Leisure travel is booming in the region, according to a new report by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.
The report revealed that the region welcomed 38 million domestic visitors for 2011.
“We thank the city, state, civic organizations and everyone for making the investment in the attractions and amenities that have made Philadelphia a much better place for visitors,” Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of GPTMC, said during its annual hospitality luncheon held at the Barnes Foundation.
Tourism is a major economic driver for the region. According to the report, visitors to Philadelphia generated an economic impact of $9.6 billion for 2011 and supported 86,000 jobs. Levitz noted that overnight trips to the region have grown and are up by 71 percent since 1997, when GPTMC started marketing the region as a tourism destination. Last year, visitors generated $315 million in tax revenue for Pennsylvania and $285 million for regional municipalities.
The 28-page report also notes that Philadelphia’s hotels outperformed the national average in 2011.
During the hospitality event, Levitz touted the city’s first coordinated visual marketing campaign — With Art Philadelphia. Launched in May with 14 collaborative partners, the campaign showcases Philadelphia as a visual arts powerhouse.
The two-year, $2 million campaign leverages the energy of the Barnes Foundation opening in order to generate sustained attention on one of the world's great art destinations, draw new audiences and spur overnight stays from visitors worldwide. The campaign highlights the city’s visual arts collections, Benjamin Franklin Parkway museum district, the city’s gardens and the city’s art-focused colleges. As the campaign expands, it will aim to include even more art venues, programs and events in neighborhoods throughout the region.
“With the help of many partners we’re aiming to put the city’s art scene on the map where it belongs with the Barnes as the tipping point to give us that opportunity to showcase what was always there,” says Levitz.
She also highlighted the success of the With Love, Philadelphia XOXO Campaign which seeks to increase visitation to the region. The campaign’s slogan was recently recognized by Frommer’s as one of the 15 best in the tourism industry.
At least it wasn’t ‘The Black man did it!’
Last week’s mini-manhunt for suspects who shot a Bucks County policeman ended surprisingly with authorities arresting Chalfont cop Jon Cousin on charges of lying.
Cousin claimed an assailant shot him during Cousin’s early AM investigation of a suspiciously parked car with that assailant’s bullet lodging in Cousin’s bullet proof vest.
Investigators soon discovered that physical evidence and Cousin’s claims didn’t add up. Cousin shot his bullet proof vest later falsely asserting that an assailant shot him.
It’s a good thing that Cousin and/or news media accounts didn’t color that phantom assailant as Black thus setting off a typical-&-potentially dangerous dragnet targeting Black men.
However, it’s a bad thing that mega-money music mogul Jay-Z and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter couldn’t say a ‘Black man did it’ — as in Blacks (men and women) did a fair share of the work in high-paying jobs related to Jay-Z’s “Made In America” concert on the Parkway this past weekend.
The seeming “black-out” of Black and other non-white workers in stage erection and other high-paying positions for that paid Parkway music fest didn’t go unnoticed, particularly by those who monitor the seeming perpetual exclusion of Black workers and businesses from economic opportunities across Philly especially projects receiving contributions from City Hall.
Last week, Mayor Nutter — once known as “Mixmaster Mike” for his long-ago gig DJ-ing at a night club — was a tad tight-lipped when the news media inquired about the public purse investment for that Parkway party sponsored by Budweiser, the resource-rich beer corporation.
Nutter, instead of revealing how much money City Hall kicked into the concert operations kiddy, just referenced beneficial intangibles like “goodwill” for the city and obvious tangibles like bumps for local businesses from concert goers spending in restaurants, bars and hotels.
Hum, what’s wrong with the sound of Nutter’s silence?
One of the richest men in the music business (Jay-Z’s worth an estimated $450 million) and the mayor of one of America’s largest cities didn’t and/or couldn’t use their combined clout to counter the structural discrimination that excludes Black workers and Black businesses displaced from participating in a Philly economic pie is arguably a Made-in-America shame.
Philly is a city with massive unemployment among non-whites.
And Philly leads all of America’s big cities with a 37 percent poverty rate — a poverty rate that is connected to economic disconnects from institutionalized racial discrimination.
It speaks mightily that a current music mogul and a former mixmaster didn’t amp things up to ensure that more economic opportunities flowed equitably from that Parkway music fest like water flows from the famous public fountains along the Parkway.
A jobs generating event on the Labor Day Weekend Holiday providing pitifully few high-paying jobs for non-white Philly workers is Made-in-America 4 Sure.
It seems (at least seems to some) that Mayor Nutter is more concerned that homeless people languishing along the Parkway don’t receive food-or-crumbs from outdoor feedings by religious groups than his leveraging all available opportunities (all-the-time) to ensure a few economic trickle-down crumbs feed Black workers and Black businesses living in the city he leads.
Further, this small yet salient example of traditional exclusion from economic inclusion underlines a criticism legendary entertainer/activist Harry Belafonte made in early August.
Belafonte named Jay-Z by name when blasting many contemporary high-profile artists for turning “their backs on social responsibility.”
Belafonte is a person who repeatedly put his career in money making peril to break down barriers that enabled the elevation of later generations. Belafonte could have receded into “bling” but he didn’t.
The fact that Jay-Z rose from a NYC housing project to the pinnacle of success is the stuff of the vaulted American Dream. And yes, Jay-Z places his real name on his Shawn Corey Carter Foundation that helps economically challenged folks further their education.
But framing the evaporating American Dream that does boost some hard-working blacks into entrepreneurial or elected positions are continuing realities of institutional exclusion and structural prejudice — the American Nightmare that America ignores.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently described aspects of that American Nightmare crushing Blacks during his August 28, 1963, seminal “I Have a Dream” speech.
During that speech in D.C., King reminded America that Blacks sadly still remained “crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”
Before reflectively dismissing King’s remarks 49 years ago as having no relevance in a contemporary America where a Black man presides from the White House consider two examples.
King, in 1963, decried Blacks finding themselves as “an exile” in their own land.
During the devastating 2005 Hurricane Katrina media reports referenced poor Blacks ruthlessly pummeled in flood ravaged New Orleans as “refugees” — exiles not Americans suffering in their own American city.
King, in 1963, criticized the exclusion of Blacks from the “great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”
Last week when the Republican National Convention blew into Tampa Bay, Fla., along with Hurricane Isaac the GOP did what is always does: exclude Black-owned businesses from the estimated $153 million arising from that presidential convention’s “vaults of opportunity.”
The presidents of the Tampa Bay Black Chamber of Commerce and the Suncoast African American Chamber of Commerce both criticized Black business exclusion — even vending food to conventioneers — by the political party that proclaims its pro-small business.
The more things change…
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
The year’s biggest art story unfolds in Philadelphia this weekend when the Barnes Foundation opens on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The renowned collection — featuring 181 Renoirs (more than any other collection), 69 Cézannes (more than in all of France) and groundbreaking African art — joins the Parkway's mile-long stretch of cultural powerhouses.
The Barnes Foundation's 93,000-square-foot building, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, was conceived as a "gallery within a garden and a garden within a gallery” and is set within a four-and-a-half-acre site with landscape design by Olin. The Barnes is officially not a museum, but an educational institution keeping with its mission when Albert Barnes established it in 1922 to teach populist methods of appreciating and evaluating art. Its new home does have museum-like amenities like a cafeteria and gift shop, however, as well as discreet classroom and lecture space. The legendary Barnes art collection will be presented within a 12,000-square-foot gallery that preserves the scale, proportion and configuration of the original Merion gallery, as well as the founder's conception of a visual interplay between art and nature.
The Foundation's Philadelphia campus (on the site of the former Youth Study Center Juvenile Detention Center) cost of $150 million for construction and related expenses. The Barnes Foundation successfully raised $200 million to pay for construction with $50 million to establish an endowment, in a campaign that will continue after the opening.
Barnes, a pharmaceutical magnate who died in 1951, stipulated in a trust that his legendary trove of 800 impressionist and post-impressionist paintings forever "remain in exactly the places they are." While the new campus on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway enables the Foundation to relax previous restrictions on public visitation, admissions will be scheduled so as to maintain an intimate and contemplative atmosphere. The natural light in the gallery, controlled through contemporary technology, reveals the true beauty of the Barnes Foundation's unparalleled collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, African sculpture, Pennsylvania Dutch decorative arts and other important works.
"Now, after a long and determined effort to secure the future of the Barnes Foundation, we look forward to welcoming the public to our accessible new campus in Philadelphia," said Dr. Bernard C. Watson, chairman of the Barnes Foundation Board of Trustees. "The time has come for people to see what we offer, and take advantage of this wonderful institution and its collection and educational programming, which Dr. Barnes intended for all people from all walks of life."
The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, located 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, will open with 10 days of free admission beginning on May 19 and continuing through May 28. The building will be dedicated on Friday, May 18, 2012, at 11 am. The inaugural week culminates with a Memorial Day festival weekend, offering round-the-clock free admission to the renowned collection and entire campus. The weekend features a variety of entertainment and programs from noon on May 26 through 6 p.m. on May 28. Tickets are required for all opening events and are available at www.barnesfoundation.org or by calling toll free (866) 849-7056.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The museum-lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway’s new addition of the Barnes Foundation was made even more spectacular with this week’s instillation of “The Barnes Totem,” a major new sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly. Kelly, widely acknowledged as one of the great masters of contemporary art, was in attendance as the soaring, 40-foot-high abstract sculpture was installed at the end of a reflecting pool, where it will stand at the intersection of two walkways of trees.
The sculpture is in harmony with the design language of both the building and the landscape architecture. The bead-blasted surface of the stainless steel work will complement the richly textured limestone and bronze fins of the building's exterior. Kelly’s focus on line, form, color and spatial relationships finds resonance in the formal elements at the heart of Barnes’s aesthetic theory and teaching practice — light, line, color, and space. The site was selected by Kelly himself along the mile-long stretch that runs from City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“I think it signals what I believe is going to be an explosion in terms of art and culture in Philadelphia,” said Moore College of Art and Design Professor Moe Brooker. “This man spans my entire life — from when I was a youngster in college and there was Ellsworth Kelly’s work experimenting, finding, discovering and doing things that nobody else was doing at the time. He simplified the imagery that he decided to use, and there’s a profound quality to this piece. And when you see the shadow, which moves across this (reflecting) pool and when you see the shadow as it moves across the building it’s indicative of the power, I think, of what art really has to offer: a sense of communication, which is always real. (Kelly) is a man who is very, very profound, yet at the same time very simple. He reminds me of a prophet in some way. Prophets have a sense of being simple, but when you look into the center of their simplicity, there is is a bottomless pit: It just goes on and on and on. That’s what this piece is really about for me.”
Born in 1923, Kelly began to develop his distinctive approach to abstraction in the late 1940s in Paris, where he had gone to study on the G.I. Bill. Over the years, his sculptures have tended to take either the form of wall reliefs or of free-standing totems (as at the Barnes Foundation). He has made public commissions for sites and institutions in cities including New York; Paris; Barcelona; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Chicago; St. Louis; Houston and Dallas.
“Created in the great tradition of monumental sculpture, ‘The Barnes Totem’ works with its surroundings to focus and heighten one’s sense of being in a special place, while at the same time presents a dramatic artistic statement of great strength, beauty and integrity,” said Derek Gillman, executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation.
The Barnes Foundation, located at 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, opens to the public on Friday, May 18, 2012 (after the collection’s relocation from nearby Merion, Pa.). For more information, call (215) 640-0171 or visit www.barnesfoundation.org.
As Dr. Albert Barnes (1872-1951) was building his world class collection just outside the city of his birth, he always was inclusive of the African-American talent.
Barnes was born in Philadelphia to working-class parents. As a youngster, his devout Methodist mother would take Barnes to African-American camp meetings and revivals.
As an adult, Barnes' interests included what came to be called the Harlem Renaissance, and he followed its artists and writers.
In March 1925, Barnes wrote an essay, "Negro Art and America," published in the “Survey Graphic of Harlem,” which was edited by Alain Locke. He explained his admiration of what could be called “Black soul.” In the late 1940s Barnes met Horace Mann Bond, the first Black president of Lincoln University. They established a friendship that led to Barnes' inviting Lincoln students to view the collection. He also ensured by his will that officials of the university had a prominent role after his death in running his collection.
Bernard C. Watson, Ph.D., one of Philadelphia's most respected African-American educational, civic and business leaders, has also been largely responsible for restoring trust, financial accountability and respect for the Barnes Foundation and its board of trustees, for which he has served as president since 1999. The Foundation became embroiled in controversy due to a financial crisis in the 1990s, partially related to longstanding restrictions on public access resulting from its location in a residential neighborhood.
After a court challenge and resolution of legal issues, the gallery holdings have been controversally relocated from Lower Merion to a new building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“We are carrying out Dr. Barnes wishes and having the art available for what he called 'the plain people'—and those are the people who get up everyday and go to work at businesses and offices in Philadelphia,” explained Watson during the Barnes Foundation Philadelphia media preview. “Those are his words, and we are delighted that we are here in this wonderful new facility and the art is replicated to the way he had it in Merion, which is what we promised when we went to court to get permission to move. The thing about art is the perception that you have to be an elite to see art, and appreciate it, and understand it. Let me tell you what Dr. Barnes did. Dr Barnes closed his factories where they were producing Argyrol, and he had his entire workforce and he paid them while they learned about the art and could view his private collection of art, which he made available for them.”
Barnes stipulated in a trust that his legendary trove of 800 impressionist and post-impressionist paintings forever "remain in exactly the places they are." According to Watson, the new location will provide access of this legendary trove of art to people from all walks of life.
“This foundation in this new facility will allow more people to visit the Barnes and appreciate the art and to see,” said Watson. “We will be open all week. We can set our own hours. We can set the time that people can come. We have a lot of the amenities and the privileges that we did not have in Merion—and could not have because of zoning restrictions. It will be available to people from all over the world who could not get into the Barnes at its other location because of the restrictions that was placed there. We know, for example, that the most requested venue of European visitors was to go to the Barnes and only a fraction of them could be accommodated. We see this as another way to carry out Dr. Barnes vision of what art was about—available for the people to understand and to appreciate—for ordinary people, not just the wealthy and well-educated.”
The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, located 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, will open with 10 days of free admission. It began Saturday will continue until ay 28. The inaugural week culminates with a Memorial Day festival weekend, offering round-the-clock free admission. The weekend features a variety of entertainment and programs from noon on May 26 through 6 p.m. on May 28. Tickets are required for all opening events and are available at www.barnesfoundation.org or by calling toll free (866) 849-7056 .
Philadelphia parents have another option when searching for fun and free outdoor play space for their children.
FreePlay on the Parkway unveiled its summer programming series with a kick-off celebration, science in the sun and outdoor reading — all in the first week.
The area is the first park created by Play InBetween, a Philadelphia-based non-profit committed to developing innovative and unstructured play spaces in underutilized areas.
“Play InBetween is part of a growing national movement that is working to bring unstructured play back to children’s education and development. Overwhelming evidence suggests that we ignore this type of play at our peril,” said Christine Piven, who partnered with neighbor Catherine Barrett to create this pocket park on Ben Franklin Parkway. “The Parkway site is such a great space; it’s large enough for my daughters to play ball, climb a tree and play with the components. I love that that they come up with their own games.
“They play their own version of humpty-dumpty, stack up the Imagination Playground blocks, sit on the top and then topple over,” she added.
The park was created in a little over a year, starting with a concept, securing fundraising and implementing the vision into reality.
“I am proud that the park was completed in record time,” Priven said. “It is an incredible feeling to have worked hard on something and see it come to life. FreePlay is in its second year and we have a growing following of adults and kids who enjoy the space. In order to raise productive citizens, we need to offer our kids opportunities for child-directed or unstructured play. I am proud to have built a space that reflects this.”
Anna Tas and her family have been supporters from the beginning. During nice weather, she spends about 60 hours a month outdoors with her family.
“It’s just time spent outside playing, walking, eating and just being together relaxing without walls,” she said.
Having a space for children to play freely in a safe environment is important to many city residents.
“A space where the building-blocks are provided, but the structure is left to the child’s imagination is fantastic — it encourages creativity,” Tas said.
She enjoys the space and time spent traveling to the moon in space rockets and putting out fires with her sons Harry and Franky Tas.
FreePlay on the Parkway promotes sharing.
“There aren’t toys that one child is bringing and has ownership of — everything is for everyone,” Tas said.
Play InBetween recognizes the need for unstructured play as a critical and often-overlooked element of childhood education.
The space is designed to encourage independent and creative play by combining touchable art installations with inventive playground and recreational equipment for kids and the young-at-heart.
The components of the space will remain. The park features Imagination Playground blocks sponsored by Sprout; a huge octagonal sandbox — the only public, eight-sided sandbox in the city; and a ping pong table. Bistro-style seating is available for parents or anyone in search of a place to relax.
“There are subtle lessons on how to get along and approach relationships with others when you’re encouraged to interact this way as a child,” Tas said. “Having the park staffed is practical in the city, as this keeps the equipment safe and clean, which as a parent is also something I appreciate.”
Council working with mayor on compromise to outdoor feeding rule
City Council members are expected to authorize hearings this week on Mayor Michael Nutter’s policy on feeding the homeless outside in city parks and other public areas.
Nutter banned outside feeding in city parks last month.
The ban faced immediate opposition from Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who hopes she can work out a compromise with the administration that lets people continue to help the homeless without the threat of city sanctions.
“My goal is for us to try and find a middle road,” she said on Monday April 9. “To hopefully find a compromise and work these issues out.”
Blackwell wants the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless to hold hearings on the impact of outdoor feeding. What steps she might take after that depends on the findings.
A well-known advocate for the homeless, Blackwell noted that Council cannot compel the mayor to rescind his policy — adding that that’s why she felt hearings were important.
“It’s to keep the issue in the forefront of everybody’s mind,” she said.
Ultimately, she hoped to satisfy the administration and homeless advocates.
“If we get an upgraded process that everybody can agree with, we’ll be alright,” she said.
In Blackwell’s eyes “upgraded” would mean a policy that meets the mayor’s standards, but allows people to continue to feed the homeless where they find them.
“Some way that the mayor and health commissioner and the park system feel that it’s healthy and cleaner,” she said.
Nutter cited health and safety concerns when he announced in mid-March that he had instructed the parks commissioner to begin enforcing a ban on feeding in public parks within the next 30 days, as part of a new administration policy. At the time, he also said the administration would come up with a new long-term approach to feeding the hungry within 90 days.
The mayor pitched the policy as centered on public health and safety concerns — and as a way to assist people needing food and shelter.
“Aside from the dignity provided by sitting down at a given time in a given place for a nutritious meal, an indoor location enables the city and its partners to offer health, mental health, housing, a place to receive mail and other needed services to this very vulnerable population,” Nutter said at the time.
The mayor added that until the many groups that feed the homeless outside and those that have indoor facilities can coordinate their activities, the outdoor groups can feed people on the apron at City Hall.
They “will be required to sign up with the Department of Public Property and reserve the days and times for their activity,” said Nutter. “Those who wish to provide safe food will be welcome to do so, and we will try to coordinate their feeding to assure a more balanced, predictable schedule for the hungry.”
Large scale feeding, which used to happen in Love Park and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Family Court building have been moved to the apron.
Some of the mayor’s concerns were legitimate, Blackwell said, noting that she too had health and safety concerns.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying let’s check and see what kind of food they’re having. Is there enough balance? Is it all carbohydrates? That’s a legitimate discussion,” she said. “But they just keep saying ‘outlaw it.’”
Blackwell was also concerned about the administration’s plan to fine people who violated the policy. Nutter said the city would fine violators up to $150 after two warnings.
“That’s utterly ridiculous. You can’t enforce that stuff,” said Blackwell. “We have too many other things to do. It’s insulting, I think.”
A former parking lot situated across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been transformed into a pop-up park. Eakins Oval on 2601 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, will become “The Oval,” an urban oasis full of activities for men, women and children of all ages to enjoy. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, in partnership with the Fairmount Park Conservancy and with support from the William Penn Foundation, debuted the City of Philadelphia’s new “Park on the Parkway” last week.
“The Oval is the first of many exciting enhancements which will be made to the iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway in support of our More Park Less Way Action Plan,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “We want the Parkway to be a neighborhood park for all Philadelphians that is wonderfully designed, connected to the community, offers a wide array of activities and amenities, and features park spaces that people can easily access. I encourage everyone to visit The Oval this summer and experience the new shape of fun.”
Located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as Philadelphia’s own “Avenue des Champs-Élysées,” the oval was part of urban planner Jacques Gréber’s design which he proposed in 1917. Named for world-famous realist painter Thomas Eakins, the oval was originally part of the Parkway until traffic modifications isolated it in the 1960s.
Currently, Eakins Oval serves as an intersection between of Philadelphia’s biggest tourist attractions including The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rocky statue, The Barnes Foundation, The Franklin Institute, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Free Library and Rodin Museum. The space also welcomes some of Philadelphia’s most iconic events including Welcome America’s July 4th Festival, Made In America music festival, as well as a variety of charity run/walks.
For the summer of 2013, The Oval has been activated as a park with live musical performances, interactive arts and culture activities, fun fitness and wellness activities, movie nights, beer gardens, miniature golf, mobile farming and much more.
“The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is one of Philadelphia’s most important cultural spaces,” said Kathryn Ott Lovell, executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy. “Over 70,000 Philadelphians live with-in a ten-minute walk of Eakins Oval, and transforming this space into The Oval will connect and unify the attractions and surrounding neighborhoods by giving people the opportunity to stay, eat and play in the eight-acre open air park programmed with entertainment and activities for all ages.”
For more information about The Oval, visit www.phila.gov/theoval or “Follow” The Oval on Twitter @TheOvalPHL.