Annenberg Center extends outreach to West Philly

October 30, 2011

Shelli Gimelstein

The Daily Pennsylvanian

Since 1971, the Annenberg Center has hosted a variety of acts ranging from American Indian tribal dancers to the Mask & Wig Club. Now, it is using its cultural resources to expand its role in the West Philadelphia community.

Annenberg presents the ongoing Student Discovery Series and the yearly International Children’s Festival to around 60 schools in
the Delaware region, so that teachers and students “see Annenberg as a cultural resource … and take advantage of its programming,” Associate Director of Community Engagement & Resource Development Edward Epstein said.

Epstein is currently interviewing candidates for two new internship positions created this year in order to strengthen existing school partnerships and develop new ones.

Targeted at students 4 to 18 years old, the Student Discovery Series presents a variety of music and dance performances from all over the world, from the contemporary Australian dance group Chunky Move to Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. The series, which Annenberg supplements with study guides for teachers, is “a way [for students] to learn about cultures and connect dance with school curriculum in creative ways,” Epstein said.

“Within the last year, there has been a huge spike in attendance, especially for the Children’s Festival performances, and I think it’s going to be a bigger program this year,” Annenberg Box Office Supervisor and 2011 College graduate Megan Edelman said. Megan, who worked at the Annenberg Center Box Office throughout her college career, believes that the growth in the previously waning attendance can be attributed to the creation of specific positions for school-based outreach.

“Knowing that funding for arts is decreasing in the Philadelphia area and all over the country, we’re really proud to be able to sell out our shows,” Director of Marketing and Communications Nicole Cook added.

Annenberg has also been working to increase its patronage from the Penn and West Philadelphia community. The new PNC West Philly Rush Hour program will offer $10 tickets to residents of Philadelphia zip codes two hours prior to the show. “We’re trying to reach out to people who might not be able to see a $60 dance show,” Cook said.

Ben’s Tix, an existing ticket subsidy promotion, also allows Penn students to purchase $10 tickets to any show all season. Nearly 2,000 student tickets were sold in the 2010-2011 season.

In addition to its elementary- and middle-school outreach efforts, from Jan. 18. to Jan. 29 the Annenberg Center will be presenting the play In the Footprint – The Battle Over Atlantic Yards in order to attract more adult audiences. Epstein believes the play, about a controversial development project in Brooklyn, will have “strong resonance in Philadelphia due to [ongoing construction] projects around Penn’s campus.”

Annenberg hopes to use the play to “spark community engagement and conversation due to the nature of this performance,” spokeswoman Sarah Fergus wrote in an email.

The Daily Pennsylvanian