UArts Partners with PECO, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to Present Groundbreaking Public Art Festival

'Commotion' connects local community with University-led art projects

April 23, 2012

The University of the Arts has partnered with energy company PECO and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) to present "Commotion," a six-month-long community-based public art experience. Led by UArts faculty member John JH Phillips, "Commotion" has re-imagined PRA's 53-year-old "Percent for Art" program – the first community arts program in the country – resulting in the creation of an innovative series of hands-on community art workshops focusing on book arts, sculpture, dance, drama, video and sound art. 

This innovative project includes a diverse group of professional and student art makers who will work with aspiring artists and community members in Philly's Grays Ferry, Point Breeze and south of South Street neighborhoods. A festival showcasing all the artists' work will be held June 16 - 30.

The "Percent for Art" program requires redevelopers who build on land acquired from and assembled by the PRA to budget at least one percent of the total building construction costs toward the commissioning of original public art, now inclusive of public art programming.  

As part of a project to construct a new electric substation in the Grays Ferry section of the city, PECO provided $250,000 to support the development of the public art project to be produced in collaboration with area residents.

Phillips used the funding to develop a new curriculum for students at the University of the Arts focused on the history and impact of art in local communities, which led to the development of "Commotion."

"This is an entirely new approach to public art that engages student artists in the process of conceiving and creating new work in, with and for a community," said Sean T. Buffington, president of the University of the Arts. "Our students – under the guidance of an experienced senior artist – collaborated with residents of the neighborhood to devise an authentic and meaningful community arts experience."

"Commotion" has brought together seven noted local artists working in a variety of media to collaborate with residents and area schoolchildren in a series of workshops and hands-on arts activities. The work will be shown at the festival in June at various sites within the community.

"We wanted to bring a new approach to this project by providing both an educational opportunity for students while engaging the local community to get them involved in the experience," said Jeff Gordon, PECO manager of Corporate Relations. "We are extremely pleased with the results of our partnership with the University of the Arts and hope that it helps future participants look for opportunities to collaborate."

"The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority's 'Percent for Art' program has created works of art that inspire, engage and sometimes even define communities across the city," said Ed Covington, executive director of PRA. "This experience continues the tradition of the 'Percent for Art' program and takes it a step further by partnering with some of the city's exciting writers, dancers and visual artists to provide local residents with hands-on art making workshops, as well as access to original works of public art."

Nearly 400 works of public art have been installed in Philadelphia since the "Percent for Art" program's inception in 1959, including such Philadelphia icons as the Clothespin by Claes Oldenburg at 15th and Market Streets, Wave Forms by Dennis Oppenheim at 34th and Chestnut Streets, and most recently, Urban Topiary by PrePost Studio at 3rd Street and Germantown Avenue.

About PECO
Based in Philadelphia, PECO is an electric and natural gas utility subsidiary of Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC). PECO serves 1.6 million electric and 494,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Pennsylvania and employs about 2,400 people in the region. PECO delivered 82.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 38.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2011. Founded in 1881, PECO is one of the Greater Philadelphia Region's most active corporate citizens, providing leadership, volunteer and financial support to numerous arts and culture, education, environmental, economic development and community programs and organizations.

About the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority
The PRA was established in 1945 under Pennsylvania's Urban Renewal Act. Its purpose is to promote the public's health, safety and welfare by recycling blighted land and structures into planned and productive uses.

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