homage to mid-20th century German sculptor Joseph Beuys -- they liked his artistry and use of materials, most notably soap and animal fat.

"We were just trying to make a name that could exist in a few different realms of craft and art and design," explains Mell.

The founders have perfected a slip casting method for their unique wares, which feature different textures, finishes and colors, including a distinctive swirl. They also make their own porcelain.

"To a degree, it’s kind of like cooking or baking something. It’s a recipe," says Mell of the specially "tweaked" clay and mineral combo they use. Initially, they were mixing the ingredients themselves, but now a distributor does this for them; they then add water and the necessary materials to cast their plates and cups.

In slip casting, the liquid clay -- or "slip" -- is poured into a plaster mold. Wherever the slip meets the moisture-wicking plaster, a hard edge forms. When that layer is thick enough, the excess slip is poured out of the mold. What’s left forms the body of the cup or plate. When dry, it's removed from the mold and fired in the kiln.

All that takes time and space, which Philadelphia has in spades.

"Philadelphia is a particularly good place right now to be an artist and a creative person, because of the rapid growth of the moment," argues Mell. He appreciates the large client base a Philly location offers, without the living and studio costs of New York City.

Next up, the duo are hoping to expand into lighting fixtures and furniture accessories; they eventually aim to open a local showroom for their wares. They’ll certainly have more space to experiment: In January, Felt + Fat (currently at 3237 Amber Street) will expand to a second location in a Kensington studio building at the corner of I and Venango Streets.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nate Mell, Felt + Fat 

Calling all Lunchers, Loungers and Food Truck Lovers: Science Center opens new pocket park

At long last, the University City Science Center is opening its Innovation Plaza, a landscaped pocket park that offers a spot to relax, socialize and consider Philadelphia's rich history of innovation.

A key feature of the new park -- situated on a pedestrian-only stretch of 37th Street between Market and Chestnut Streets -- is the Innovators Walk of Fame, an evolving installation that honors individual visionaries. 

"With a name like 'Innovators Walk of Fame,' we thought it was imperative to come up with something more innovative than names etched on the sidewalk," Science Center spokesperson Jeanne Mell explained earlier this year. "Instead [we’ve gone] with an arrangement of cubes with metal panels etched with the honorees’ names."

The Plaza also features café tables and chairs, game tables and can accommodate food trucks, creating a flexible space for local office workers and residents alike.

"Fostering a live/work/play environment in the heart of University City is a key goal for the Science Center," says Science Center President Stephen S. Tang. "[Especially] as we expand our footprint and rebrand our physical campus as uCity Square."

The Science Center inducted its second group of Walk of Fame honorees, a group of storied women, in October. They are Rebecca J. Cole, the second African American woman to receive a medical degree in the United States (from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in  in 1867); Stephanie Kwolek, who invented the technology behind Kevlar, a virtually bulletproof fiber that has saved the lives of countless first responders and military personnel; Judith Rodin, former University of Pennsylvania president, who is credited with spearheading programs that transformed the campus and its surroundings; Judy Wicks, whose renowned West Philadelphia restaurant the White Dog Café became a national leader in promoting local food, community engagement, environmental stewardship and responsible business practices; and Kathleen McNulty Mauchley Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Elizabeth Holberton, Marilyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum -- these "Women of ENIAC" were responsible for the first all-electronic, programmable, general-purpose computer, which debuted in 1947 at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The Plaza was designed by ex;it and landscape designer Andropogon, both of Philadelphia.

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.


Indy Hall opens its own retail arm with KINSHOP

Artist, maker and entrepreneur co-working hub Indy Hall is launching its first-ever onsite retail venture, and just in time for holiday shopping.

Indy Hall staffer Sean Martorana, who focuses on the arts community and curatorial side of things, says KINSHOP -- which officially opened on November 6 and will probably run until February 2016 -- places no restrictions on the kinds of goods for sale from the Indy Hall community.

“It was really cool to see and celebrate the things that people have made here,” he enthuses.

Dubbed "a collective boutique and small-retail experience in the Indy Hall Gallery," KINSHOP features wares from over a dozen members. The name came out of the group’s recent successful KIN collaborative exhibition, which kicked off this fall’s arts season.

Items on sale range in price from about $100 to $125 for sculptures and $10 to $12 for small arts and crafts items such as prints, wrapping paper, holiday greeting cards, music, pillows, jam, wineglasses, terrariums, tote bags, scarves and more. Thirty percent of each purchase goes directly to arts programming at Indy Hall, funding things like classes and workshops, and gallery and store upkeep. The rest goes to the makers.

The goods will rotate throughout the season -- as soon as one item sells out, something else made at Indy Hall goes on the market. That means the shop will be worth multiple visits for the assiduous locally minded holiday shopper.

“As we sell we’re just going to keep putting stuff in," explains Martorana. "We have so much stuff in our community that we’re not going to go empty."

Indy Hall’s usual weekday hours (9 a.m. - 6 p.m.) are a good time to check out KINSHOP; if you need to make it an evening outing, Martorana recommends Night Owl hours (Tuesdays, 6 - 10 p.m.).

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sean Martorana, Indy Hall 

Local 'Shark Tank' alum shares tips for business success at International House

For the second event of its Entrepreneur Works Presents speaker series, Philly nonprofit Entrepreneur Works is bringing Rebecca Rescate to International HouseShark Tank viewers may remember her from memorable turns during seasons two, three and four; on October 19 from 7 to 9 p.m., she will lead a special presentation and Q&A with aspiring entrepreneurs

A Northeastern University graduate who majored in design with a minor in business, Rescate tells Flying Kite that she wanted to be an art teacher growing up before realizing that product design was her true calling. In the last decade, she's shepherded a diverse stable of products onto the market, including the ones she landed deals for on ABC's Shark Tank. Cat owners across the country are toilet-training their felines with the CitiKitty system, while others are staying cozy with HoodiePillow. (For a look at all of Rescate’s brands and products, check out her website.)

A mother of three kids under 10, the Yardley resident is an advocate for tailoring work life to one's personal schedule. She also emphasizes that developing a successful brand or product doesn’t happen overnight.

"There’s a lot to learn and people don’t have the patience to do the learning," she explains, touting the value of the local library and myriad modern resources aspiring entrepreneurs can access without relying on a specialized degree. "I didn’t launch my second brand until six years into owning my first business."

It took her that much time to master the ins and outs of understanding a market, fine-tuning and promoting a product, and building her brand.

According to Rescate, her October 19 speech will tackle "the reality of entrepreneurship, and the really amazing lifestyle that you can build as an entrepreneur," unshackled from the typical nine-to-five, Monday through Friday schedule. It took her awhile to realize this, she admits, but once she began building her work hours around her life instead of the other way around, she realized "you can use it to your advantage to be more effective than you ever imagined."

For her, that means being "on fire" at four or five AM -- she can get more done in the wee hours of the morning than she ever can in the middle of the afternoon -- and designing the cycle of work on her businesses around the kids’ school year.

"A lot of times as an entrepreneur, you can forget to use those things to your advantage," she insists. "Take advantage of when you’re at your best…I have used the best of me to create the best business."

In other words, "Why are you working when everybody else works? It doesn’t have to be like that."

"I always try to empower people to use what they have at their disposal," she adds. "It’s never lack of education, lack of funding, or lack of connections that keeps you from being successful. How successful you are is determined by you."

The event, sponsored by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, is happening in partnership with International House’s Intercultural Leadership Series, which fosters "insight on the competencies, behaviors and specific skills needed to be an effective leader in an intercultural environment." Advance registration ($20; free for International House members and residents) is required.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rebecca Rescate

The Center for Architecture unveils Kahn Coffee -- designed by you?

This year, the Philadelphia Center for Architecture's DesignPhiladelphia event (October 8 - 16) will feature a small but energizing twist: a contest to create branding for a new coffee blend open to designers of all stripes. The buzzy brew will be available exclusively through the Center and American Institute of Architects (AIA) Philadelphia, courtesy of a new partnership with Philly Fair Trade Roasters.

DesignPhiladelphia attracts over 150 partners each year for public programming on 21st-century design, technology and collaboration in the business world.  

AIA and Center for Architecture Executive Director Rebecca Johnson says the beverage brainstorm came about as the Center worked on some renovations in advance of the AIA Convention in May 2016, which will bring 25,000 architects to our city. The team started thinking of fun ways to improve the space -- a place to grab a local pick-me-up made a lot of sense.

"There’s always meetings here, so we want to have a sense of a hub of activity for the design community," explains Johnson. "Coffee just kept coming up. For the Convention, I thought that would be a really fun thing."

The name Kahn came up due to the Center’s annual Louis Kahn lecture.

"Do people know the significance of Louis Kahn to the entire world?" asks Johnson. "He’s a huge influencer. And he’s a Philadelphia architect."

And then the idea went a step further: Bring the local creative community in on the process. Running during DesignPhiladelphia, the contest is open to everybody: architects, artists, laypeople. The finished branding doesn’t necessarily have to feature Kahn -- if participating designers have another idea of someone to feature, they should go for it.

The deadline for entries is September 30, and the concepts will be on display at the Center during DesignPhiladelphia. The public can vote on their favorite. (For formatting guidelines and other instructions, click here.) Everyone who votes will get a free sample cup of the new coffee.

Beyond simply offering a new amenity for the many people who use the Center, the organizers hope to get the community even more engaged with the interdisciplinary space that also houses the Community Design Collaborative. Johnson hopes Kahn Coffee (or whatever the brand turns out to be) and the contest will be one more way to spark the kind of conversations AIA Philadelphia and the Center for Architecture aim to foster.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rebecca Johnson, the Center for Architecture and AIA Philadelphia

Mt. Airy's Make Art, Grow Food connects kids and elders thanks to a new grant program

This summer's news about the impending loss of their lease didn’t deter Mt. Airy Art Garage leaders and supporters from celebrating the September 9 dedication of their new Make Art, Grow Food mural and garden. The project has transformed MAAG's backyard from a blank wall and a tangle of weeds to a vibrant art piece and rows of fresh vegetables.
The project was made possible by a grant of about $5,000 from the East Mt. Airy Neighbors Association (EMAN) Community Fund, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation. It’s EMAN’s first year giving these grants, and Executive Director Elayne Bender says Make Art, Grow Food was a natural fit for their mission.
The mural was developed via a months-long collaboration between a specialized class of autistic sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the nearby Henry H. Houston School, the elderly day residents of Homelink, Inc. (an adult center and MAAG neighbor), and MAAG member artists and educators. According to Bender, this inter-generational aspect in particular appealed to EMAN.
Illinois native Daisy Juarez, a painter and MAAG member, spearheaded the mural portion of the project. The participating kids and elders drew their own designs for the wall, and Juarez worked them all into one piece. The design was projected and traced onto primed paper pieces. The students and adults then painted in segments on tables inside MAAG; these paper segments were then mounted and sealed on the wall.
"It’s the first time we did a project here with this many people," explained MAAG co-founder Arleen Olshan at the dedication, which was attended by the kids, the elders, Bender and representatives of other supporting groups such as Valley Green Bank, Primex and Mt. Airy Animal Hospital.
For the garden portion of the project, a local Home Depot donated plants and gear, including tables and hoses. MAAG volunteers are helping to maintain the space.
The proud kids (along with a few parents) and elders got their first look at the finished mural on the wall at the dedication. Wherever MAAG lands, Slodki promises that the mural will follow, with a large photograph of it converted into a giclée print.
Bender says the project was a particularly emotional one for her: She cried upon seeing the finished mural in August. 

"It’s joy on a wall," she enthuses.
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Elayne Bender, East Mt. Airy Neighbors

An urban farm sprouts in Chinatown thanks to Grow Where You Live

Meei Ling Ng, a Singapore-born, Philly-based artist, designer and urban farmer, has taken on a multifaceted project in Chinatown North. The initiative features a vertical urban farm, a job-skills program for people in recovery from addiction or homelessness, and a new fount of fresh food for the partnering Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.

The impetus for Ng's new project grew out of Grow Where You Live, her year-long Social Practice Lab residency at the Asian Arts Initiative. It was supposed to wrap up in June, but the current urban garden project has proven so successful that Ng's Asian Arts residency has been extended at least until the end of this year.

"Ideally I was looking for a vacant lot around the neighborhood," says Ng of a long search for an appropriate urban farm space and partner organization. Such a space -- open to the work of an artist and farmer -- was hard to find, partly because of recent gentrification in the area.

A tour of the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission late last year proved extremely propitious: Ng learned that the organization, which provides a range of vital services to the city’s homeless, was in the process of a parking lot space swap with their neighbors to the west, Roman Catholic High School.

The switch would leave a large space along Sunday Breakfast’s kitchen wall -- about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long -- empty of cars by law.

"This is amazing. This is exactly what we want," Ng recalls thinking on seeing the space; she envisioned a specially designed and built vertical urban farm. "We can use a whole big empty wall with asphalt under…this could be an awesome, awesome project."

The artist spent a month on a meticulous rendering of her idea, then pitched it to Sunday Breakfast. The project became reality through support and donations from Asian Arts, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, City Harvest and South Philly’s Urban Jungle, a landscape design firm.

Since then, the little farm has provided pounds of produce that go directly into meals served at Sunday Breakfast.

The partnership also has a human component: The farm runs with help from workers at Overcomers, an intensive 16-month program for men in recovery from addiction and homelessness. They reap a wealth of skills -- not only the ability to grow their own healthy food in an urban setting, but practical job training in a rapidly growing industry. The formal part of the Overcomers project is finished, but a few participants have stayed on as official apprentices and volunteers.

"This is very exciting that we have a team now to work on the farm," says Ng, adding that she has high hopes the project will continue in future summers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Meei Ling Ng, Asian Arts Initiative

Designer Amy Devan is making fashion waves from Philly

Most fashion designers dream of living and working in New York, London, Paris or Milan, where the big fashion weeks happen. But Amy Devan made a different choice.

The creative director of Naveda, a two-year-old luxury womenswear brand, spent most of her childhood in Philadelphia and earned her MBA at Drexel University. She founded her brand in 2013 while living in New York City. Six months ago, she made the move back to Philadelphia because she recognized it was a great place to be. Now she has a studio near Rittenhouse Square where she meets with clients for custom couture and works on her ready-to-wear line, which is sold online and in boutiques across the country.

"I thought it was really good timing to move to Philadelphia," she explains. "There's so much creativity here. I really wanted to be part of that."

Devan designs for the woman she is and wants to be: a free spirit who loves the best in materials and details. Her brand has two divisions: ready-to-wear and custom couture/bridal. Her customer tends to be a Free People customer, later in her life, and with more money to spend.

"Even though there are two segments, it's the same aesthetic, the same customer," says the designer.

Her clothes look like one-of-a-kind vintage pieces -- flowing silhouettes, beaded accents and intriguing colors. Devan has captured the attention of American and international media, and has shown her collections at New York and London Fashion Weeks in the last two seasons. Her brand is growing and she currently has a team of ten, some of whom work remotely.

Up next for Naveda is launching a ready-made couture collection, and merchandising the Fall 2015/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear collection. 

Writer: Rosella LaFevre
Source: Amy Devan, Naveda


Philadelphia's University City Science Center plans to double its campus

As Philadelphia's University City Science Center points out on its website, when it was founded in 1963, "the war on cancer had not been declared, the Apollo astronauts had yet to walk on the moon, and the first commercial microprocessor was eight years away."

Now the renowned urban research park -- already the oldest and largest in the U.S. -- has announced plans to double the size of its campus and accelerate the creation of a globally recognized innovation district for science and technology in West Philadelphia. 

In a joint venture with Wexford Science + Technology, a Baltimore-based biomed realty company, the Center is exploring joint development opportunities for nearly four million square feet of office, laboratory, residential, retail and parking space over the next 10 years. These opportunities include development of the former University City High School site adjacent to the Science Center and the three remaining open parcels on the existing campus: 3400, 3800 and 3850 Market Street.
Wexford has a wealth of experience in this area -- they have already developed 4.35 million square feet across 11 knowledge communities built upon a foundation of research, discovery and entrepreneurial activity. Their projects offer the programs, amenities and activities attractive to life science and technology companies and their employees.
To date, the Science Center and Wexford have successfully completed three development projects at 3701, 3711 and 3737 Market Street. These projects include multi-story buildings with lab, office and clinical spaces, structured parking and ground-floor retail spaces. 

"Our strong partnership with Wexford enables us to take a proactive and engaged approach to the changing landscape of Philadelphia’s fastest-growing innovation neighborhood," explained Science Center President & CEO Stephen S. Tang in a statement.

"Combining the vision and commercialization success of the Science Center, the development and programming expertise of Wexford and the intellectual capital and research strength of the institutions in University City, such as Drexel, Penn and Children’s Hospital, this partnership is primed to create a new environment of innovation and collaboration that will expand University City’s role as the fastest-growing economic engine and destination for innovation in Philadelphia and the region," added Jim Berens, president of Wexford.

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider
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