Restoration of the Chaplain’s Office Murals at Eastern State

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Tuesday night at Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) sponsors and board members gathered to celebrate the newly restored Chaplin’s office and murals at the popular tourist site.

The murals were discovered in 1995, 23 years after the active prison stopped housing prisoners, and two years after the Eastern State Penitentiary Task Force took over the building to preserve it. Now the crumbling murals are now restored. Active fundraising began in 2007, and the work started last summer with the restoration completed this month by a team of art conservators.

From June 2013 through August 2014, the team carefully removed the protective Japanese tissue paper and wax that had obscured the paintings for 18 years while preventing the total loss of the 23 murals that line walls of the two rooms used by the Catholic chaplain. (Learn about the process here.)

The murals were painted by self-taught artist inmate Lester Smith in 1955, who signed them “Paul Martin” after his two favorite saints. When Father Edwin Gallagher, the penitentiary’s Catholic chaplain (1952-1958), witnessed Smith painting in his cell, he invited the inmate to decorate the offices where he met with and counseled inmates. Smith covered nearly every wall space with a beautiful mural. The Lester Smith family donated photos of the murals to the museum and they were used to help restore the murals.

Photos after the jump »

Opening Night at the New Joan Shepp

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Wednesday night Joan Shepp officially opened her new store at 1811 Chestnut Street. The trailblazing Shepp’s flagship store was on Walnut Street for nearly two decades before it was chased from Philadelphia’s Rodeo Drive by rising rents. Joan Shepp then headed for the posh Shops at Liberty Place; although it was very lovely, she yearned for a storefront with the glorious window displays that we’d all grown to love. She’s found that in the beautiful new 9,000-square-foot showroom she now calls home.

Joan and daughter Ellen Shepp attract a fashionable crowd to their store, which carries both men’s and women’s clothing, and houses an array of designer labels including Moschino, Balenciaga, Jil Sander,  Rick Owens and Phillip Lim. The crowd at the opening night party was just as eclectic and fabulous.  There were live models in the window facing Chestnut Street, and earlier in the night Mike Jerrick, and new co-host Alex Holley from Fox 29 modeled.

Food was provided by all the Starr restaurants, and over a 1,000 macarons were made by Parc restaurant’s pastry chef. Denise Fike created a mural of guests who attended the soiree, as models roamed the store’s three rooms and outdoor space with the latest fall collections.

Photos from Joan Shepp’s Opening Night after the jump »

PHOTOS: Dîner en Blanc 2014

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Dîner en Blanc was another magical night under the stars for which Philadelphians packed their own dinners (although some guests opted to order from Di Bruno Bros. or Garces and pick up their meals at the secret location), brought their own chairs and tables, and waited at pre-determined meeting places for the 6:30 p.m. phone call that would tell their dining leader where the event’s “secret” location would be. (The dining leader then led the group to the location which could be up to two miles away.)

Guests dressed in white to take part in the pop-up culinary event, the second-most-attended Dîner en Blanc in the U.S. behind New York City’s. This year, the event was held on the Avenue of The Arts, with City Hall as the backdrop for the thousands of photos that were taken by the record number of attendees.

Each year the event seems to grow: The first year 1,300 people attended; last year 2,500 people went; and this year 3,500 people went. The très chic picnic began in Paris 26 years ago and is now taking over 40 elegant public spaces around the world. It’s a great community-building event, bringing all walks of people together. This year two couples got engaged during the event.

More photos from Dîner en Blanc after the jump »

A Midsummer’s Eve at the National Museum of American Jewish History

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The Young Friends of the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) presented A Midsummer’s Eve at the museum on August 14, 2014. Over 300 people — many dressed fabulously in white, the ladies with daisy headbands — enjoyed a kosher dessert reception by Betty the Caterer
and an open bar. The even, a celebration of Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love, was held in the ballroom at the NMAJH, which overlooks Independence Park. Guest mingled with other young friends, posed for photos in front of the step-and-repeat, enjoyed views from the expansive fifth floor terrace, and danced to the tunes of DJ Robbie Tronco.

Photos from the NMAJH’s Midsummer’s Eve after the jump »

2014 Philadelphia Geek Awards

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Excitement reigned on the sidewalk outside The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University on Saturday night as the 4th Annual Philadelphia Geek Awards got underway. Guests, nominees, and presenters walked the red carpet and posed for photographers before heading into the museum to enjoy the the 90-minute cocktail reception held among the many fascinating exhibits in the museum including full sized dinosaurs, fossils, live butterflies and animal dioramas. Some 400 guests were dressed in “Geek Chic” and ready to party.

The Academy staff was also circulating with live snakes, owls, lizards, and bugs, and many people — including yours truly — took #Selfies to share with the world on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (#PhillyGeekAwards). Then the moment arrived when Geekadelphia co-founder Eric Smith and editor Mikey Ilagan opened up the ceremony with witty banter and gracious appreciation of the sold-out crowd.

Throughout the 90-minute ceremony, awards were given and the audience was entertained by the humor of the presenters and winners. Those geeks are smart and funny. The after-party was held at North Bowl, and was well attended. Many of the ladies told me they were excited to take off the heels and slip into some comfortable bowling shoes.

More photos and full list of winners from the 2014 Philly Geek Awards after the jump »

Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly Bash 2014

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Philadelphia magazine’s Best of Philly Bash was held last night at Citizens Bank Park. The torrential rains didn’t put a damper on the annual party which celebrates the best of the best of Philadelphia, as selected annually in the August issue of the magazine.

Each year Philly Mag chooses interesting locations for their party. This year they held it on the 200 level corridor of Citizens Bank Park, transforming the venue into a day at the beach, complete with a boardwalk and sand. Besides the delicious food and spirits served, there were fun activities, including cornhole, Jenga, checkers, a baseball throw and dancing to the tunes of Speaker City. There were also tours of the stadium, including the trophy room, where the 2008 Phillies Championship trophy is kept.

To top off an already great night, there were fireworks!

Photos and video of the Best of Philly 2014 Party after the jump »

Shepard Fairey Afterparty at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

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Shepard Fairey was in town last week for the dedication of Lotus Diamond, a mural he did in partnership with the Mural Arts Program on the façade of a building at 1228 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown. It’s the first of three he is doing in Philadelphia. Fairey shot to fame for the “Hope” poster he created during the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign. Thursday he signed bottles of Hennessy V.S Limited Edition at a private event at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and then was guest of honor at a party that evening. He even got behind the turntables at the and spun records for a bit. The dedication of the mural was Friday.

Photos of the Shepard Fairey after-party after the jump »

Alive Inside Screening for the Alzheimer’s Association

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Greater Philadelphia Film Office, Derek Freese Documentary Fund and the Alzheimer’s Association hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary Alive Inside at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts last Tuesday night.

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner was presented at a red-carpet event and there was a post cocktail party afterward. All proceeds from the event will support the Alzheimer’s Association’s Delaware Valley Chapter.

The film, which focuses on the use of music in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients, included a post-screening Q&A with CBS3 Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl. Michael Rossato-Bennett, ‎director of Alive Inside discussed how the project came about. He also announced that a meeting with Apple was in the works in hopes of expanding the program of getting music to patients on a much broader scale.

To see how music can make a difference in an Alzheimer’s patient’s life was very moving. The music provided to the patient was specific from an era in their life. It brought them back to life, singing, humming, dancing and they were able to recall memories of a time that had seemed lost forever. It’s a must see. The hope is that one day doctors will prescribe music as part of the treatment that is currently used for Alzheimer’s patients.

Photos from the screening of Alive Inside after the jump. »

Ommegang Hop Chef 2014

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Last week at Union Transfer, the Ommegang Hop Chef Competition held its 2014 Philly event pitting the hottest Philly chefs against each other in a fierce competition to be crowned the Hop Chef Philadelphia winner. The winner will go on to represent Philadelphia at “Belgium Comes to Cooperstown 2014” August 8th and 9th for the title of Hop Chef National Champ.

Participating chefs included James Kenngott of Strangelove’s, Justin Petruce of Petruce et al, Jennifer Choplin of Dock Street Brewery, Chad Vetter of City Tap House, Jeremy Nolen of Brauhaus Schmitz, Jonathan Petruce, Ben Puchowitz of Cheu Noodle Bar, Travis Masar of Sampan and Independence Beer Garden, and Townsend Wentz of Townsend.

Each chef created a dish which was paired with an Ommegang beer. Then a panel judged their dishes based on five pairing principles. The chefs each got 10 minutes to describe their dish to the judges, and to explain why they used a particular beer for the pairing.

The judges for the competition were Caroline Hatchett of Star Chefs, Art Etchells of FooBooz, Collin Keefe of Drink Philly, Caroline Russock of City Paper, Danya Henninger of Zagat (who pulled no punches in telling a chef when something was too chewy, too salty or delicious), Top Chef winner Nick Elmi of Laurel and Carly Szkaradnick of Eater Philly.

Ommegang’s Hop Chef 2014 »

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