Launched last month with support from a 2011 Knight Arts Challenge grant, City Hall Presents is a new series of free events that welcomes Philadelphia’s performing arts into the spaces of City Hall. Theater, dance, spoken word, music of all genres and more are now being presented on Wednesdays after work from 5:30-6:30pm. The events are intended to further enliven the historic building, reflecting the full spectrum of the city’s artistic talent and inspiring citizens to become more active patrons of – and participants in – the city’s arts and cultural offerings.
The United States’ largest municipal building, City Hall has long been home to robust visual arts programming. Rotating exhibitions by local artists and arts organizations are on display for both visitors and public servants throughout the year, spectacles that are magnified by the structure’s striking French Second Empire architecture and stunning interiors. A feast for the eyes, to be sure, but a silent and stationary one. City Hall Presents gives the the performing arts a well-deserved share of the spotlight, allowing the people’s building to speak, sing, and move in a way that it never has before.
The program launched on March 28th with a performance by Philly Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM), a volunteer-run, non-profit organization that provides a safe space for Philadelphia teens to discover the power of their voices through spoken word and literary expression. PYPM’s students hail from every corner of the city, and their energy and enthusiasm for their craft was palpable as they took the stage before a packed audience of over a hundred.
The setting for that evening’s event — the building’s magnificent Law Library — highlighted another important component of the City Hall Presents program: it allows people to experience City Hall in a way that no perfunctory visit can match. The power of the arts to transform one’s sense of place was on full display during PYPM’s performance, as it has been for the three successive Wednesdays in the Mayor’s Reception Room. The stately, high ceilinged space ringed with portraits of every former Mayor is most typically a venue for mid-day press conferences. Substitute the lively pulse of a jazz ensemble or the sprightly clatter of shim-shamming tap dancers, and room takes on an entirely new dimension.
There are three more performances scheduled for the spring season of City Hall Presents, and you can still RSVP for all of them:
- April 25th: – interactive music and dance
- May 2nd: Rennie Harris Pure Movement – hip hop dance
- May 9th: Nikki Jean – pop singer and songwriter
Once summer arrives, the program will move outdoors with eight more events slated for the newly-restored City Hall Courtyard in June, July and August. The action will move back inside for an autumn performance series, as well as a holiday-themed concert in December. If you would like to learn about and RSVP for any upcoming performances, or are a performance artist or organization interested in participating, please click here.