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 »

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 »

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. »

Oxford Mills Urban Oasis Grand Opening

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Oxford Mills, billed as an “urban oasis for teachers and nonprofits,” held its grand opening last week in South Kensington, another step in revitalizing the neighborhood. Oxford Mills was once a dye works factory. It was later abandoned and has now been transformed into a hub for Philadelphia’s education community. The project is a mixed-use real estate development designed to provide low-cost housing for teachers as well as commercial space for educational nonprofits.

Paul Kihn, deputy superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, told the guests, “Oxford will be a great place for teachers to bond with other like-minded teachers, discuss curriculum, vent about their day, prepare for the future, and relax. … A development such as Oxford Mills will help attract good teachers to the city as well as retain the ones we already have.”

Oxford Mills was developed by Gabe Canuso and Greg Hill, D3 Real Estate Development, and a Baltimore company, Seawall Development Company, who had created a similar project called Miller’s Court in Baltimore. The complex has 114 apartments, with half of them earmarked for teachers who will rent them at a 25 percent discount. The retail includes Artwell, Education Plus, Interfaith Center for Greater Philadelphia, Teach for America, Grace and Glory Yoga, and Gryphon Coffee Company, which are available to the residents as well as the neighborhood.

Oxford Mills Urban Oasis Grand Opening »

Mann Music Center’s Party in the Park Gala

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Wednesday night the Mann Music Center celebrated the 2014 Party in The Park Gala with musical entertainment from Diana Ross, who is on her “In The Name Of Love” tour. The evening started off with a welcoming cocktail party before the 650 guests were ushered into the dinner tent to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by Stephen Starr catering, as well as a short program. The highlight of the dinner was a tribute to outgoing board chairman Justin P. Klein. (Chris Bruner, managing partner, Ernst & Young, LLP Philadelphia, is the new board chairman as of March 1st.)

Then it was time for the Diana Ross’ concert. I photographed Miss Ross at Radio City Music Hall in 2009, where she allowed the press 45 seconds to capture her image; at the Mann that time was cut back to 0 seconds, but I was able to get a semi-bad cell phone shot. It was a shame, because she looks as beautiful and flawless as ever. Her concert was nearly 70 minutes long with no intermission, and included 5 outfit changes, (10 if you count when she would drop her big bird-feathered coats).

The best part: she had a matching fan for each of the outfits, turquoise, yellow, white, green and blue (not her signature red, though.) She was generous throughout the show and fanned her fans as well as her band. I was a little disappointed that she didn’t acknowledge she was in Philadelphia — sticking with the script — but she smiled a lot and thanked the fans in her Miss Ross way.

She opened with “I’m Coming Out” to a cheering crowd, the highlight of the night had to be her “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” that got even the people sitting in the front seats to stand and dance. She closed out the night with her anthem, adding her own touch to “I Will Survive,” and survive she has, 50 years after exploding onto the charts; Miss Ross is still going strong.

Mann Music Center’s Party in the Park Gala with Diana Ross »

Connor Barwin’s Make the World Better Foundation’s Ralph Brooks Park Fundraiser

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It was only a few weeks ago I was writing about Bud Selig’s visit to Philadelphia and his comments about the Phillies being the most philanthropic team in the MLB. The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t too shabby, either. There’s Brent Celek’s “Take Flight” Foundation for kids’ education, DeMeco Ryan’s Foundation supporting children’s healthy eating, and Todd Herremans Foundation, which raises money for various children’s charities in need.

Now Connor Barwin has started a foundation called the Make the World Better Foundation (MTWB is an acronym for his parents’ names: Margret Thomas and William Barwin). Friday night Barwin hosted a concert at Union Transfer to raise money for Ralph Brooks Park at 20th and Tasker Streets, a park in need of renovation that Barwin would pass on his bike rides to “work” from his Rittenhouse Square residence. Plans were already underway to revitalize the park; they just needed that extra push — including money to meet the goals set out by the organizations that were in place, including Urban Roots, the ACE Mentor Program, and the Philadelphia Water Department.

The major fundraiser to get them over the hurdle was held Friday night at Union Transfer where Connor Barwin hosted a VIP cocktail party were fans could meet their favorite players. Afterward there was a concert where Kurt Vile and the Violators, The Districts and The Tontons played to a sold-out crowd. The artists donated their services to the organization as did the music hall, along with all proceeds from the bar that evening. When the total is tallied, Connor Barwin is going to match it. In no time, the Ralph Brooks Park will be a safe place for kids to play again.

Connor Barwin’s Make The World Better Foundation’s Ralph Brooks Park Fundraiser »

Annual Rittenhouse Ball on the Square

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Last night, Rittenhouse Square held its annual Ball on the Square. Nearly 370 well-dressed guests attended. The dress was jackets for guys and gowns for women enduring the near summer heat and humidity for a good cause.

The annual celebration brings much-needed funds for the maintenance of the popular square; last night it was especially sweet as the Friends of Rittenhouse Square met their goal for the One Million Dollar Preservation Campaign. The campaign started under last year’s ball chairs Mary Parenti and Lynn Schecter, and was completed with the efforts of the 2014 ball chairs Janice Birenbaum and Nina Stanley and the ball committee.

Today, walking through the park you can see the improvements: increased lighting, security cameras, the restored and cleaned balustrade, and the illuminated guardhouse and lion. Next up: The restoration of the fountain.

Rittenhouse Ball on the Square »

Barnes Foundation’s The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne Trustee and Supporter Dinner

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Last week the Barnes Foundation hosted an intimate dinner party for their trustees and supporters of their new exhibit “The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne” which opens at the Barnes on Sunday, June 22nd, and runs through September 22nd. The show features 21 borrowed works from museums and private collections from around the world.

The exhibit was curated by Judith F. Dolkart — the Barnes curator who has since departed from the museum to become director of the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusettes — and Benedict Leca, director of curatorial affairs at the Hamilton art gallery.

The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne »

Marc Vetri’s 9th Annual Great Chefs at Urban Outfitters

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More than 1,200 guests attended the 9th Annual Great Chefs Event on Tuesday, June 10th. The yearly eating party thrown by Philadelphia superchef Marc Vetri was held at Urban Outfitters in the Navy Yard, with proceeds going to help Alex’s Lemonade Stand eradicate childhood cancer, and to the Vetri Foundation for Children. Neuroblastoma took Alex Scott’s life when she was eight, and her parents, Jay and Liz Scott, carry on her goal of helping doctors find a cure for the disease.

The event attracts four dozen top chefs from the U.S. and Italy who created delicious dishes that people raved over all night long. The event featured a live auction that brought in $80,000 and a silent auction — which included clothing, lavish trips, sports tickets and experiences — that raised nearly $100,000.

Later that evening I headed over to Vetri’s restaurant on North Broad, Alla Spina, for the after-party. There I found many of the volunteer chefs, sponsors and ticketed guests enjoying a delicious spread by the Vetri Family, and friends including Sweet Box Bakery, Debragga meat, Nomad Pizza to name a few. Behind the turntables was The Roots’ Questlove, who appears at the after-party annually and packs the dance floor from start to finish. It’s always a highlight of the evening.

Marc Vetri’s 9th Annual Great Chefs at Urban Outfitters »

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