Made In... Brooklyn?

Local designers want to manufacture in Philadelphia—but it’s not always possible.

Sept2017_MadeInBrooklyn.jpg

by Justin Klugh

An idea is born anywhere: scribbles on the back of a napkin, a daydream during a webinar, panicked fumbling for a bedside notebook in the middle of the night. While cleaning out her mother’s belongings after her passing, Maddie Flanigan found her idea in a closet: a sewing machine that inspired her to embark on a fashion design career. By August 2016, she’d left her day job and was designing full-time in Philadelphia as the head of her company, Madalynne Intimates. 

“I am a maker, through and through,” Flanigan says. “I love working with my hands.” But moving a concept from design into that formidable second phase—execution—requires more thought, greater space and probably a couple hundred more napkins to accomplish. 

“I have a lot of manufacturers that I’m in contact with,” Flanigan says. “From a manufacturing standpoint, every factory has their strengths and weaknesses, it just so happened that I found a really great factory recently that can do all of my styles.”

Flanigan happened to settle on one in Brooklyn that best met her needs in terms of finance, specialization and scale. And she’s not alone. Many of Philadelphia’s scribblers, daydreamers and late-night notebook-reachers have had to look elsewhere to manufacture their products. 

Duane Bumb, senior deputy commerce director of business development at the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, says it’s a decades-old issue: “Philadelphia has seen a reduction over the last 40 or 50 years in manufacturing overall, largely because production and efficiency has increased. But it’s not that we make fewer things here, it’s that we use fewer people to make those things.”

Despite the city’s industrial strengths—transportation infrastructure to get people to work and products to market; a great location, central to key business hubs in the northeast; and overall access to a large marketplace—there seems to be a disconnect between business owners and production that, despite the efforts of the COC, keeps manufacturing from staying in the city where the ideas are dreamed up. Flanigan is all about getting her lingerie into local shops. But when it comes to making her product on a grander scale, there’s an issue of space.

“We have a harder time being able to accommodate a user who needs 50–100 figures for their type of production,” Bumb explains. He says there are efforts in place to retrigger manufacturing in the city, like linking organizations such as technical schools to business owners in order to create personal contacts with those on the manufacturing side of production. This would obviously be a benefit to the fashion industry, among others: Whether due to local universities or incubators, there has been an uptick in that industry in particular.

“It’s really about us connecting makers to a workforce as they grow here and are producing here,” Bumb continues. “In fact, I think there are sites here for that, and I think there is an accessible and skilled workforce, and there are planning resources for people who need those specialized skills. We also are working with those organizations in workforce development—Philadelphia Works being the largest one of those—but there are a lot of neighborhood-based CDCs [community development corporations] and others that provide training opportunities. Helping [small businesses or businesses that are just starting] to connect to those resources is the place where we’re focusing our efforts right now.”

Camille Bell and Jonathan Velazquez, two Temple graduates and the founders of Pound Cake Cosmetics, are putting together a business out of The Yard workspace on South 11th Street while scheduling around day jobs and coaching interns. Pound Cake, which has a mission of providing makeup to a broad range of skin tones, has enough on its plate; not just getting a business off the ground, but also using its work to make a social commentary about “ways in which the beauty industry exploits/misrepresents marginalized groups, and the value of self-defined beauty and self-love,” the owners said in a joint statement. 

The plan is for their first products to be available in the coming months, and like Flanigan, they’ve settled on a manufacturer outside of the Philadelphia region, finding a factory on the West Coast that suits their needs and fits their budget.

“Because we couldn’t find [a manufacturer] in Philly, we have to outsource, and then once we get big enough and understand how to manufacture ourselves, then we’ll have more money for getting a warehouse here in Philly,” Bell says.

Bell cites the Blackstone Launchpad program at Temple, a campus-based entrepreneurial program used by 500,000 students all over the world, as an example of a resource that benefitted her and Velazquez’s work, putting them in touch with the people and assets they needed to build the foundation from which Pound Cake can rise. Bell and Velazquez benefitted from having local business owners come in and share their expertise. 

Photo: Morgan Smith

Photo: Morgan Smith

When it comes to producing locally, both Philadelphia’s entrepreneurs and the city itself are on the same side, and that side seems to encourage and benefit from more personal interactions. There’s just work to do to increase the opportunity to tap into a Philadelphia resource that Bell says is already here.

“That’s something I’ll say about Philly,” Bell says. “People want to help each other get off the ground.”

September: Comings & Goings

Sept2017_ComingsGoings.jpg

Solar Program Extends Registration Through October
Solarize Philly, the Philadelphia Energy Authority’s first initiative to get more homes powered by the sun, has extended its signup period by one month, to Oct. 31.

The program launched in April and has signed up more than 1,600 households to receive solar installations from three companies vetted by PEA: Solar States, Kiss Electric and Moore Energy.

“PEA will help the developers keep the costs low by bundling neighborhood installations, reducing marketing and outreach costs, and working with the Office of Sustainability, L&I and PECO to keep the process moving as quickly as possible,” states Solarize Philly’s website. Installations will help fund solar job training through the school district.

Fair Food Executive Director Steps Down
Ann Karlen stepped down in August as the executive director of Fair Food, which promotes locally grown food and sustainable agriculture practices.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are so grateful for everything she has accomplished,” reads a statement from Fair Food, acknowledging Karlen’s 17-year history with the organization. “Her tireless dedication to the cause has truly made positive change in our regional food system.” 

Board member John Rhoads will serve as interim executive until a permanent executive director is hired.

Second Philly Free Streets Scheduled for Oct. 28
After positive feedback following the inaugural event in 2016, Philadelphia will host its second Philly Free Streets program Oct. 28 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Led by the Managing Director’s Office of Transportation & Infrastructure Systems, this program temporarily closes streets to cars, inviting people to walk and bike. A map of the 7-mile round-trip route, between 3rd and Chestnut to 5th and Indiana streets, can be found at phillyfreestreets.com. This year’s event will also include programming to highlight the ways in which street design can benefit neighborhoods and individuals’ health.

“Philly Free Streets will transform our streets into a safe environment for physical activity and learning, and further my commitment to improving neighborhoods and bettering the futures of children,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. 

City Names New Deputy Director for Planning, Zoning
Philadelphia’s new deputy director for planning and zoning is Eleanor Sharpe, who has three years of experience with the City Planning Commission and has previously served as director of planning in New Rochelle, New York.

“In my new role, my focus as deputy director for planning and development is to oversee how those four organizations can work better together—how the Zoning Board, Historical Commission, Art Commission and Planning Commission can align what we do so that centers can serve the citizens of Philadelphia together,” Sharpe told the Philadelphia Tribune.

The Howard architecture grad also has a master's in city planning from Penn and is a LEED accredited professional.

Latino Organizations, Santander Bank Launch Pathway to Citizenship Program
The nonprofit lending institution FINANTA—along with Santander Bank and the Latino community organization Ceiba—announced a pilot program Aug. 14 to help low-to-moderate income immigrants secure low-cost loans for expenses associated with attaining U.S. citizenship.  

The effort, titled Programa Adelante (The Forward Program), also provides financial literacy education, credit and budget counseling, immigration-related workshops and free tax preparation. A press release states: “At the end of the program, not only will participants have increased economic ability to apply for an immigration remedy, but their enhanced financial literacy will enable them to more effectively integrate into the American economy in a secure way.”

“It is great to be part of a program that helps people achieve their dream of U.S. citizenship and, through that, build on other American dreams like homeownership and financial security,” said Luis Mora Rechnitz, president of FINANTA, which serves low-income, immigrant, and minority entrepreneurs and consumers.

City Releases Action Plan to Address Waste, Litter
On Aug. 7, Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled the city’s Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan, which stems from his executive order to set a goal of “zero waste” in the city by 2035—eliminating the use of landfills and conventional incinerators. 

“Philadelphia disposes of nearly 1 ton of waste for each of our 1.5 million residents,” Mayor Kenney said. “So, while everyone knows cleaning up litter is important, we also have to concentrate on reducing waste before it has the chance to become litter.”

Among the measures identified by the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet that would help Philadelphia reach its goal are: advocating for products that eliminate need for incineration or landfill burial; recovering items for reuse, resale, recycling or utilization as waste-to-energy material; promoting low-impact or reduced-consumption lifestyles; and improving access to recycling.

The program will be administered by Nic Esposito, a longtime urban agriculture advocate who recently worked with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.

Also announced at the Aug. 7 meeting was an interactive, data-driven website for residents, cleanphl.org, which aims to help residents find resources and engagement opportunities for addressing litter abatement.

Local shops Blackbird Pizzeria, Moon and Arrow Expand
Blackbird Pizzeria opened a new location Aug. 16 at 614 N. 2nd St. in Northern Liberties. The restaurant serves the same vegan menu as the original spot at South 6th and Lombard streets, including pizzas with Violife cheese, salads, seitan cheesesteaks and tofu scrambles.

South Philadelphia Boutique Moon & Arrow has also expanded inside of its location at 754 S. 4th St. on Fabric Row. The store now includes a dedicated section for children’s clothing, toys and other items. Many items are hand crafted or made by local artisans. 

The Buying Game

‘Shop Local’ isn’t just a slogan. Our survival depends on it.

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Question: Why should I “Buy Fresh, Buy Local”?

The Right Question: What is a local economy, anyway?

Most of us tend to think of “the economy” as the process of exchanging our money for goods and services, and of receiving wages for our labor, which gets plowed back into buying more goods and services. 

We might imagine this as two circles running in opposite directions—money circles one way, goods and services the other way—and often we think of them as having equal value. But in our modern industrial human economy, only money, the medium of exchange, actually cycles. 

The goods that come into our economy are on a one-way, generally very rapid, trip from extraction from nature, processing into something we want (perhaps even something we need) to disposal in a landfill or incinerator. Our large economy is geared toward making that trip faster and faster, and toward consuming more and more. Whether that makes us healthier or happier is an idea we’ve explored in other columns.

Note “extraction from nature” above. The human economy is only a small part of the global natural economy, which provides us most of our critical needs—air, water and a livable climate outside of the human, money-based economy. The natural economy works very differently. All material resources are continuously recycled, and energy is on a one-way trip—it arrives in very concentrated form from the sun to our planet, where it drives both organic and atmospheric processes, and is eventually dissipated back into space, so diluted as to be incapable of further work. 

When we think of “local economy” we generally mean exchanges that begin and end with the material resources and money never leaving a geographical region. One hundred and fifty years ago, our local economy was the dominant economic unit. Most of Philadelphia’s food and other material resources came from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. However, the explosion ofpetroleum-powered transportation has, for the moment, integrated economies over vast regions. Nevertheless, taking steps to rebuild and strengthen our presently minuscule local economies is the best investment we can make in a secure future, when the energy that powers the global economy wanes.

How do we do that?

The most fundamental way is by supporting our local food economy. That’s why I buy 90 percent of my vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat products from producers in southeastern Pennsylvania, in addition to what grows in my garden, and why flour, pasta and apple juice are about the most highly processed foods I buy. I can find Pennsylvania flour for my bread, but for rice, spice and the occasional orange or date, I have to get transcontinental. 

All of the farms that produce this food use gasoline- or diesel-powered equipmentand spend a significant chunk of their budgets on equipment and technology that comes from all over the world. The electricity running their freezers and coolers comes from a grid that covers several states. Many of those purchases are made in stores that survive by selling highly processed goods from all over the world, such as figs from Turkey and pasta from Italy. (Likely made with wheat imported from the U.S.) Still, my practices reinforce loops, create jobs, reduce energy consumption and preserve necessary skills in our region. Local thrift stores are my source whenever possible for clothes and household items, because that also recycles goods and money within the area, slowing down the conveyor belt of goods on their way from a Chinese factory to a landfill or incinerator in Pennsylvania. (I would be ecstatic if the thrift store had to close because no one was discarding still usable items, but that’s a good ways off.)  And, of course, Philadelphia has wonderful libraries and used book stores.

I pay cash at these local merchants. The cornerstone of the global economy is the financial sector, and to the extent we minimize our transactions with them, the better.  (No, my savings are not in my mattress, they are in a credit union, whose participation in the global economy is radically circumscribed by its nonprofit status and rules of operation.) 

Supporting our local economy is about accepting the limits of the resources and energy available to us, challenging the prevailing idea that we are entitled to whatever we want if we can afford it. It means that I won’t have another strawberry or asparagus spear till next spring, and I am gorging on peaches because they will only be around another month or so… but then the apples start!  

This will be the last regular “The Right Question” for the time being. I thank Grid for the opportunity to have written this column, congratulate the magazine on its 100th issue and stand in anticipation of many more. I hope you have found these columns challenging and stimulating. I would be glad to discuss what I have written and to receive any feedback you might like to share via email. Thank you for reading.

Jerry Silberman is a retired union organizer who now devotes his time to negotiating a resilient future for all of us. He can be reached at ajs805phila@verizon.net.

The Visible Woman

Why do we still not see black Americans as having a connection to the environment?

illustration by Abayomi Louard-Moore

illustration by Abayomi Louard-Moore

Interview by Heather Shayne Blakeslee

Carolyn Finney’s book “Black Faces, White Spaces” is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand all of the ways in which African-Americans have been prevented from owning, accessing and having a public relationship with land, open space and the concept of “the great outdoors.” From exploring institutional racism in the National Park Service to lesser known history—black Air Force recruits in World War II had to have all-white beaches opened to them in order to train to serve their country—the book shines light on the underbelly of our white-dominated environmental movement.

National Park Service employees were very upfront during your research about not caring much about addressing exclusionary practices.
CF: One of the things I always say is that privilege has the privilege of not seeing itself... I’m clear when I talk to predominantly white audiences, that ultimately I want to engage people’s humanity, because it’s something that we all have… There’s real fear there, what they’re experiencing now in our country in multiple ways. So what happens? Let’s say I’m a white person who works for an environmental organization, I have a leadership position, I’ve had this for years, I am relevant because the dominant culture is “relevant,” and now you’re telling me that maybe I’m not relevant anymore. So what happens to me if we hire a black or brown person to be that new leader? What happens to me?... We’re dealing with a human being wondering about their own relevancy. So, for me, that’s what I think is behind some of the commentary.

What is the importance of addressing the racism internal to environmental organizations before trying to more broadly engage people of color?
CF: One of the things I often say to audiences is that I don’t use the term “outreach” anymore… It’s well-meaning, perhaps, it means I’ve “outreached” out to you, I can bring you to my table and make room for you, and then—you have to learn everything we do. You’ll always be responsive to us. We brought you here. They basically don’t have to do anything else, except bring you to the table. And, actually, we know that this is not a useful model, for many reasons, besides the fact that it puts all the onus on that person, that person of color, that person who is different, to do all the work. I call it “building relationships of reciprocity,” because when you are in a relationship, the onus is on both of you.

What role does the media play in reinforcing the idea that people of color are not welcome or associated with natural spaces?
CF: I always ask, “Who is not visible? Who do we not see here? When we see someone, what are they doing? The whole myth of black people “don’t” when it comes to the outdoors is just that—it’s just a myth. Because everyone, including black people, have diverse, complicated and complex relationships with the outdoors. … Driving around south Florida [where I did my research], the thing that you will see almost immediately is black and brown people fishing at the canals. You can’t miss them, it’s every day. But it’s as though we can’t see them. As though that doesn’t count. … It’s not always about climbing a mountain. 

You write that, for slaves, “The ‘woods’ induced both positive and negative feelings: a place that was resource-rich, a place of transformation and refuge... but also a place to fear.” You talk a lot about fear in the book, but can you talk about the positive side for African-Americans?
CF: Well, it’s funny that you say that because one of the reviewers of the book thought I didn’t talk about fear enough and wanted me to write a whole chapter about how African-Americans are afraid, and I was very frustrated with that request. Despite all of that fear, black people go on and feel joy, go on and get creative… People are still laughing and falling in love and getting married, creating music, creating art.

You said it really beautifully in the book. You wrote, “While fear as a by-product of white supremacy and oppression was/is certainly part of the lived reality for many African-Americans, focusing solely on the fear denies the malleability of the black imagination to create and construct a rich reality that is not grounded primarily in fear, but in human ingenuity and the rhythms and the flows of life.”
CF: Yes! I like that, too! We’re not always here just to respond to white oppression. We’re living our own lives, like other people do. Sometimes life exists in spite of that other stuff. This is where the creativity comes from and what I want to honor.

You wrote upfront in the book about what it means personally to you to be a black woman writing about the environment.
CF: So, before I am black, I am a human being. And I always want to say that, because what that means is that I am connected to every other human being. I’m part of the species of human beings. And I’m different because I’m black, or different because I’m a woman and all the other ways that I may be different from other people—but I’m a human being. And so I try to understand, ‘What is it about me being different that is challenging in this country?’ So it’s my aspiration to be seen as more fully human, to belong, to be in relationship with all kinds of people. To be visible—I don’t want to be invisible. I want to be visible. I want to be valued. Who doesn’t want to be valued? It’s an intense desire for me and the people I love to be seen, and to increase my own ability to see. I don’t see everything! I have blinders on and I don’t want to. So what does that mean? I’m really interested in all the ways in which we are a person in the world.

Carolyn Finney, Ph.D., is a performer, writer, cultural geographer and a professor in geography at the University of Kentucky.

Dream Makers

NextFab’s expansion is also an evolution from makerspace to incubator

Sept2017_DreamMakers.jpg

By Danielle Corcione

Entrepreneur Jessie Garcia walked into Philadelphia-headquartered makerspace NextFab with an idea, and walked out with her company, Tozuda. 

A former student athlete who knew the risks of repeated head injuries, Garcia developed a small sensor that can be attached to any type of helmet. It activates under force and changes color to indicate concussion risk, and the product comes with a can’t-forget-it tagline: “If it’s red, check your head.” 

At other makerspaces, Garcia may have just gone in, prototyped her product and walked out. In fact, that’s what she may have done when NextFab first opened its doors in 2010, when Evan Malone founded NextFab to bring the maker movement—an umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers—to the City of Brotherly Love.

Particularly, Malone wanted to “bring in advanced manufacturing tools to help entrepreneurs and artists use these tools and do great things.” He teamed up with University City Science Center to open a West Philadelphia location more as a “gym” than the cohesive, complex spaces he runs today.  

But now, in addition to providing the physical tools to help professionals kickstart their businesses, NextFab wants to be a development resource, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. The space has started an incubator program that hosts companies such as Garcia’s on-site and helps them get the answers they need to move forward as a business.

“[NextFab] took my product to the next level in terms of manufacturing capabilities,” Garcia adds. “[Before], I only had access to a 3D printer, but now, things that would cost me several thousands of dollars, I can make now for a 10th of the price. I’ve learned skills I can repeat over and over. Before, I would’ve contracted these skills out.”

Under NextFab’s mentorship, Garcia’s original target demographic of student athletes expanded into the much larger markets of professional sports players and construction workers, giving her young company an even greater chance for success. 

“[The incubator program] helped me think bigger,” Garcia says. “I came in very focused on athletics, but with [Next Fab’s venture services manager’s] help, we realized we should look at different market segments that are affected by concussions and brain injuries.”

NextFab is pinning its own success as a company on positioning itself as a place where entrepreneurs can take advantage of a holistic approach to product development, and remaining flexible and nimble. While other local makerspaces—such as the Department of Making + Doing and the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym—have closed, Malone’s network has continued to expand. In addition to two locations in Philadelphia, they’ve opened a Wilmington, Delaware, location.

“We’ve got a lot of investment capital,” Malone explains. “We’ve got great people. We have a lot of different methods of making money and don’t have all our eggs in one basket. The maker movement is evolving rapidly. It doesn’t pay to have a locked-in model, from my perspective.”

Each space provides informative classes in 2-D and 3-D printing and photography, design software, electronics, jewelry, laser cutting and engraving, metalworking, textiles and woodworking. Class levels begin at “introductory” and progress to “expert.” This constant knowledge exchange helps makers become more well-rounded and network with other members, who may potentially become business partners or colleagues.

“Each location is a collection of shops,” added Laate Olukotun, marketing manager of NextFab. “Traditionally, most of the shops would be their own businesses and private entities. What’s cool about NextFab is that under one roof, you have everything from a wood shop to a metal shop.”

Membership plans—which grant access to classes, resources, equipment, a growing community and expert staff at all three locations—range from $19 to $199 per month.

Malone says the accelerator program that Garcia participated in takes a would-be business titan “from raw idea to launching a business and getting ready to reach the market. It takes companies through all the necessary steps for a successful business model.”

In addition to providing mentorship and tools over a 12-week period, NextFab invests up to $25,000 in each team in its RAPID Hardware Accelerator program—look for the launch of their third accelerator cohort this fall.

Arts Vs Crafts

The Kamihira gallery straddles the line between art showcase and makerspace

Photo by Megan Matuzak

Photo by Megan Matuzak

By John Henry Scott

Artist Tosh Kamihira opened the Kamihira gallery and store at Frankford and Sargent last year, and since then has sought to be “an outlet for local makers.” It’s not uncommon for people with a fine art background or education to make the shift into the world of craft and function, and Kamihira is on that path. 

Across our own city, many artists work with both craft and art, the former lending itself not only to making money but also to changing the way people interact with their everyday objects. According to artist Thomas Pontone, who has curated a group show at the space and is also at work on a series of minimalist stools, “It seems more justified to have an object in your home if it serves a purpose.” 

Jessica Hans, a studio artist based out of East Falls who also makes functional flower vases, explores the arts-vs.-craft line in her work as well. 

“I’ve always teetered on the edge of functional and sculptural, allowing the work to retain its sense of usefulness,” she said. 

Since opening, Kamihira has also featured gallery shows from artists such as Alyssa Piro, John Mitchell, Will Haughery and Will Kelly. The shop sells merchandise from local brands such as 1733 (handcrafted bags), Dog Pasta (ceramics) and Kamihira Tees (shirts designed by Tosh and his brother Leks). 

Kamihira’s friends, Walter Wynne and Wai-Jee Ho, also reckon with the line between art and function in their studio practice. Together, they make handcrafted furniture, upholstered with fabric woven on the premises. They call their Port Richmond studio WW Woodworking.

“I realized during my first year in art school that I could never be an artist, that I needed the constraints of functionality,” said Ho. 

“I had a similar reaction at school,” said Wynne. “I needed to step away from the conceptualized aspect of everyone else’s work and root myself in some sort of craft-based process.” 

The couple met at Cooper Union, the prestigious New York City art school, an environment that led both of them to think about the expressive nature of art versus the functional nature of craft.  

Ho and Wynne moved to Philadelphia (Wynne’s hometown) shortly after their graduation and set up the studio a few years later. 

Ho weaves and prints the designs on the fabric that upholsters Wynne’s furniture.

“The weaving began as a response to the furniture Walt was making,” she said. “We were trying to find fabric for the furniture and kept hitting a wall.” 

“Time and material for the cushions began to outweigh the cost of making the chair,” added Wynne. 

Weaving their own fabric allows Ho and Wynne to have a greater degree of control over the furniture-making process in terms of the materials they’re using. 

Pieces from WW Woodworking are made to order. Clients select an existing form from the website and are free to customize it with choice of color and (to some extent) wood. For now, according to Ho and Wynne, WW is more a studio than it is a business, focused on developing ideas instead of turning a profit.  

For Kamihira, the line between art and craft is becoming irrelevant, as long as he keeps working himself as he tries to make a go of the gallery. 

“As far as craft goes, I think it’s really important for me to make things,” said Kamihira. “Whether I define it as craft or art has no bearing in my mind. I find that people in my position as a gallerist/shop owner often lose track of what it is that we’re doing and what [a gallery setting or marketplace] means to makers if we are not ourselves making things.”

The Kamihira Gallery, 2527 Frankford Ave.

Sustainability Solutions

Sept2017_MadeInPhillyArticles.jpg

As we move further along into a federal administration that is hostile to policies such as the Clean Water Act and efforts such as the Paris climate agreement, the role of states and populous cities becomes ever more important. Last year was, again, the hottest year on record, and climate projections for Philadelphia tell us that we can expect more of the same: Our city is getting hotter and wetter, and we have to be prepared for it. “Mitigation” has evolved into “adaptation and resilience” in the face of the changes we’re already experiencing. 

Getting to scale on sustainability solutions means having good public policy in place, and you need not look further than your immediate environs to see just how much our city is doing to protect our future. Green City, Clean Waters, our internationally lauded stormwater plan, is not only helping us comply with the Clean Water Act, it’s making our city greener. Those medians out on Delaware Avenue aren’t just pretty flowers—they’re keeping the roadway from flooding in emergencies. The William Penn Foundation has made massive investments in revitalizing our watershed, and it’s going for broke on the Rebuild program (a major infrastructure investment across the city funded in part with the “soda tax”) with its biggest-ever grant of $100 million. Investments in public transportation are also on the rise, and the specter of high-speed rail becomes more embodied with each passing year—it would be a game-changer for the region.

We’re cleaning up our act on the waste and energy front, with ambitious goals for new city-sponsored initiatives (the Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan along with the new Solarize Philly program are exciting developments) and steadily working toward many other citywide goals through a now-permanent Office of Sustainability. And our Energy Development Authority has big plans to invest in efficiency work that could create 10,000 new jobs—a critical component to ameliorating the equity issues that still challenge our city.

The role of private business is important as well, and we’ll get to scale faster because of those entrepreneurs and established companies who choose to educate themselves and support the wider community through membership associations—the Sustainable Business Network or Delaware Valley Green Building Council among many others, which are, by the way, some of the strongest chapters in a nationwide network, leading the way for others. And it’s exciting to see that statewide environmental groups are banding together to become more powerful: The League of Conservation Voters and PennFuture (who kicked things off officially with the now-shuttered Next Great City campaign) have formed an innovative new partnership that will strengthen protections of our air, land and water.

Individual consumers are also playing a role, from the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” mindset of the people snapping up CSAs and patronizing neighborhood stores, to the people who have chosen to start them in the first place. We’re lucky to have organizations that support them directly while developing self-supporting networks—thank you,
Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance!

Grid looks forward to the next decade of innovative sustainability solutions that are made in Philly.

__________

According to the city’s Office of Sustainability, in the last 10 years Philadelphia has:

tripled the residential recycling rate

reduced city government
greenhouse gas emissions by 17%

added 100 new farmers markets,
gardens and farms

planted more than 120,000 new trees

added 100 miles of bike infrastructure

launched an equity-based bike share program

greened more than 800 acres of land to manage stormwater

__________

While Philadelphia should celebrate our many successes and the partnerships that enabled them, we recognize that deeper and harder work lies ahead to meet Mayor Kenney’s 100 percent clean energy pledge and commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050— while also preparing our residents for the warmer and wetter climate to come. We invite all residents to join us to help achieve our vision for a sustainable Philadelphia. 

Christine Knapp
Director, Office of Sustainability

Co-working, startups,
accelerators and incubators

Sept2017_MadeInPhillyArticles.jpg

 

Editor’s note: The September issue of Grid went to press before the events of Hurricane Harvey. Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragedy in Houston. 

"Philadelphia is the new Houston” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Philadelphia is the new Silicon Valley,” although we’re of the opinion that Philadelphia is just fine as Philadelphia: We don’t need to be shaped or branded in someone else’s image. 

But when plans for a petrochemical hub were emerging from South Philadelphia out of the bowels of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, formerly the Sunoco Refinery, one of the things the Grid office was buzzing about was how many jobs would actually be created—and who would get them. The city needs to continue to focus on economic development, but what kind of economic development? Will it ruin our environmental cred? What do we want to be known for? 

That’s why we’re glad to see that plans for a proposed “energy hub” may have dissipated but that Philadelphia’s tech and startup scene is positively booming. Just like rivers, full-blown companies are starting as pinpricks in someone’s heart all around town. Maybe it was an idea born from collaboration at one of the city’s many co-working spaces (we’re looking at you, N3rd Street). Maybe it was a love at first sight at a Philly Tech Week educational event or an idea pitched through the Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship. 

No matter when or where lightning hit the key on the kite, more and more people are choosing to align their values with their business ideas. The idea for an official Benefit Corporation that takes into account not just profits but community impact? Made in Philly (Thanks, B-Lab!). Leading the charge on getting more girls in the tech-and-maker game? Great job, Girl Develop It, Girls Who Code and The Hacktory. 

These pipelines are important. According to the Economy League, we’re going in the right direction with tech jobs, but attention to the composition of our workforce will be important. Their survey numbers don’t lie: Only 26 percent of regional tech jobs are held by women, and black IT employees make up only 10 percent of the workforce—for Latinos it’s only 4 percent.

And then there’s the cadre of get-it-to-scale venture capital companies, incubators and accelerators such as Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the University City Science Center, working together under big umbrellas such as Impact PHL, or the new Pennovation Center. The overall trend is more innovation and more tech firms driving our economic engine, just as it has for the past decade. 

It also bodes well that companies that weren’t born here but choose to call us home—GlaxoSmithKline, Google and Tesla among them—will act as a siren call for others to locate their workforces in one of the most livable cities in America. Tech jobs and innovation: made in Philly.

__________

According to Technical.ly Philly and Center City District, Philadelphia is home to:

- 100+ colleges and universities that grant 13,000 STEM degrees annually

- 13 Fortune 500 companies in the health care, media and food service sectors

- 5,100 tech businesses, including 488 tech firms

Employers in the Philadelphia area have added more than 25,000 new tech jobs since 2002, equivalent to 25 percent of all net job growth in Greater Philadelphia during that period.

Farm-to-table
 heaven,
 and hope 
for hungry
 Philadelphians

Sept2017_MadeInPhillyArticles.jpg

Philadelphia’s food scene is one of the best in the country, and we could go on and on about our favorite places to eat. From the outstanding locavore choices to the ever expanding vegan and vegetarian options—not to mention more local beer and finely distilled spirits than you can shake a martini at—we are now on the map nationally as a food-and-drink destination. (That’s great news for foodies, but it’s also great news for our tourism industry: We experienced a 47 percent increase in visitors to Philadelphia from 2005 to 2015, a remarkable statistic considering that it’s a time that saw one of the worst economic downturns in country’s history.)

But all of our farm-to-table options didn’t get that way on their own. It takes a lot of effort to build up networks of hardworking farmers, open distribution facilities and get your cold storage down, whether you’re a stalwart like Weavers Way food co-op or a new-kid-on-the-block gastropub. That’s why organizations and companies that were born in Philly—Fair Food, The Food Trust, Farm to City, Common Market and others—have been critical players in developing the infrastructure and networks that tie our local food system together. They make it possible for our caterers, food trucks and restaurants to pick up the phone and get what they need from a distant neighbor rather than another continent: When you’re tucking into your balsamic-drenched local Brussels sprouts, you have a lot of people to thank.

The work of these organizations and others has also provided help to the 25 percent of our city that is “food insecure.” It’s a term that, by strict definition, means that a family is “unable to consistently access or afford adequate food,” and by any other measure is much more simply put: People are hungry. A lot of people. 

The incredible programs at Broad Street Ministry alone serve more than 80,000 meals a year. That those meals need to be served shows the importance of organizations such as Share, Food Connect, the Coalition Against Hunger and Philabundance, all of which are making sure that much-needed food—including fresh local produce—is getting to the people who need it. 

The collective work on strengthening our local food system has also allowed new companies to spring up—thank Snack Like a Local if you’re eating local crisps at your job site or Hungry Harvest if you’re getting a CSA full of rescued produce. 

The local food economy is more than 10 percent of our regional economic output, and all that nutritious food nourishing our bodies means that we’re all made in Philly, too.

__________

According to the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Board:

Our 100-mile foodshed has 43,000 farms that serves 30 million people

All but 2% of our regional farms are owned by a family or individual

700 food pantries and soup kitchens feed an estimated half a million Philadelphians annually, possibly reaching a full third of the total population every year

Since we launched Fair Food in 2000, I’ve seen incredible growth in the awareness and consumption of local, sustainable and humanely-raised foods. Local food in Philadelphia has moved from the fringes to a core component of our food economy.

Ann Karlen
Founder, Fair Food

Independent Media

Sept2017_MadeInPhillyArticles.jpg

While the country has been recovering from the crash in 2008 and sectors such as renewable energy and technology have been making strides, there is one sector that may not yet have seen the bottom of its losses: print media. 

All over the country, newspapers have been shuttered and alternative weeklies have either disappeared (we miss you, City Paper) or become a shadow of their former selves (Philadelphia Weekly, we wish you the best). Gone, too, in other cities are the Boston Phoenix and the iconic Village Voice, casualties of the same online revolution that left the music industry in tatters. Even upstart micro-newspapers that were serving their neighborhoods well have fallen by the wayside (it was a valiant effort, Spirit News). 

There are soldiers left standing, and that’s heartening, but what does it say when a huge newspaper such as The Washington Post feels the need to change its tagline to “Democracy Dies in Darkness” in order to claim and name the era that we’re living in? The Philadelphia Inquirer is still hanging on despite major layoffs, and is still capable of some truly important investigative journalism: The recent piece on lead in Fishtown and Kensington is a perfect example of why our society requires good journalism to function properly and act as a check on the system. (You can cry “fake news” all you want, but when a reporter tells you your kid might get poisoned, we’re betting you’re going to take notice and set your politics aside.) Al Día and the Philadelphia Tribune are also holding out, trying to make sure that our majority-minority city is well served with its news publications. 

But out of all that shrinkage and carnage, there is some light, even if it’s the light of a phone screen. 

Some of the sites trying to make it are focused on one subject area: PlanPhilly, which started out at the University of Pennsylvania and is now housed at WHYY, our powerhouse public radio station, is a great source for news that affects Philadelphians at a neighborhood level. Technically Media has been holding down reporting on the Philadelphia tech scene and branching out into other cities, and Broad Street Review and others have been trying to fill a gaping hole in arts and culture coverage. Others are trying to pinch hit just for the neighborhood: The hyper-local Passyunk Post is among them, vying for the attention of “newcomers” who aren’t interested in the old-school, still-in-print South Philly Review. (And on the print side, Spoke has been talking directly to the cycling community for longer than probably even the publishers thought they might.)

Other online-only publications are making waves, most prominently the team at Billy Penn, which fills our inbox every morning with meat-and-potatoes journalism about corrupt politicians as well as lighter stories that we’re just as interested in. (Parking wars are always going to be compelling, no matter what, as are dumpster pools.) PhillyVoice is still finding its voice, and the nonprofit Philadelphia Citizen is still finding its audience, but all three are contributing to an ecosystem in which important stories vastly outstrip the number of journalists and news organizations that can tell them.

Chain publishers have also given us a boost on Philly coverage: The Metro, a daily broadsheet, has its place, as does Edible Philly, a high-end free quarterly for foodies. And Philadelphia-based Metrocorp, which owns Philadelphia Magazine—it also publishes titles in Boston—does not appear to be going anywhere, despite Philly’s love-to-hate-it relationship with its titular, titillating publication. 

And what about the stories that need to get told, no matter what? Philadelphia is lucky to have grassroots groups such as Scribe Video Center and the fantastic PhillyCAM that enable members to share equipment, information and personnel to make their own media. 

(We hear that there is also a free monthly publication called Grid that has published 100 issues and is looking at 100 more, but we’ll need to confirm with our sources.)

Independent media: made in Philly.

__________

"With the seemingly endless barrage of jaw-dropping, head-spinning news spilling out of Washington and elsewhere around the country, it’s easy for ordinary folks to feel helpless and overwhelmed. The Philadelphia Citizen’s mission is to push back against that feeling by offering tangible, practical ways for our readers to get involved and become dynamic players in the stories that are reshaping society, and to truly become, in a word, citizens." —Ajay Raju, Founder, The Philadelphia Citizen

Liberty and Justice For All

Sept2017_MadeInPhillyArticles.jpg

Most of our brethren around the country know Philadelphia as the place where, in 1776, the Declaration of Independence changed the world order forever. It’s a fact that prompts an interesting reflection: We live in a city that is 94 years older than the United States of America, a period of time in which our character as a city had already begun to evolve—Philadelphia helped shape America, just as America now shapes Philadelphia. 

But since the original declaration left out women and African-Americans in classes of people to whom it guaranteed “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” there was still much work to do to ensure that everyone benefited from the vision our founders put forth. Philadelphians were up to the task, including Amy Hester “Hetty” Reckless. Born into slavery in New Jersey the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, Reckless sought refuge in Philadelphia as a runaway slave and went on to operate a safe house in the Underground Railroad. She was among the founders of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, one of few integrated female abolitionist groups in the country (founded because the women were barred from participating in the male abolitionist groups). She also founded a center for former prostitutes and then enlisted women born to prominent African-American families as supporters for both causes. 

Our contemporary safe houses now include all-volunteer organizations such as Project SAFE, which helps women who work in street economies, and physical spaces such as the William Way LGBT Community Center, a major hub for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.  

Our place-based community-led organizations—Life Do Grow Farm, North Philly Peace Park, the Village of Arts and Humanities, One Art Community Center, Greensgrow Farms and Overbrook Environmental Education Center among many, many others—are  centered on self-reliance and interested in sustaining the bodies and souls of the people they serve. 

Their work continues to be supported by more established groups, including Quaker institutions such as Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and the American Friends Service Committee, and newer groups such as Project HOME and Bread and Roses Community Fund, which financially supports an impressive roster of social justice organizations in our city. 

Our social justice bench is deep, and we also have strong community development corporations protecting and rebuilding their turf—Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha and New Kensington CDC are two that Grid has covered in the past—and when push comes to lawsuit, the Public Interest Law Center has everyone’s back. 

Whether it’s groups such as Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition, which is still at the front lines of environmental justice challenges in South Philadelphia, the advocates at VietLead, Juntos and Black Lives Matter Philly, or the lawyers organizing statewide work at Friends of Farmworkers, Philadelphia is still a hotbed for challenging the status quo, standing up for the rights of the disenfranchised, and taking in refugees and others who need or want to call us home—how many other cities have both a Welcoming Center for New Americans and Immigrant Innovation Hub?

That’s why we were so heartened that Mayor Jim Kenney chose to stand up to the bullies in the new federal administration, and isn’t budging on Philadelphia’s status as a sanctuary city. As a major hub of the Underground Railroad and a place that has been shaped and enriched by its many immigrant communities, we’re proud that we’re a city where both the huddled masses and the politically connected are still working together side-by-side to make a better city and a better country. 

America: made in the City of Brotherly Love, and Sisterly Affection.

__________

"The heroism and desperate struggle that many of us had to endure, under the terrible oppression that they were under, should be kept green in the memory of this and future generations." —William Still, Philadelphia abolitionist and father of the Underground Railroad

Arts & Culture: Openings and Closings

Can't miss art shows and festivals

By Nancy Chen

Asian American Film Festival

Nov. 9–19 at International House,

Asian Arts Initiative and other venues

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this fall, the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival is taking the opportunity to reflect. “This year’s festival will include a retrospective of significant Asian-American films in early Hollywood history,” said Rob Buscher, PAAFF’s festival director. These films include “Daughter of Shanghai” (1937) starring Anna May Wong (the first Chinese-American movie star) and Philip Ahn; “The Thief of Bagdad” (1940) starring Sabu Dastagir; and “The Dragon Painter” (1919) starring Sessue Hayakawa. On one hand, these films include unflattering depictions of Asians as simplistic archetypes, “race bending” (e.g. a person of South Asian descent playing an Arab) and plenty of white actors in brown and yellow face. On the other hand, together these films provide examples of the artistic range, commercial appeal and cultural contributions of Asian-Americans in Hollywood for well over the past century. 

In the current political climate, Buscher says the festival is also focused on (film) arts as activism and exploring contemporary issues faced by the Asian-American community. As part of the 11-day festival, PAAFF is hosting a one-day conference at the University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 11, with panels and presentations focusing on how artists and their work can support social change. Visit phillyasianfilmfest.org or PAAFF’s Facebook page (@PAAFF) for more information and the complete festival schedule, coming this month.

 

See It Before It’s Gone

Mohamed Bourouissa:

‘Urban Riders’ at the

Barnes Foundation

Closing Oct. 2

In 2014, French Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa spent eight months immersing himself in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Bourouissa gravitated toward Strawberry Mansion because it shares racial and socioeconomic similarities to the Parisian banlieues (suburbs with low-income housing) where he grew up. He decided to collaborate with the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, a 100-plus-year-old organization that teaches North Philly youth how to ride and take care of rescued horses. Bourouissa isn’t the first artist to be drawn to Fletcher Street, undoubtedly by a sense of wonder in discovering that such a club, and its nurturing of equestrian tradition, incongruously exists in a thoroughly urban context. 

“Urban Riders,” Bourouissa’s first U.S. exhibition, is organized in two sections. The first presents video and relics from Horse Day, an equestrian pageant event Bourouissa co-organized with the Fletcher Street community. Horse Day appears as a joyful celebration, in which riders outfitted their horses in costumes that had been created by local artists for competition. The second section presents sculptural assemblages created by Bourouissa using discarded car parts. Car hoods imprinted with portraits of Fletcher Street riders sketch out the connection between horses and cars as elements of personal expression and male identity. 

A two-channel video that shows the riding club stables and scenes from Horse Day anchor the exhibition. We see a rider galloping at full speed across Fairmount Park, a moment that wordlessly expresses an experience of pure freedom. This is juxtaposed with an aerial view that visually establishes the context of Strawberry Mansion in the larger city, with Center City skyscrapers looming in the background.

The video prompts many further questions about the mingling of people from different races and classes, hinted at by the different faces among the audience at Horse Day. Bourouissa’s art has played a role in bringing people of different backgrounds together, but we’re left with the question: How can those initial interactions—the appreciation for another culture and a genuine attempt to understand people outside our own immediate community—extend beyond a glorious day of celebration?

Sold Out, but Going to New York

Opera Philadelphia Festival:

‘We Shall Not Be Moved’

Sept. 16–18 at 8 p.m.,

September 21, 23 & 24 at 8 p.m.

at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St.

Opera Philadelphia is launching its inaugural O17 festival this month featuring 12 days of opera across the city. Among the world premieres is “We Shall Not Be Moved,” an interdisciplinary production from the powerhouse creative team of composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, spoken artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and director and choreographer Bill T. Jones.

They’ve woven together spoken word, contemporary dance, video projection, and classical, R&B and jazz music to tell a story about five North Philadelphia teens on the run. The piece began with a libretto written by Joseph inspired by the MOVE incident of May 1985, in which local police bombed a rowhouse in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philly. The bombing and ensuing fire resulted in the deaths of 11 African-Americans, including five children, who were members of the black liberation movement. 

“The MOVE incident that inspired [Joseph’s story] remains an open wound. Our intention is not for the opera to be confrontational, but conversational,” said Roumain.

The protagonists are a 15-year-old African-American girl named Un/Sung and her self-selected “family” of four brothers, who seek refuge in a condemned house on the site of a former MOVE compound. “They are five young people who no longer have faith in the public school system, but in the ghosts of other children from Philadelphia’s past,” said Roumain. The group is confronted by Glenda, a female Hispanic police officer who joined the police force as a way to overcome her own experience of disenfranchisement, in an interaction that explores questions of American national identity, gender identity, racism, policing in minority neighborhoods and the failures of the education system.

“Opera’s all about the mystical and the magical,” said Roumain. “I do have a great deal of respect for opera, but as a black person, there’s not a lot of opera for me.” He and his collaborators hope to change that. “There is storytelling, choreography, movement and propulsive music. The music is funky and soulful, influenced by Sade, Satie and Frank Ocean. The audience [for this opera] can be anyone who loves ‘Don Giovanni’ or ‘The Magic Flute’ [two of Mozart’s classic operas] to Netflix—an audience who wants to see and hear a work that reflects them, reflects what’s happening to all of us.”

After its sold-out world premiere at O17, “We Shall Not Be Moved” will travel to the Apollo Theater in New York and to Hackney Empire in London.

2017 Fringe Festival Picks

Sept2017_FringeFestivalPicks.jpg

So many great shows, so little time

By Grid Staff

If Climate Change and Politics Haven’t Already Filled You with Existential Dread...

A Period of Animate Existence

Sept. 22–24

The sixth extinction is upon us, and as we watch the lights of other species go out around us, we can only wonder whether our own will dim and blink out forever. Pig Iron Theatre Co. wants to tap into that feeling of unease—and dread—with its large-scale multimedia piece “A Period of Animate Existence.” Three generations of aged-based choirs, a chamber orchestra and actors will take over the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts stage to proffer the uncomfortable question: Are we next?

HOME

Sept. 13–16

Part generational tale of beginnings and endings, lives and deaths, and part “homespun engineering” feat, Geoff Sobelle’s “HOME” invites the audience to participate in the building of a house onstage at the Prince Theater while pondering issues of immigration, gentrification, place and space—and what makes a house a home as generations pass through.

Americana Psychobabble

Sept. 16–23

So, we’re just going to quote from the memorable description here: “A delirious anti-narrative of American emptiness, violence and nonsense—part exorcism and part enema... ‘Like Kellyanne Conway woke up from a coma after overdosing on sleeping pills and reading too much Gertrude Stein.’” Hello, zeitgeist! Meet your fellow inmates at the Berks Warehouse for this one. 

If You Only Go to Events with Food...

The Meatball Chronicles

Sept. 10–12

Calling South Philly: Spaghetti and meatballs is a comfort food for many, and Debrianna Mansini (“Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”) is centering her one-woman performance, “The Meatball Chronicles,” around its better half as she explores the immigrant experience of her Italian-American family. If you want to taste a dish inspired by the performance, you can head to Casta Diva (227 S. 20th) before or after the show at the Adrienne Theater to try out the (local and grass-fed—we checked!) fare created by chef Stephen Vassalluzzo. 

If You Can Only Commit to Happy Hour...

Camper Fringe

La Peg, the bar in the FringeArts building at 140 N. Columbus Blvd., has one of the best happy hours in the city. Get ready for $3 wine and beer and $5 appetizers (try the cheese fries with short ribs) with big portions that might just replace dinner. Outside, that cute 1962 Nomad silver camper, nominally the box office, will also be converted into a one-on-one performance space where you can dip in during drinks and then tell your friends that, yes, you went to a Fringe show.  
If You Want to Bring the Kids...

A Billion Nights on Earth

Sept. 14–17

Starring a real-life father and son, writer Thaddeus Phillips says “A Billion Nights on Earth” was inspired by his own experience with fatherhood. “When you become a parent,” he says, “you are reminded more than ever as you explain to your child about the stars and planets, about the fantastic and sheer shock of how amazing and unexplainable it all is.” Set designer and collaborator Steven Dufala (of Philadelphia’s Dufala Brothers) will bring the piece to life at its world premiere at the FringeArts building. Audience members 3 to 99 are encouraged to attend. 

If Having Kids Means You Can’t Make It Out of the House...

Digital Fringe

Digital-only Fringe is here. About 20 shows are available online as websites, apps, podcasts and more. So, really, there’s no excuse. Check them out and get details on any of these Philly Fringe shows online: fringearts.com

Arts Roundup

Artists, exhibits and projects to watch this fall 

Sept2017_ArtsRoundup.jpg

Philadelphia Assembled’ Spotlights the Resistance
Artists and activists of any city’s creative scene usually exist in tension with its more established institutions, which is what makes this month’s “Philadelphia Assembled” show so interesting. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, in collaboration with a diverse network of artists, storytellers, gardeners, healers and others—curated by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk—will explore the collective acts of resistance that artists have been making in Philadelphia over the past year. The exhibit seeks to ask the question, “How can we collectively imagine our futures?” Vacant space, mass incarceration, climate change and what it means to be a sanctuary city are some of the themes that have been explored in the works throughout Philadelphia this year, now collected in the exhibit running Sept. 10 through Dec. 10, at the Perelman Building at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

LandLab Residencies Connect Art and Nature
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Roxborough is home to a number of innovative programs and has been quietly building an art program to address local environmental issues through art installations and public engagement. Three new artists have been chosen for the 2017–2018 year: Maryland-based nonprofit Dance Exchange will look at physical movement related to waterways; Brooklyn multimedia artist Jan Mun will create an ultimately edible mushroom vortex maze that explores how rootedness in place relates to centeredness and meditation; and, finally, Philadelphia landscape architect and artist Kate Farquhar will create a project titled “Synestates,” which will insert what she calls “mythic micro-environments” throughout the center to imagine future possibilities of how humans might interact with our natural surroundings. The program is a joint venture between SCEE and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. 

Photography Book Explores Philadelphia’s Past
Workshops and factories. Sporting clubs and societies. Synagogues, churches and theaters. Throughout Philadelphia, hidden places offer insight into Philadelphia’s past. Photographers Joseph E.B. Elliott and Nathaniel Popkin—in collaboration with writer Peter Woodall of Hidden City Philadelphia fame—are set to release “Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City” through Temple University Press. Temple has framed the book as a look into “the city’s vivid layers and living ruins” rather than simply presenting a “nostalgic elegy to loss and urban decline.” Preorders are on sale for the November release.

PHS, RAIR and Built Environment Artists Receive Pew Grants
A slew of Philadelphia artists have just received grants from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, including a $75,000 fellowship to dancer Nichole Canuso. Other fellowships went to Brenda Dixon Gottschild, known for surveying the influence of black dance and choreography in America, and Moon Molson, a filmmaker specializing in what he calls “the language of the streets,” with a particular emphasis on films that represent people of color. Landscape architects Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha received a joint fellowship to explore the geographic lines that separate land and water—as well as urban and rural environments—and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society was awarded a grant to recreate Thomas Paine Plaza into a “farm-to-park” civic commons to spark conversations on urban agriculture, food access and community revitalization. Up-and-comer RAIR (Recycled Artists in Residence) has also received a grant to fund a project that conceptualizes waste as cultural artifact.

2020 Vision

Artists stand in solidarity and look toward the next election

Sept2017_2020Vision.jpg

By Brittany Barbato

On Jan. 20President Trump’s inauguration day—commuters and residents all around Philadelphia found signs of resistance dropped from dozens of buildings encouraging them on their way to work: You can’t take away our resilience, our humanity, our strength, our beauty. Aquí me quedo and Sanctuary city for everybody read two of the signs. Though the voices felt personal, they also captured a collective anxiety and hope on that morning. 

The project, “Signs of Solidarity,” started as an effort to speak out and lend support to the community after the divisive 2016 presidential election. Artists and concerned Philadelphia citizens Conrad Benner, Aubrie Costello and Eric Preisendanz hatched a plan to create and hang banners from private homes and buildings that would reinforce messages of love and unity to counteract the hate they felt sweeping the country. Support for the project from fellow artists and building owners was immediate and overwhelming. 

“We received copious amounts of ‘yeses’ from artists and building owners who wanted to be a part of it,” says Costello. “I was overwhelmed by how quickly the scale grew.” If you lined the signs up next to each other, they’d stretch 150 yards, or the length of a football field. Amassing more than 3,600 square feet, they quintupled the size of the Oval Office where the new president would soon find himself in control of decisions impacting the lives of all Americans, including the very people in protest. 

In a matter of weeks, “SOS” evolved into a citywide effort of more than 30 Philly-area artists and dozens of local building and business owners. It also expanded to include 30 creatives in Atlanta, Georgia. The organizing trio, who know each other through the local art scene, quickly combined their strengths to pull off the large exhibit. Benner, streetsdept.com founder and editor, was in charge of external communications; Costello, an artist known for her silk graffiti installations, tackled logistics such as materials, design and artist communications; Preisendanz, a curator, helped develop messaging and handled the physical installations—climbing ladders, mounting hardware and tying lots of knots.

“It was absolutely important and necessary to co-lead and co-organize ‘Signs of Solidarity,’” Costello says. “Logistically, we could not have done it without each other and the 30-plus Philly creatives who helped us realize this project from start to finish.”

Kimberly Connerton, an installation artist who participated in the project, viewed “SOS” as an opportunity to do what art does best: create “a wider, more inclusive space for everyone to live in,” she says. Her sign hung above a window at Paradigm Gallery and Studio in South Philadelphia. She created small, golden lettering to outline her biggest hope: May every living being be safe and free.

Notable Philadelphia mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar also joined the effort. Featuring a sketch of an elongated mouth baring 38 teeth, his sign flapped against the stone arches of Broad Street Ministry’s front door. It included calls to action in every corner: Say it loud and clear. Speak up. Use your voice. You have a voice

Costello also created a banner; her signature torn silk ribbons spelled out a quote inspired by her best friend, whose husband is an undocumented immigrant who has lived and worked in the U.S. for more than 15 years: Kindness does not indicate weakness.

The hurdles were common to any project. Coordinating artwork, funding and time—there was an immovable Inauguration Day drop for the project—but the team also wrestled with wanting to be impactful without pointing fingers or limiting artistic vision. 

“A public project requires great care in its design since you’re really trying to talk to everybody,” says Preisendanz. “Our goals were to awaken and unite, not to offend or polarize.” 

Commitment to the mission and ongoing communication proved to be keys for success. “We worked together and we listened to each other,” Benner says. “We compromised and we kept our goal clear.” 

The approach will become even more critical as the co-organizers push the project into its second phase this fall. They plan to develop a sustainable funding model to integrate resistance messaging beyond urban centers and into suburban and rural areas. When asked why it was important to expand the project and engage more people outside urban centers, Preisendanz called out an uncomfortable statistic, and set his sights on the next election. 

“Creating highly public projects empowers modern resistance to disrupt political enclaves outside of the cities,” he said. “[It’s] a critical way to engage the 42 percent of America so politically disenchanted that they didn’t feel the need to vote to announce their values.”

Creative Placemaking

A house, a hearth and a home for community at the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden

Photos by Nancy Chen

Photos by Nancy Chen

By Nancy Chen

On quiet Philip Street in Norris Square, just west of Fishtown and Kensington, artist Pedro Ospina began a project to build his house in 2010, working with friends and neighbors. 

While building both the structure and relationships in his community, he realized that it had become an art project in and of itself: The house was both a physical and a social sculpture. 

“It really changed the way I saw art,” he says. “I thought to myself, ‘This house will sustain me, whereas art so often can’t.’ Once I finished that project, where the theme was shelter, my next idea was to do a project about food.”

Ospina, who is of Colombian heritage and first came to Philadelphia in 1989, is now organizing a community space called the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden, transforming a vacant lot, once littered with garbage, into a verdant green space and community gathering spot filled with colorful and eclectic forms contributed by different artists.

His vision is to use art to sustain the community in multiple ways: The fresh vegetables grown in the garden would sustain by providing food; the artful setting with original sculptures would build and sustain community, inviting friends and neighbors to come together.

Now, every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m., the garden hosts a potluck open to all. At a recent gathering, a group of 15 friends and neighbors shared dinner: smoke from baking pizza wafted from a clay oven that Ospina had built by hand. Hot slices topped with tomatoes and herbs from the garden were passed around. At the nearby fire pit, another guest, an iron welder by day, tended to a makeshift grill, slow roasting strips of beef and sharing homemade wine.

The garden has also become a venue for movie screenings and live music performances; some neighbors use the space to cook bread and to hang homemade sausages to dry. Upcoming events include a block party featuring local vendors, skill-share workshops, a plant soundscape and a Halloween party. 

Ospina continues to add new sculptures while leaving the space open to what the community wants to bring in. He’d also like to install solar energy panels. 

Justin Trezza, former executive director of the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, which holds the deed to the lot (it’s one of several on Philip Street that had become trash-dumping grounds), credits Ospina with doing the outreach to build a sense of community ownership. 

“[Pedro] is the one who got the buy-in from neighbors and convinced them to give their time and effort to help clean it up. What was waste was transformed into treasure,” said Trezza.

The residents of the block expressed their warm support for Ospina as well. Sue Ellen, a mother with two young daughters, said of the garden, “My girls love it, and I love it.” Sonia Rodriguez, who has lived on the block for 10 years and helped to clean up the lot, agrees. “Everyone gets together there for the music and movies. The park is also great for the kids in the neighborhood,” she said. “It gives more life.”

An Apple a Day

Three Springs Fruit Farm’s Ben Wenk starts Ploughman Farm Cider

Sept2017_AnAppleADay.jpg

By Emily Kovach

Ben Wenk is a fruit guy. Along with his family, he runs Three Springs Fruit Farm, a seventh-generation family farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania. The farm’s primary crop is apples, ranging from common varieties such as Gala and Golden Delicious to unique and heirloom strains, such as Summer Rambo and Cox’s Orange Pippin. Wenk and his father have been vendors at the Headhouse Square farmers market for the past decade, and after one of their first markets, Ben cracked open a Strongbow cider to unwind. It was the first dry cider he’d ever tasted. “I let dad try a sip and we were both blown away,” he says. Soon after, he began making cider in the farm’s barn. 

Wenk observed other regional craft cideries open, he realized what a boon cider could be for the rural community he called home. In 2016, he founded Ploughman Cider. To develop the recipes and methods that would launch the operation, he hired Edwin Winzeler, a member of the horticulture team at Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville. “He’s been perfecting his [cidermaking] craft since long before we met,” Wenk says.

The cider is now fermented, blended, matured and bottled at Three Springs Fruit Farm, where the apples are grown. In 2017, Wenk expects to produce more than 4,000 gallons of finished product. To promote the brand, he’s organized a number of events throughout the spring with Philadelphia bars and restaurants, and has been sampling and selling at various farmers markets. “How am I balancing this and all the farm stuff at the same time? I have no idea!” Wenk says. “The not-so-big secret to getting it all done is the incredible people on our team at the farm—not the least of which are my dad, uncle and cousin.”

Ploughman’s first run of ciders includesStark, an American strong cider, and Lupulin Lummox, cider infused with Citra hops, as well as one-off blends based on “Edwin’s whimsy.” Wenk says that he is “committed to taking whatever is best on the farm any given year and doing something fun and enjoyable with those products.” As far as seasonal releases go, keep an eye out for Ploughman’s crabapple-based cider in autumn, as well as the new Ploughman 64 series of special farmers-market-only releases, some using fruit, cherries and other “proper cider fruits,” according to Wenk.

Grape Expectations

Historic Hopewell Vineyards grows wine grapes in Chester County

Sept2017_GrapeExpectations.jpg

By Emily Kovach

Nestled in a patch of verdant farmland in Oxford, Pennsylvania (about 30 miles southeast of Lancaster), sits Historic Hopewell Vineyards, a 2-acre vineyard run by Karen and Anthony Mangus. From the rich, well-drained Brandywine Valley soil, they grow seven varieties of wine grapes including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. They once counted a number of Pennsylvania wineries among their customers, but last year Karen and Anthony decided to exclusively partner with Chaddsford Winery for their entire grape production for at least the next three years. Grid enjoyed the chance to chat with Karen Mangus to learn more about the operation.

Tell us about Hopewell Historic Vineyards’ beginning. Did you have a background
in farming?

KM: We are “first generation” farmers. Through personal research, numerous classes and thousands of hours of interaction with other growers, we finally developed the confidence to prepare and plant our first 2 acres in 2003.

Before that, we were living in Northern Virginia, and we’d venture to wine events and vineyards, locally and as far as South America. The more we interacted with other growers and winery people, the stronger our passion became to do something similar. It took a decade of planning, research and education before moving to Chester County in 1999 with the primary purpose of planting a vineyard.

What drove your decision to just be a vineyard and not a full winery?
KM: Initially, our intent was to gain experience by growing grapes for several years, and then progress to a full-blown winery operation. We even had a well-developed business plan and private investors and a commercial bank on board. The economic “correction” of 2008 made us apprehensive, and we decided to concentrate solely on producing the highest quality vinifera [wine grapes] possible in our location.

What are some challenges you face growing wine grapes in Chester County?
KM: Our climate is very similar to the Burgundy region of France, where you can produce consistently high quality grapes and wine, but the higher level of moisture makes things more difficult. We have to deal with issues like weed control, fungus and mildew and unpredictable weather. These are not insurmountable, but require a considerable investment in technology and specialized machinery. 

We’re excited to learn about your solar program. Do lots of vineyards do this?
KM: In 2009, we installed our solar electric generating system: 132 solar panels directly on the north side of the vine rows, which generates over 40 kilowatts of clean energy and reduces carbon emissions by more than 20 tons per year.

There are several vineyards with solar generation systems; however, ours is one of the largest in the area. Part of our philosophy here at Historic Hopewell is to value and conserve our environment, and clean, renewable energy is a logical extension of that philosophy.

Seasonal Six-Pack

Fall flavors from regional craft breweries

Sept2017_SeasonalSixPack.jpg

By Emily Kovach

Homegrown American Lager
New American Lager • Victory Brewing Co.

Released in July, this new addition to Victory’s year-round offerings is a crisp, easygoing, medium-bodied lager that thinks like an IPA. This 4.8% ABV sipper is hopped generously with six varieties of hops (if you must know: Centennial, Mosaic, Azacca, Cascade, Chinook, Citra), and smoothed over with pilsner and Carapils malts.

South Pacific Hop Cartel
Double IPA • Levante Brewing Co.

On Sept. 14 at 6 p.m., this up and coming brewery in West Chester will hold a can release of their super popular double IPA. This cloudy brew is big on zesty, fruity flavors, including grape, lime zest, passionfruit and gooseberry. A special blend of Australian and New Zealand hop varieties gives a wallop of the green dankness that so many beer nerds crave.

DelcoFest
Oktoberfest • 2SP Brewing Co.

Always ready to rep Delco pride, 2SP is releasing a caramelly and toasty Oktoberfest beer on Sept. 1, just in time for Oktoberfest celebrations. At 6% ABV, this bready, balanced brew will be available in draft and 16 ounce cans, and will provide a nice change of pace from the citrusy high notes of summer beers.

Rustic AF
Saison • 2nd District Brewing Co.

The beers at South Philly-based 2nd District rotate a lot, as one might expect from a creatively minded brewery. This fall, keep an eye on their draft list for Rustic AF, a saison brewed with wheat and gently hopped with Saaz and Celeia. This is the brewery’s first beer to be fermented with its house-mixed culture, a multitude of microbes that earn the dry, tart and pungent saison its name.

The Floor is Lava
New England Style Nectarine IPA • Evil Genius Beer Co.

On Sept. 9, Evil Genius celebrates its sixth birthday at its new Front Street taproom in Fishtown. On deck for the event will be this anniversary beer, a hazy, juicy 6.7% ABV IPA brewed with American barley and British malted oats. They’ll add Centennial, Motueka, Simcoe and Mandarina Bavaria hops, and the liquid will be conditioned on local nectarines, processed in-house. 

Mop Water
Spiced/herbed Ale • Cape May Brewing Co.

Despite its shudder-inducing name, this ale boasts a cozy blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and whole-bean vanilla—harnessing the vibes of fresh-baked cookies with a 7.7% ABV to boot. Mop Water maintains that special autumnal feel without veering too far into contentious pumpkin-beer territory.

Now Pouring

Where to get your drink on this fall

Photo by Penn Jersey Paper

Photo by Penn Jersey Paper

By Emily Kovach

Philadelphia Distilling’s new tasting room
We previewed Philadelphia Distilling’s Fishtown facility and tasting room last fall, when it was still under construction. Walking through the raw industrial space, it was hard to imagine the exposed, graffiti-frosted walls making way for a large-scale production facility fronted by a posh, lively tasting room. Doors to the space officially opened in February, and the transformation is phenomenal. Sleek, gorgeous light fixtures and barstools frame a long, dramatic bar, which overlooks the distilling equipment through huge windows. Expert service and thoughtful cocktails that take Philadelphia Distilling’s award-winning libations from “still to shaker” all add up to a sophisticated bar/tasting-room experience. (Ed. Note— Grid's 100th Issue Party is at Philadelphia Distilling on Sept 14).
25 E. Allen St. • (215) 671-0346

Roy Pitz Barrel House at 9th & Spring Garden
This artful, creative brewing company, based out of Chambersburg, opened a barrel house in the burgeoning “Spring Arts” neighborhood (we still like to call it the Eraserhood) in June. With a strong focus on barrel-aged, funky and sour beers, this neo-industrial space makes up for its lack of coziness with colorful paintings, stylized lighting and plenty of seating for large groups. Replacing the chalkboard menu concept is a digital beer list with an up-to-the-minute list of drafts from Roy Pitz’s “liquid art” offerings. Choices range from the straightforward (Best Blonde golden lager) to the sublime (Cherry Hound sour ale), but all the pours pair well with the seasonal bar snacks coming out of the kitchen.
990 Spring Garden St. • (215) 995-6792

Bluebird Distilling in the Shops at Liberty Place
An import from Phoenixville, Bluebird brings handcrafted spirits, such as its four grain bourbon, Juniperus gin and sugarcane rum to Center City in its newly opened tasting room at the Shops at Liberty Place. This is not a bar, mind you—open daily from noon until 7 p.m., this spot really is just a tasting room and retail shop, with full-sized bottles on offer. That doesn’t mean you can’t drink there; guests can sample Bluebird’s wares via tasting flights ($5 for three, $8 for six, and if you buy a bottle, the price of the flights is subtracted from your purchase total).
27 S. 17th St.

Fishtown Brewpub
Does Fishtown have room for another small-scale craft brewery/gastropub hybrid? This spot, opened in mid-summer, is betting yes, with this seven-barrel brewery and adjoining bar housed in a historic building on Frankford Avenue that was once home to a hosiery mill and an elevator factory. On the brewing side, head brewer Steve Dieva is fluent in a range of beer styles ranging from New American ales to old world barrel-fermented beers. Chef Justin Koenig heads up the kitchen, putting up unpretentious—but clever—snacks and small plates (think: South Philly-style beef tartare), and the bar program goes beyond house brews to offer local favs such as Tröegs and Sly Fox, as well as a curated list of classic cocktails.
1101 Frankford Ave. • (215) 990-1396

Fermentery Form
Breaking the mold of a traditional brewery, Fermentery Form creates a new form, and a new model, for what it means to “make” beer. Instead of brewing their own wort, the team here buys the grain-infused liquid from other local breweries and tackles the fermentation process in-house, using their own “mother cultures” (yeasts and bacterias that many breweries purchase from labs). By controlling fermentation, aging and conditioning variables, Fermentery Form beckons its signature rustic farmhouse style from the unassuming imported wort. The West Kensington spot holds regular hours on Saturdays from 2 to 6 p.m. for bottle sales (which may be drunk in-house or taken away). Keep an eye out for tasting room hours, hopefully coming this fall.
700 N. Palethorp St. • (267) 518-3676