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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Canvassing Philadelphia

This portrait of Philadelphia's art scene appeared in last weekend's Washington Post travel section.

Smack dab in the middle of Philadelphia sits one of the most significant cultural miles in the United States. The 5,280-foot stretch between City Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a major center
 for art, architecture, science, and public sculpture.
Framed within the mile are the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the newly renovated Rodin Museum, which contains the most extensive public collection of the sculptor’s work outside of Paris. When the city edition of the Barnes Foundation opened in May 2012 (after the collection’s relocation from nearby Merion), Philadelphia's magnificent mile, located along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, became all the more compelling. Sketch the collection of the nearby Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts into the picture, and you’ve got the palette of a cultural dynamo. 
The Spring Collection
A fine place to start a cultural tour of the city is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As the collection has more than 300,000 works, it’s smart to narrow your focus. This spring, the museum explores Journeys to New Worlds. The exhibit highlights rare examples of Spanish and Portuguese Colonial art, and illustrates cultural exchanges between those countries and their colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries. For something a little more whimsical, The Art of Golf is a revealing study of the sport’s history, popularity and representation in art. It runs through July 7.

The Barnes Foundation’s move into Center City has been a big boon to the Philadelphia arts scene. Celebrated for its depth, quality, and unique art displays, the collection is known for its works by European and American masters of Impressionism, post-Impressionism, and early Modern art. From May 4 through September 2, the museum mounts an Ellsworth Kelly show. This is the Barnes’ first contemporary exhibition since 1923.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts hosts its Annual Student Exhibition from May 10 through June 2. Then, on June 27, a Jennifer Bartlett retrospective opens. The 40-year-career survey showcases paintings and sculptures combining abstract and representational styles.

Art at Sunset and Around Town
Why attend a plain old happy hour when you can celebrate the end of the week with a mix of music, food and fine art? The first Friday of every month, galleries in Old City, Fishtown and Manayunk celebrate independent art. Friday Night at the Barnes offers a lively mix of music, lectures, and food tastings, while the Philadelphia Museum of Art turns down the lights and turns up the tunes for Art After 5

The art scene extends far beyond the magnificent mile.
A multi-platform audio tour, called Museum Without Walls, features the city’s public art and outdoor sculpture. Also worth exploring are some of the city's 3,600 murals. The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has a variety of tours of the colorful walls found throughout diverse neighborhoods. 

Not to be missed, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is home base for the citywide Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts 2013. From March 28 to April 27, If You Had a Time Machine  will (figuratively) transport audiences through time via artistic presentations. Music, theater and visual arts will be used to trace ideas of past visionaries, to examine current cultural trends, and to fast-forward into the possibilities of what’s yet to come. Some of the events are free and many are family friendly.

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