Around Town

Philabundance launches ‘Spread the Love’ campaign 

Philabundance has launched its Spread the Love campaign, which will run through the end of February. The initiative aims to collect food, raise funds and increase awareness about food insecurity during a traditionally slow time of year post-holiday giving. Its goal is to collect and distribute 40,000 jars of peanut butter and nut butter alternatives in celebration of Philabundance’s 40th anniversary.

Donations can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Galloway Warehouse at 3616 S. Galloway St. 

Willing participants are also encouraged to host special food drives to collect peanut butter and additional nut spreads. To learn how to register an individual food drive and access needed tools visit Financial contributions are also accepted on the Philabundance website.

‘Living Image’ exhibition at the Halide Project

The Halide Project at 1627 N. 2nd St. in Olde Kensington will present Living Image, its seventh annual call-for-entry exhibition, including a selection of artists who use analog darkroom and historic process techniques. 

The opening reception will be held from 6-9 p.m. on March 2 and the gallery will be open by appointment for viewings until the show closes on April 14. 

Each year, the Halide Project invites a new guest juror to select images for this annual exhibition. The juror also chooses a grand prize winner, whose work then forms the foundation of the Spring Invitational exhibition, curated by The Halide Project’s co-founder and Curatorial and Programming Coordinator Dale Rio. This year’s juror is Ann M. Jastrab, executive director at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, California. Before taking the helm at CPA, Jastrab was the gallery manager at Scott Nichols Gallery and the gallery director at RayKo Photo Center in San Francisco for 10 years. Jastrab has curated many shows in California while simultaneously curating, jurying and organizing numerous exhibitions for other national and international venues. While being a champion of artists, she created a thriving artist-in-residence program at RayKo where multiple residents received Guggenheim Fellowships. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, Jastrab will be giving an online talk as part of Halide’s ongoing Light Talk speaker series on March 11 where she will discuss how she made selections for this exhibition and her approach to curation in general. Light Talk is free and open to the public.

Philadelphia to premiere more than 20 new musicals in spring

MusiCoLab, a nonprofit organization founded to encourage and support new musicals and the artists who create them, has brought together several theater companies to establish “Curtain Up Philly! A Celebration of New Musicals” – a two-month celebration of the creation of new works for the musical stage. Audiences will have the opportunity to see more than 20 new musicals in March and April.

“It is fitting that Philadelphia, a city of firsts, is curating first-seen musicals,” said Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer of the City of Philadelphia. “Seeing musicals in the very beginning of the process is very exciting and reminds us of the myriad of talented artists and innovators born of this city. Curtain Up Philly! A Celebration of New Musicals is another reason to take great pride in the creative talent in Philadelphia.”

“Curtain Up Philly” begins at Theatre Exile in South Philadelphia, where, from March 7-16, Pier Players Theatre Company is presenting “The Angry Grammarian,” a new musical by Jeffrey Barg and David Lee White, based on the column of the same name that Barg writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer. On March 17, 23 and 24, Theatre on the Verge, a nonprofit company based in Greater Philadelphia, will present an ambitious New Musicals Festival at the Abington Arts Center. On April 13 and 14, MusiCoLab will present “Spotlight Series: A Closer Look,” a collaborative program at the Louis Bluver Theater at the Drake in Center City during Philadelphia Theatre Week. Finally, from April 18 to 21, the 10th anniversary season of the Polyphone Festival at the University of the Arts will present two new works at Arts Bank.

“Philadelphia is exploding with creative talent, and we can’t wait to highlight the exciting, inventive new work being created in our backyard,” said Charlie Gilbert, coordinator of “Curtain Up Philly!”, executive director of MusiCoLab and a writer, composer and director who taught musical theater at the University of the Arts for over 30 years.

He is gratified by the response of other theater-makers who have agreed to bring together this first-time collaboration.

He said, “This initiative is intended to create greater interest in new musicals in Philadelphia and demonstrate what a vibrant scene there is for new musicals here.”

Two other new musicals will be seen in Philadelphia later this spring: “Siluetas,” by Philly creators Erlina Ortiz and Robi Hager, will open at Temple University on May 31 in a production by Power Street Theater. Also, The Wilma Theater will present the premiere of “Hilma,” a contemporary opera by Kate Scelsa and Robert M. Johanson, from June 4-23.

Ticket links for these productions and additional information can be found at

Parker commissions accounting of the Office of Homeless Services 

Mayor Cherelle Parker said that her administration is retaining an independent accounting firm to conduct a forensic investigation of the finances of the city’s Office of Homeless Services, together with the city Office of Inspector General.

“The Office of Inspector General is conducting an investigation into the contracting and spending of the Office of Homeless Services,” Parker said. “The Inspector General has shared some preliminary findings, and they are of grave concern. That’s why we are retaining an independent accountant with specialized expertise to assist the Inspector General in performing a forensic investigation of OHS.”

The Parker administration is retaining the accounting firm of Horsey, Buckner & Heffler LLP to perform the forensic investigation of OHS. The principals in the firm include Michael G. Horsey and Kia D. Buckner.

“I want to note the diligence and leadership from Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson, who has shined a spotlight on OHS for months, highlighted potentially questionable practices and introduced legislation to address these issues,” Parker said. “Once these findings are complete, we’ll share them with the Office of Controller Christy Brady.”

‘Historically disadvantaged’ businesses can apply for funding

Gov. Josh Shapiro opened the application window for small diverse businesses across the commonwealth to apply for a total of $10.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.

Grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 will be awarded to “historically disadvantaged” businesses that were in operation on or before March 17, 2020, and were impacted economically by COVID-19. All applications submitted before Feb. 23 will be considered for funding.

“Since day one, I have advocated for long-overdue funding for women and minority-owned businesses across this commonwealth, to support their growth and open new doors of opportunity. Today, we make good on that promise,” Shapiro said. “I want every business owner to know that my administration values what you bring to the table, and that we are committed to breaking down barriers to progress and helping you build generational wealth. In Pennsylvania, we are open for business – and we are working to build a commonwealth where everyone can find and capitalize on real opportunities to grow and thrive.”

The Pennsylvania Community Development Financial Institutions Network will manage the funding grant awards to “historically disadvantaged” small businesses, which are defined through this program as minority businesses generating annual revenues of $1 million or less and employing fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees.

Additional program priorities are in place for small businesses located within low-income census tracts, high-crime municipalities and in the following designated areas: Commercial Corridors (Philadelphia), Neighborhood Business Districts (Pittsburgh), Allegheny Together Communities (Allegheny County) and active Main Street Program areas (statewide).

These ARPA grant funds may be used for, but are not limited to: working capital, inventory, equipment, safety and security equipment, marketing, and costs to support the ongoing operation of the business.
An additional $8.5 million in ARPA funding will be provided for technical assistance and business development through the CDFIs and other partner organizations.

Before beginning an application, potential applicants should visit the PA CDFI Network’s program landing page to review the program guidelines, connect with technical assistance partners, Frequently Asked Questions and the link to submit an application.

Funding for “historically disadvantaged” businesses has traditionally been provided in Pennsylvania through federal programs like ARPA. Recognizing what he said is the importance of investing in the commonwealth’s small minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses, Shapiro successfully secured first-time state funding for the Historically Disadvantaged Business program in the 2023-24 budget. The new state-funded Historically Disadvantaged Business program will open this year.

New music industry exposure opportunity for youth 

The School District of Philadelphia and Word Cafe Live are teaming up to bring Philadelphia’s creative youth a new opportunity to learn, perform, collaborate and grow in music industry careers both on and off the stage. Up Next! will bring together students to work alongside professionals in the music industry to curate, promote, facilitate and document a free open jam session every second Saturday at The Lounge at World Cafe Live.

“Mentorship, relationships and collaboration are essential for students interested in careers in the music industry and performing arts,” said Frank Machos, executive director for the school district’s Office of the Arts & Creative Learning. “Having the opportunity to access this in one of Philly’s premier venues for local and touring artists is unique for young musicians and aspiring industry professionals. World Cafe Live’s vital role in both supporting the local music scene and championing national advocacy and support for independent venues through their work with The National Independent Venue Association makes them the perfect partner for this new series.”

This new partnership builds upon the district’s MIC’d Up program, an artistic community-based initiative that launched in 2021 at JG SkyHigh in the Four Seasons Hotel. Connecting all-star Philly DJs, producers and musicians with district talent, students perform weekly on Monday evenings. 

“World Cafe Live’s mission of expanding access to live music experiences makes our venue the perfect home for this exciting new series in collaboration with the School District of Philadelphia’s MIC’d Up program,” said Kerri Park, COO, World Cafe Live. “Through working with Councilmember Thomas and the Arts and Culture Task Force, we identified a critical lack of performance opportunities available to young people in our city. With a fully committed in-house venue staff, we’re able to provide not only the space, but also the mentorship and real-world applications for pursuing creative career pathways. We look forward to this being the first of many new opportunities in Philly.”

Similar to the district’s MIC’d Up Initiative, this collaboration will feature rotating student-residents who work alongside guest artists for paid work experience. This month’s series will start with The MJS Trio under the mentorship of pianist Luke Carlos O’Reilly, featuring guest artist GRAMMY-nominated guitarist/singer/songwriter Ben O’Neill (who has performed with successful and critically acclaimed artists, including John Legend, Jill Scott, Common, Kanye West and Sting). The MJS Trio includes students from West Philadelphia High School: bassist Malik Spurgeon, drummer Justin Henderson and keyboardist Samuel Jones-Johnson.

“The Up Next! Youth Jam Session is a new monthly event that looks to provide young musicians in Philadelphia with a place to play and network where they can feel that they belong,” O’Reilly said. “There are a very limited number of jam sessions in the city these days, and none of them are for all ages. World Cafe Live is now the place to be on second Saturdays for an opportunity to hone your skills in an open sessions environment and meet other musicians with the same goals.”

This also provides students with paid, full-time work in music-related jobs beyond performing. Students will work alongside the WCL team to curate, promote, facilitate and document each session, with opportunities in booking, marketing, videography, photography, artist relations, hosting, audio engineering, backline management and other elements of live event production.

Transparency by tax preparers

Councilwoman Rue Landau has introduced a bill aimed at ensuring transparency by requiring tax preparers to inform consumers of the existence of free tax services that are available citywide and to disclose their tax preparation fees.

The proposed bill mandates that tax preparation service providers furnish consumers with crucial information regarding the availability of no-cost tax preparation services such as the national Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs offered by nonprofits and the city, state and federal programs. The city revenue department will maintain and update a resource for Philadelphians with information about these programs and how to qualify. Furthermore, tax preparation service providers are obligated to provide a detailed explanation of the costs associated with their services up front.

Landau emphasized the importance of the legislation, saying, “Too many Philadelphians shell out too much money for commercial tax prep services, unaware of free alternatives. Many of them are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the most effective anti-poverty tools implemented by the federal government. Our push for transparent fee disclosure is a small but important step to help ensure more money stays where it belongs – in the pockets of low- and moderate-income families. It’s about empowerment and informed decisions.”

Under the proposed bill, violations of these provisions will incur a fine of $500 for each offense.

By enacting measures to ensure transparent fee disclosure for tax preparation services, her bill aims to keep more money in the pockets of “vulnerable” communities.

The proposed ordinance would take effect on Nov. 1, pending approval by Council.

The bill has received co-sponsorship support from Councilmembers Gauthier, Jones Jr, Young, Driscoll, Brooks, Harrity and O’Rourke. ••

Support Storm the Heavens

Storm the Heavens Fund will hold its sixth annual Bean’s Ball on March 9 at 7 p.m. at Vie, 600 N. Broad St.

The masquerade ball will be held in memory of Philomena “Bean” Stendardo, an 8-year-old from Port Richmond who died in 2017 of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, a fatal form of brain cancer that mostly affects kids under 11.

Philomena’s parents, Mark and Mina, started the Storm the Heavens Fund to spread awareness and fund research for DIPG.Tickets cost $275. For information on tickets, sponsorships and event booklet ads or to make a donation, visit ••

Sign up for senior softball

The Philadelphia Senior Softball League is looking for experienced players for its 68-and-over and 58-and-over leagues. The 58-plus teams play Tuesdays and Thursdays. The 68-plus teams play Mondays and Fridays. All games start at 10 a.m. and are played at Crispin Fields, at Holme and Convent avenues. Games start mid-April and run till the end of September. No games in July. For the 58-plus league, call Mike Bojanowski at 215-801-4869. For the 68-plus league, call Marty King at 215-409-5021. ••

Parkinson’s support group

Temple University Hospital – Jeanes Campus is offering a Parkinson’s disease support group for those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and their families on Feb. 14.

The group will meet on the second Wednesday of every other month from 5-6 p.m. at the Cheltenham Friends Meetinghouse, 7604 Central Ave.

The group is led by nurse practitioner June Ro, and will include guest speakers.

To register, contact Ro at 215-707-2619 or ••

VFW looking for members

Bustleton-Somerton/CTR1 Michael J. Strange VFW Post 6617 meets on the third Wednesday of every month at American Legion Post 810, 9151 Old Newtown Road.

Meetings start at 7:30 p.m.

If you are a military veteran who served in a designated combat zone, you are eligible to join the VFW.

Contact Commander Israel Wolmark at 215-725-0630 if you would like to join the post. ••

Trip to Northern Europe

The Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation is presenting a Northern Europe: Iceland, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium and London cruise, July 25 to Aug. 4, 2024, aboard the new “Norwegian Prima.”

Rates per person are $6,261 and $6,495, which include roundtrip airfare from Philadelphia.

Deposit of $350 per person double occupancy is required when booking.

Final payment by Feb. 27.

Call 215-788-9408. ••

March book club

The Book Club of Congregations of Shaare Shamayim will be hosting a Zoom session on Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. The book is The Star Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lois Nelson Spielman. To register or for more information, call Lynn Ratmansky at 215-677-1600. ••

Bingo in March

The Sisterhood of Congregations of Shaare Shamayim is hosting bingo on Zoom on Mondays, March 11 and March 18, starting at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $36 per person and includes two cards for eight games of bingo each night. Send your payment to the CSS office, 9768 Verree Road, Philadelphia, PA 19115, attention: Bingo. Payment must be received no later than Feb. 26. Include your email address to receive the Zoom link. Call Gerry or Nancy at 215-677-1600. ••