The City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy has been challenged since its (re)establishment in late 2008 with the fact that it was (re)built by bringing together some of the programs and staff that had been housed in the Office of Arts and Culture when in last existed before being closed. This meant we ended up with staff in four different offices spread over two different buildings.
We have also been addressing how to enliven City Hall itself with more cultural activity. Two ideas emerged: 1) create a new office space large enough to accommodate all current staff and some interns and maybe a little bit of growth (a guy can dream can't he?) and put it right on the first floor of City Hall where it can be visible and accessible to the public. 2) create a new art gallery space in City Hall, ideally on the first floor where it can be accessed without having to clear security. One of the issues the Art in City Hall program has always had to address is the lack of truly appropriate exhibition space. The enclosed, lit display cases have provided the best solution possible on the second and fourth floor, and the hanging system on the fifth floor allows art to be hung in the hallways but without ideal lighting or the flexibility of a gallery space
Thanks to the support of PNC Arts Alive, the Block Family Foundation, InterfaceFLOR and others, we have been able to combine these two ideas into one exciting new space, located in Room 116, right on the first floor of City Hall near the Visitor Center by the East Portal. This new space includes consolidated office space, as well as the creation of a new gallery space called The Art Gallery at City Hall. If you click on the link it will take you to a Web page that describes the gallery and the first exhibition, "On the Rise", a partnership between InLiquid, Center for Emerging Visual Artists and Philadelphia Sculptors. This show features the work of 12 emerging Philadelphia artists, four each from the three organizations. The show opens to the public on June 17th - come by and visit! Our neighbors include the City Hall Tour office and orientation classroom, and the Mayor's Office of Education.
This gallery space, while modest. provides an important new cultural addition to City Hall, and to the cultural community. The intention is to use it as a vehicle to partner with cultural organizations and others to bring a diverse array of programming into City Hall. A special effort will be made to use the space as an opportunity to tie City Hall into other Citywide arts festivals and programs such as Design Philadelphia and the 2011 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts.
In the future we will be looking to also program more cultural activity - including spoken word, music, lectures, etc. in the Mayor's Reception Room and Conversation Hall, our two formal public spaces in City Hall, and when the interior courtyard restoration is completed (probably not for a couple of years) we will be looking to program that space with performing arts activity, as well as more public art installations. We also hope to explore how more cultural programming can be added to other City office buildings, including MSB and One Parkway.