Despite an extremely challenging year for educators and students, art remains a triumphant connecting thread that simultaneously inspires and heals. As Philadelphia continues to become a world-class city, creativity has found a way to connect us all as a community.
As we look back at the cover stories that defined 2013, we found more than a handful of artful narratives. From charitable efforts to mural restoration; to art commemorating a synagogue’s centennial to a lasting reminder of a troubled neighborhood’s past, South Philly has shown it’s full of the creative spirit.
The Mummers welcomed in 2013 with more color than Mother Nature could yield on a gray first day of the year. As one reveler remarked, no one wants to start a new year wearing a frown. The century-long tradition, as usual, brought parade spectators out from near and far alike, from babies to Second Street lifers. As per custom, spectators and performers partied late into the night with a multi-block blowout.
Residents of two large housing complexes, The Enclaves, 3900 Gateway Drive, and The Gateway Towers, 3600-3800 Sheaff Lane, heralded the arrival of a huge stand-alone Shop24 good for convenient outdoor purchases. The massive, 6,000-pound machine stands nine feet tall and is 10 feet deep and 13 feet wide.
In a three-part series, the South Philly Review unpacked the effects of a proposal that would close a handful of schools in South Philadelphia. An announcement made Dec. 13, 2012 by fresh superintendent, William R. Hite Jr., called for the shuttering of 37 schools. The proposal sought to address some sobering statistics: a 27 percent enrollment reduction since 2002; 53,000 empty seats; and $300 million borrowed to cover last year’s expenses. However, when a wave of buildings turned out the lights indefinitely, hundreds of families, staff, pupils and neighbors got the brunt of transitions. Abigail Vare School, 1621 E. Moyamensing Ave., Edward Bok Technical High School, 1901 S. Ninth St., and Smith Academics Plus, 1900 Wharton St., provided the lenses through which an examination of the repercussions proved ominous. The proposal laid forth would go on to squeeze students into a handful of schools: Chester A. Arthur, 2200 Catharine St., George W. Childs, 1599 Wharton St., and Edwin Stanton, 1700 Christian St., George Washington School, 1198 S. Fifth St., and South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St.
Jahmall Crandall is a visionary Point Breeze resident. And as a coach within the Marian Anderson Recreation Center’s Urban Youth Association Developmental Basketball League, 744 S. 17th St, he intends to use basketball as a life-affirming and community-building tool. Crandall’s had his sights on the Ralph Brooks Tot Lot, 20th and Tasker streets, as a location ripe with potential for improving the area’s morale and safety. And for January 21st’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Crandall and more than 60 peers turned out to initiate a transformation. He founded I.AM.SP. in ’11 and teamed up with the PhillyRising Collaborative and Jeffrey Tubbs, whose Urban Roots initiative takes on neighborhood redevelopment projects, to get the ball rolling.
A profile of the brand new NextFab 2 Studio, 2025 Washington Ave., and the studio’s founder and president, Evan Malone, highlighted the new hotbed for creativity. The South of South facility, at a whopping 21,000-square feet, houses all kinds of machinery and tools that novice crafters or business developers can’t afford to own. Not only does the ownership and membership seek to encourage creativity, but also cultivate nascent entrepreneurs and innovators.
Horace Furness High School, 1900 S. Third St., senior, Denise Reyes can draw. Really well. The resident of the 100 block of Gladstone Street received an artistic excellence commendation from the honorable Philadelphia Sketch Club. Her self-portrait at the 29th annual High School Art Show earned her acclaim with support and encouragement coming from her teacher and mentor, Queen Village’s Meredith McDonald. She was also thrilled at the opportunity to work alongside Mural Arts Project artist, Michelle Ortiz.
Alan Segal almost died when he suffered from a cerebral arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain. He had a 40 percent chance of survival, but he beat it and brought himself back to near full recovery after major surgery with the help of a bass. The husband to the pastor of Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church, 916 S. Swanson St., Joy Segal, calls the 336-year-old house of worship home. He, with his prized Kydd Bass purchased in ’05, and his Alan Segal Quartet kicked off an 11-church Jazz Sanctuary spell of jazz classics performances.
More praise was rightfully heaped upon two organizations that were honored with Philly Do-Gooder Awards: Christopher Norris’ Techbook Online Corp., and Diversified Community Services, 1529 S. 22nd St. Norris is more than just an entrepreneur, though; his company is an integrated Internet, multi-media publishing and sustainable marketing and news organization. He also was denoted The Brothers’ Network’s Brother of the Year. His self-taught drumming’s also important, as he’s been studying the physiological benefits of the cathartic artform. The other victor won for a video they produced about Western Learning Center, 1613 South St., a Head Start program that rears 13-month-olds to 5-year-olds and whose secondary age group offerings include afterschool and summer programs for 6 to 12-year-olds.
The Samuel S. Fels South Philadelphia Community Center, 2407 S. Broad St., closed its doors for the last time after its sale to the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, 2600 S. Broad St. But it wasn’t all bad — the transaction wiped out a debt dilemma with a $1.7-million price tag and set in motion the relocation of older adult services to the Marconi Older Adult Program, 2433 S. 15th St. Seniors weren’t stranded in the interim. They used a handful of other resources available to them while a space in St. Monica’s parish on the corner of 17th and Ritner Streets got a facelift. Shawna Lisa, the adult programming director at Fels and 900 block of Dudley Street resident, put in many hours of cleaning and scrubbing at the 16,000-squre-foot space that now fosters loads of activities for area older adults.
Around Easter, it’s a thrill to watch small children light up at the sight of the giant and benevolent candy deliverer. And on March 20, he led a Hop at the Singing Fountain on East Passyunk Avenue that benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Gabe, a 5-year-old Philadelphian battling cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. Roe Gallo, the owner of the Alphabet Academy (with four locations: two Alphabet Stations, 1631 E. Passyunk Ave. and 1510 E. Passyunk Ave., The Alphabet Tree House, 1506 E. Passyunk Ave., and The Aquarium, 1720 E. Passyunk Ave.) and resident of the 1500 block of East Passyunk Avenue was thrilled to help a family in need achieve a spirit-lifting trip to the Walt Disney World Resort.
U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, who maintains an office at 1907-1909 S. Broad St., was on hand at Horace Furness High School, 1900 S. Third St., to dole out Congressional Award medals to area students for achievements in service. The Pennsport institution fostered many of the day’s honorees and all of them participate in the Migrant Education Program that operates out of United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, 2029 S. Eighth St. The medals are given out based on a student’s accumulated hours of service and horizon-broadening adventures: bronze medal winners are responsible for collecting 200 hours of service in three areas (voluntary community service, tending to personal development and physical fitness, and executing an expedition or exploratory adventure), with silver medal recipients doubling those totals, and gold medal winners tripling them. The Congressional Medal Act of 1979 has been celebrating 14- to 23-year-olds for decades, and over the last 34 years the Congressional Award Foundation has honored more than 50,000 youths.
Otis. D. Hackney III, the ’10-appointed principal of South Philadelphia High School, unveiled a 60-day campaign aimed at launching a fundraising effort that aims to convert some of its 5.5-acre concrete campus into green space. Hackney, along with the support of Lower Moyamensing Civic Association president Kim Massare, hoped to raise $26,300 for materials and staff. Goals included opening some of the student body’s eyes to green issues, health, and the benefits of mother nature; as well as connecting to the community through donating vegetables to local restaurants and encouraging some creative opportunities for engagement in the interest of a tangible goal.
Philly Spring Cleanup was a great success with volunteers providing manpower and motivation to maintain tidiness, especially in Southwest Philly and Grays Ferry. Sponsored by Power 99 FM, the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee and All-City Classic, thousands bagged garbage, weeded and mulched plant beds and applied some fresh coats of paint to beautify select neighborhoods. Mayor Michael Nutter made an appearance to stoke the free labor, and in one morning 13,000 volunteers collected more than one million pounds of trash and 23,000 pounds of recyclables. In the past, the focus of the cleanup has been closer to Center City, but this year the brunt of the beautification fell on the Schuylkill River Trail, especially the Crescent of the Grays Ferry Esplanade.
Governor Tom Corbett held a press conference to herald a strong new connection with Horizon Lines Inc., an ocean shipping and logistics company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. The Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, 3301 S. Columbus Blvd., received its third cargo load during the conference from Puerto Rico, a territory that Philadelphia will exchange goods with via the Columbus River. All kinds of items will be exchanged: chemicals, food and beverage products, medical supplies, perishables, pharmaceuticals and produce among other trade and services. The agreement is said to bring nearly 335 direct jobs and 250 indirect positions to the area.
Two local artists and activists, Susan DiPronio and Linda Dubin, pulled together an exhibition at the DaVinci Art Alliance, 704 Catharine St., to fight hunger. No strangers to philanthropy through fine art, they used a D.C.-based Food Research and Action Center report to spur this particular gesture of good will. The findings ranked Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District, which includes parts of South Philly, as the nation’s second-worst nutritional location for households containing children, with nearly 50 percent of minors suffering from hunger. Twenty-five percent of the profits from the show went right to the Food Trust.
Students from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education capped a semester-long PennPal writing correspondence project with local Indonesian youth via the Aquinas Center, 1700 Fernon St., and a three-pronged service effort. Students and youths collaborated to execute a mural panel painting session, as well as a gardening and neighborhood cleanup project. Dr. Bethany Welch, the Aquinas Center director, was thrilled to have outreach from the university and to include a diverse cross-section of races in her parish and in her community.
Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras Israel, 2015 S. Fourth St., earned the distinction of being the Hidden City Festival’s only South Philadelphia locale. The festival, which seeks to celebrate lesser known spaces in the city that were once prominently lively but are striving to reconnect to a former glory, landed on the Jewish orthodox synagogue thanks in large part to one of the site’s leading congregants, Morris Levin. With the place of worship as one of nine sites participating in the six-week festival, Levin and the congregation president Richard Sisman were thrilled at the prospect of attracting new and young worshippers as well as beefing up a program of lectures, social groups and service projects. With a keen sense of pride in the three-story building’s history and objects, Hidden City would shine a light on a rich historical neighborhood institution.
South Philly High School teacher Michele McKeone received a great honor when her website, a supremely effective and powerful educational tool designed to aid autistic youth toward emotional and professional autonomy, earned a momentous distinction. The six-year teaching veteran’s online tool received the Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in the Fields of Special Education and At-Risk Students. Her two-year-old site and company, Autism Expressed, earned her a $10,000 endowment from the fourth annual University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and Milken Family Foundation’s Education Business Plan Competition. The resident of the 1300 block of Tasker Street has made autism awareness and helping dispel unfair assumptions about children affected by autism a life goal. She emerged as one of seven winners from a 250-strong entrant pool that represented 17 countries.
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, and his wife Jennifer, paid a visit to the Universal Vare Charter Middle School, 2100 S. 24th St., with their five-year-old pit bull, Jack, in tow. They rescued him from a North Philly-based dog-fighting operation with the help of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Their aim to end animal cruelty through their eponymous foundation brought them to the West Passyunk school to mark the beginning of a mural-painting process at the Vare Recreation Center, 2600 Morris St., which was heralded by Mural Arts Program’s Jane Golden. The mural’s artist, David Guinn, a resident of the 1100 block of Cross Street, and recent Knight Arts Challenge honoree, was thrilled to work with the school’s children three months later on painting day.
On 3000 Grays Ferry Avenue, ground was broken to initiate the process of Bottom Dollar Food and Rite Aid arriving as anchors of the 3.1-acre empty lot. The buzz around the jobs it would create and the good it would do for the neighborhood was contagious; at least 100 construction jobs would materialize, and many other bodies would be necessary to staff the 32,500 square feet of retail space. Second District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson was present to express pride for his district.
In a continuing look at the massive budget cuts and the consequences of proposed slashing of schools and jobs for hundreds of staffers, Jamie Weaver took part in facesofthelayoffs.org, a website aiming to rally support for displaced teachers and counselors. The John H. Taggart School, 400 W. Porter St., would get hit hard and affect five-year counselor Diane DellaVella, as well as 3,857 other District workers due to a $304 million operating deficit (slashing 19.9 percent of the 19,530-member workforce).
A particularly heart-wrenching graduation at East Passyunk Crossing’s Edward Bok Technical High School June 20 sent 151 of its final students into the world. The high school’s graduating class would be their last as a budget deficit and the School Reform Commission’s announcement that it would close the 75-year-old school and relocate its remaining students to South Philadelphia High School.
At 20th and Johnston Streets, the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center finally formally opened. Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, Mayor Michael Nutter and a handful of other law enforcement and intelligence agencies were on hand to celebrate a years-long process of boosting and centralizing intelligence collection. With huge sums of money coming from the federal government and the municipality, the department’s Real-Time Crime Center joined forces with its Criminal and Homeland Security units, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Watch Center, plus Amtrak and SEPTA police units and the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard.
South Philadelphia’s Latino community was rocked when a series of raids and questionings left residents fearful for the safety of their homes and their loved ones. Though the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was not involved, the Philadelphia Police Department and the FBI were. As part of Focused Deterrence, the District Attorney Office’s anti-gun violence program, the FBI and PPD collaboration known as Operation Pinpoint was a sudden and swift effort seeking to sniff out gangbangers. Children were questioned, translation services were slim to none and some families saw their parents escorted out of their homes by gunpoint.
Marking a shift in the management of area elementary parochial schools, Charles J. Chaput, the 68-year-old Archbishop of Philadelphia, signed over 14 schools to the Independence Mission Schools system, an organization that answers to its own board of directors. St. Gabriel School, 2917 Dickinson St., and St. Thomas Aquinas School, 1719 Morris St., are the local faith-based institutions of education that hope independent management will improve enrollment and learning opportunities. The Archbishop was primarily excited to see Catholic schools reinvigorated, but resolved to continue support, saying “They are still our schools, and we wish them well.”
The Assumption of the Holy Virgin Russian Orthodox Church, 2101 S. 28th St., braced itself for a grand 100th anniversary celebration by touching up aesthetics inside and out. The reigning reverend, Matthew Cantrell, saw the facelift as a way to broadcast the house of faith’s spirit of inclusivity. Matthew Sweet, a resident of the 2800 block of Cantrell Street, eagerly participated, clearing the churchyard of clutter and unwanted vegetation, fixing the church’s leaky roof and repainting the fence.
Queen Village’s Weccacoe Playground, 405-25 Queen St., was discovered to be a 19th-century African American cemetery when historian Terry Buckalew discovered documentation of a burial underneath the recreational site. Friends of the playground and the Queen Village Neighborhood Association had planned to beautify and revamp with new plantings, seating and address maintenance issues, but had to halt the overhaul until the City appropriately determined the location’s historical significance. After a July archaeological excavation, the burial grounds’ dimensions were determined to be only two-and-a-half feet below ground and held as many as 30 coffins thanks to variations in the dirt.
The iconic Engine 46 Firehouse, 1401 S. Water St., became the subject of great debate as its future became decidedly uncertain. When the site became unable to achieve historic distinction due to a lack of verifiable information, the New York-based overseers of the property, Cedar-Riverview LP, considered demolishing the more-than-100-year-old Pennsport structure. That’s when Pennsport Civic Association president James Moylan took special interest and rallied cries for its saving, or at least thoughtful use.
A concerned single mom, Carol Lanni, instigated a new town watch organization called Taking Our South Philadelphia Streets Back, after her 11-year-old son, Raymond, was harassed and robbed after leaving a Foot Locker, 2308 W. Oregon Ave. Incensed and disappointed that youth-on-youth bullying and crime goes unchecked by absent mothers and fathers, she quickly became a civic activist and has encouraged local businesses and neighbors to be vigilant but not vigilantes.
Maria Möller, a local artist and historically-minded resident of 12th and Taskers Streets, applied for and got a $5,000 grant through the Fund for Art and Civic Engagement, a new initiative of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art Program. She was curious about the history of an empty lot that stood at 2025 Federal Street and dreamed up an art project that would celebrate the address’ past and present. “The House That Was Here,” a project aided by community partners Diversified Community Services, installed miniature rowhome sculptures and fostered hopeful thoughts about the site’s future.
Immaculata University freshmen started their school year off by way of Macs Giving Back, an Immaculata student-orientation service project that employed 300 young students. Melissa Mullin, the school’s learning strategy specialist in the Academic Success Center chose to focus on Catholic schools in the city because archdiocesan schools had a rough ’12-’13 school year with mergers, closures and reorganization.
The Queen Village Neighbors Association Dog Committee co-chair, Sean Mellody, of the 300 block of Fitzwater St., co-founded a “Scoop the Poop” campaign that aims to curtail the presence of poop on South Philadelphia sidewalks. After frustrations with finding pet owners negligent in the cleanup department, they had refuse receptacles designed for dog poop only installed and stocked with poop bags, covered by a lid, and emblazoned with a military mutt uttering barking the phrase: “Scoop the poop. That means you, soldier. No pile left behind.”
The principal of Southwark School, 1835 S. Ninth St., Andrew Lukov, got first-day-of-school help from a team of volunteers that earned the name Team Dragon. Named after the school’s mascot, more than a dozen area citizens were rallied in some part through the East Passyunk Civic Association and Town Watch. After losing support staff like a secretary and counselor in the wake of the district’s 3,859-job reduction, Lukov was elated to have helping hands guide tiny learners to their first day.
The Hero Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia, benefiting families and children of fallen Philadelphia police officers and firefighters, got its annual boon with the 59th Hero Thrill Show at the Wells Fargo Center parking lot, 3601 S. Broad St. Trained motorcycle police executed stunts and feats of balance and composure as money’s raised to encourage those who have lost their mothers, fathers, husbands and wives in the line of duty.
Marconi Plaza, 2700 S. Broad St., served as the host location for celebration as Mayor Michael Nutter praised trees and the arbor efforts of his administration. Greenworks Philadelphia, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability plan which set its sights on turning Philly into America’s greenest city by ’15, touted the landmark planting of the 100,000th tree since Nutter’s ’08 inauguration. With the help of the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department’s TreePhilly Initiative, the city inches closer to its goal of giving a home to 250,000 trees.
Police officers Dan Pignataro and Bryan Sullivan, of Bridesburg and Port Richmond, respectively, responded to smoke coming from a four-home-damaging fire that started at 3241 S. Chaucer St. They both sustained minor injuries in the process of saving a 103-year-old woman from her home six doors down. The 17th district figures broke into the woman’s house in order to save her, even after she managed to refuse opening her door with the phrase: “No, hun, my house isn’t on fire.”
Parents from A.S. Jenks Academics Plus School, 2501 S. 13th St., rallied to make their frustrations known as the school district’s leveling and cost-cutting started to yield concrete consequences – the combining of grade years (1st and 2nd, 2nd and 3rd, and 3rd and 4th) to fill out classrooms and reduce teachers. With Philadelphia Federation of Teacher mandates of 30 learners per class from kindergarten through third grades, and 33 for fourth to 12th grades, the district is packing in classrooms so that teachers can get relocated or dismissed as a cost-cutting measure. The district’s eventual leveling changes would spare Jenks.
reNewbold is a big green project for John Longacre, the president and founder of Longacre Property Management Group, 1928 S. Bancroft St., who has already bolstered the neighborhood with projects like the South Philadelphia Taproom, 1509 Mifflin St., and Ultimo Coffee, 1900 S. 15th St. An empty lot at the corner of 16th and Moore Streets, formerly the grounds of the Francis M. Drexel School, is getting a new life with 16 row homes, two condominiums and a corner retail space. After years of negotiating with the former owners of the lot, ground was broken and the environmentally-conscious project got an official kickoff.
Kathleen Kramer, of the 100 block of Daly Street and 14-year employee at the Vare-Washington School, 1198 S. Fifth St., took to protesting after her class size nearly doubled due to the school district’s leveling efforts. When class sizes like hers hit limits because of the district’s shuffling of teachers and pupils, concern from the community lies with the effectiveness of such money-saving techniques.
The Mural Arts Program received a $30,000 grant from the Keith Haring Foundation after new tenants moved into the corner property at 22nd and Ellsworth streets that holds the late artist’s only collaborative public mural still intact at its original site. The mural, painted in 1987 by the Kutztown native with the help of CityKids (a New York City nonprofit) and Brandywine Workshop, 730 S. Broad St., had fallen into a bit of disrepair. Thanks to the grant, they were able to hire Kim Alsbrooks to spearhead the update with the most durable paints purchasable, and South Philly’s Michael LoFurno to landscape the facelifted park.
Cookie’s Tavern, 2654 S. Alder St., hosted the United States Marine Corps’ birthday celebration. All the services were out to celebrate, but Philadelphia’s special to the Marines because it was founded here in Old City at the now extinct Tun Tavern. On the eve of Veterans Day, hundreds of revelers of all ages and from miles around gathered to cheers each other and the rich history of the Corps.
Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, area residents offered memories and tales of their affinity for the gunned down 46-year-old 35th president. With so many adults, the memory is fresh in their heads of that fateful day in Dallas, when Lee Harvey Oswald (theoretically) took aim from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Former Secretary of the Commonwealth Basil L. Merenda weighed in with his own memories, as he was a first grader at St. Gabriel’s School at the time.
Andrew Jackson School, 1213 S. 12th St., had a lot to celebrate with a Green Roof Garden Fall Festival that showcased a brand new rooftop garden. Two parents, Melissa Wilde and Stephen Viscelli, of the 1300 block of Dickinson Street, with a kindergartener and first grader in the school, gave the latent project the push it needed. With support from their universities (Penn and Swarthmore) and the Passyunk Square Civic Association, pavers and planters were installed with the school’s students benefiting from lessons on environmentalism, urban health and sustainability.
Dante Coletti is a Prep Charter High School, 1928 Point Breeze Ave., sophomore whose father runs a little produce table outside of his social club, La Casa di Pazzo, 1143 Federal St. One day he witnessed a young student from the nearby Jackson School, trying to lift some legumes to help his hungry home. Coletti was moved and initiated a one-man toy drive to give back to kids in need, especially significant in these months of family and holiday celebration.
Painting with a Twist, 629-631 E. Passyunk Ave., opened as a new franchisee at the behest of Dr. Janet Larson, a neonatologist at Thomas Jefferson Hospital’s ICU. The Louisiana native got neighborhood and institutional support from South Street Headhouse District, especially its executive director, Michael E. Harris. The space cultivates the relaxing combination of guided painting and BYO drinking.
A South of South resident, Ram Krishnan, got lots of attention for his Nelson Mandela mural on the side of his 1600-block-of-Fitzwater-Street home after the human rights champion’s Dec. 5th passing. Commissioned in August, London’s Ben Slow began work on the portrait painting as Mandela’s health began to decline. To the homeowner and art enthusiast, Krishnan was just pleased to honor someone who accomplished so much in South Africa, a nation in which he spent two years for business.
Contact Editor Bill Chenevert at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 117.