Philadelphia Dance Projects (PDP) presents Old City Arts History Project Symposium – Old City Arts 1975 – 1980, a history project exploring how artists shaped a neighborhood on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 2PM at WHYY’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons (150 North 6th Street). The free symposium will feature the results of research on a community of artists in Old City 1975-80, followed by a moderated panel discussion and conversation with artists who participated in Old City Arts.
Panelists include Jeff Cain, Musician and Performance Artist Writer/Director; David Deakin, Visual Artist; Barbara Dufty, former member of Wilma Theater, now Executive Director of Trisha Brown Dance Co.; Terry Fox, former dance artist now PDP Director; Charles Guarino, former member of theater group Bricolage, now Publisher for Art Forum; Ishmael Houston-Jones, choreographer/curator/educator. A reception will follow the discussion. Admission is free but seating is limited so registration is required by going to philadanceprojects.org or calling 215-546-2552. Support for the research and development of The Old City Arts History Project has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
Old City in 1975 was a very different world than it is today. It was a fading manufacturing district with 19th-century buildings, many of which had been razed to make way for the mall and park areas for the National Independence Historical Park and the development of impending highway construction on two borders. As an urban neighborhood, it had lost its vitality and proud sense of place and purpose. What had once been a thriving commercial and mercantile business district had been slowly devolved into a lost landscape. The silver lining was that the vacant warehouse loft spaces and low rents provided artists with a unique opportunity to live and work.
The cultural history project was designed by PDP to explore the legacy and influence of artists working in Old City Philadelphia from 1975 to 1980. The Old City Arts History Project looks at a neighborhood in Philadelphia that was crucial to an emerging generation of artists where they created a center for cross-disciplinary arts activities, epitomized by a collection of watershed public events that took place from 1975 through 1980. These large collaborative pieces were a hallmark of Old City Arts, an artist-run organization, reflecting a distinct atmosphere that supported experimentation and encouraged risk-taking. The catalytic atmosphere of this era in Old City stimulated the artists to explore the new creative territory.
“The Old City Arts History Project has been established to investigate the arts in relationship to place and to consider how the work of the artists of the time sparked a physical, social, and cultural transformation that engendered the reinvention of Old City—a neighborhood that continues to evolve today,” said Terry Fox, Executive Director of Philadelphia Dance Projects. “Old City’s legacy was forged by visual artists, dancers, musicians, performance artists, sculptors, potters, poets, writers, photographers, filmmakers, storytellers, cartoonists, and makers/inventors. This symposium allows attendees to learn about this unique era from those who were there and share in the conversation.”
Philadelphia Dance Projects supports projects that encourage artists and audiences to more fully engage in the experience and pursuit of dance as an evolving form. This discovery process grows out of pursuing an understanding of the roots of contemporary dance in Philadelphia, which in part evolved with independent post-modern artists in the late 20th century. Critical to understanding this evolution is the interplay with other artists in other disciplines particularly music, theater or performance art, and the visual arts. By exchanging this information and ideas about this history, artists and audiences may come to appreciate the depth of work being created today, not only in terms of style and interdisciplinary interaction but also the social and urban nexus with which art connects.
In 2010 PDP initiated a Local Dance History Project (LDHP) with the presentation of re-imagined and reconstructed works by post-modern dance and performance artists from1980. This set PDP on a trajectory of creating a digital collection and working with Temple University’s dance collection, which is still in process. The Old City Arts History Project will provide access and understanding of the locus of dance and performance and be responsive to marking dance’s presence in our city.
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