Out of everything he gave to the literary world, it's Charles Dickens' characters that continue to amuse and inspire audiences. Fagin and Dodger, David Copperfield and Tiny Tim have become prototypes against which we judge other literary personalities. His creations have infiltrated our language: The unenthused Christmas guest is a regular Scrooge, and what little kid hasn't asked for seconds, jokingly reaching out his hands with the phrase “please sir, I want some more”?
This Wednesday, the Rosenbach Museum (2008-2010 Delancey Place) invites guests to uncover the source of these timeless characters with a closer look at their original depictions. Through manuscripts and letters, a guided tour (3 p.m.-4 p.m., free with admission) will chronicle Dickens' rise to fame from an ambitious amateur to a world-renowned storyteller. The Rosenbach Museum and Library is internationally recognized for its extensive collections of original English manuscripts, making it an essential visit for Dickens fans the world over, and an ideal setting for shedding new light on a classic author.
In trying to understand the mood of Cairo since the uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, Amira Hanafi finds herself in a fairly good position to explain the cultural shift: A writer and artist, Egyptian and former Philadelphian, Hanafi has lived in Tahrir Square since before the uprising, observing and documenting the events as they've unfolded around her.
She's returned to Philadelphia for the summer as a visiting artist at the University of the Arts, providing an excuse for her former employer, the Penn Book Center, to invite her to share some of her experiences Sun., July 29 at A-Space (4722 Baltimore Ave.). The free event will begin at 7 p.m. with Hanafi's poetic essay inspired by the July 8, 2011 sit-in, followed by a discussion of broader shifts in Egyptian politics and society.
As the U.S. Mail system slowly becomes obselete, local artist Matthew Ross Smith is finding new ways to make use of the classic postcard in one of his most innovative community-art projects to date.
His plan, entitled "The Spaces Between Your Fingers", is to have participants write a short message or memory on an old-fashioned postcard. In place of a signature, each writer will end the card with a tracing of his hand, highlighting the analog human-ness of postcard exchange. The project returns to the digital era when these postcards become archived in the Free Library's “wisdom library,” where they can be searched by age, location, subject or even a matching handprint. Using the library's archival resources, this is a way to record the tradition of the postcard and share in the diverse wisdom of our community. Saturday's event is a chance to learn more about the project and become an official postcard participant. Read our Q&A with Smith's mom, who received the onslaught of postcards in her mailbox, in this week's A&E section, or by clicking here.
Free and open to anyone interested, the session kicks off at 2 p.m. at the Library's Central Branch (1901 Vine St.).
When the last of the foreign combat troops left Iraq nearly seven months ago, the war's official “end” was marked by little ceremony and many questions left unanswered: Was this really a war? Why were we ever there in the first place? What does the future hold for Iraqi citizens? Where most conflicts have an explicit agenda, the Iraqi occupation was always shrouded in confusion, particularly for the average American living far away from any live combat. During the Bush years, we heard the slogan “no blood for oil,” suggesting Iraq's long-thriving oil economy as the central motive for US involvement in the country. Nine years after the initial invasion, these claims still linger, neither proven nor officially disproven by those in power.
Investigative journalist Greg Muttitt takes a deeper look at the oil politics behind occupied Iraq in his new book, Fuel on the Fire. Drawing on various government documents and his own experience reporting on the war, Muttitt provides an inside story behind the war that dominated U.S. foreign policy for most of the last decade.
Join him for a free reading and discussion of the book tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Moonstone Arts Center (110A S. 13th St.).
"Arte Bendito/Arte Filantrópico" (Blessed Art/ Philanthropic Art) is an example of one artist, Marta Sanchez, and how her many civic efforts mix with art for art's sake.
Large, ornate banners, the kind seen in old photos of parades with fraternal-organization marchers, line the walls of the front room of Taller Puertorriqueño gallery (2721 N. Fifth St.). They are tributes Marta Sanchez has made to recall 20 years of making Cascarones por la vida. Artists as well as community groups have created the confetti-filled eggs that are a part of fiestas. The whole center of the floor is carpeted with brilliant flats of these eggs, sold to fund art lessons for kids affected by HIV.
An offrenda (altar) of small crosses and other typical religious images raises money for the sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity who are working with newly arrived families trying to master English as a second language.
Sanchez loves trains. Look for their images snaking throughout the exhibition. The major work is one that recalls the tiles often seen in the Southwest, a larger image of a romantic scene or the Virgin of Guadalupe is painted over a series of rectangles. In this case one wall is covered with images that may be purchased separately, but working together they represent "Un Pedazo de mi/A Part of Me" — Sanchez sharing an intimate image of her studio for the benefit of Taller Puertorriqueño.
On the final day of the show, Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., meet Sanchez and hear her speak about art and philanthropy and how artists underwrite social causes with their work.
By now, hopefully, you've checked out this week's cover package wherein we sent our writers to some of the city's smallest, weirdest most secret museums. Well, we also had them take photos. Let's start off with the bucket of teeth...
From Jane Cassaday's "Dear Philadelphia"—
“…But you know what, I surrender,
your openhearted narrow streets,
trolley-tracked arterials form one room
of lighting-crack hearts to the next…”
For the Comfort of Automated Phrases is local poet (and CP horoscopist) Jane Cassady's first book, comprising poems written in the last eight years. She explains it as a series of love letters to all types of things — from Zumba to Beyoncé — and a souvenir that “helps me keep my emotional bond to the people and places I’ve visited." She began writing poetry in 2000, when living among other creatives in Laguna Beach. “I felt like I’d finally found someplace I belonged,” she says; she counts the poets of that scene — people like Daniel McGinn and Rachel McKibbens — among her biggest influences.
The collection is playful and light, best suited for sunny days. Cassady's words of affection for Philadelphia, for example, impart a warm feeling of solidarity. If your bus came an hour late, though, it might not be the right time to give this a read.
The collection's release party is 6 p.m. on Sat., July 21 at Cake and the Beanstalk (1112 Locust St.); aspiring poets are invited to join her and read their own work.
Like Summer School But It's Fun
Just because school's out doesn't mean you should just forget about reading. The Philly Urban Book Festival is an all-day event dedicated to authors, books, reading and other text-centric activities that promote the joys of kicking back with a good read.
Located at the Camphor Memorial Church (5620 Wyalusing Ave.), the event is an opportunity for local authors, both published and unpublished, to meet each other and share their work. Open mics will be held for the slam poets in the audience and a kids' corner offers word games for younger bookish-types.
Getting in touch with her hometown roots, this year's author embassador is West Philly native Nicole Rouse, whose 2007 book Happily Ever Now catapulted her from writing as a hobby to full-blown author — an experience she'll share as she reflects on the world of publishing. Get in on the lit-frenzy tomorrow from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The event is completely free and open to the public.
To step into the Twenty-Two Gallery is to enter a separate plane of existence, far removed from the frantic pace of the city beyond its walls.
Melissa M. Bryant reigns over this quiet kingdom, speaking with me at a small table in the center of the paintings that comprise "Interlude," her current exhibition. The artist maintains that “you learn quite a bit about life by being still,” an idea captured in the surrounding oil paintings that are meant to embody mindfulness. Bryant's work is mostly made up of landscapes — her “first love” — as well as several portraits and still lifes. A large canvas of Mother's Day flowers preserves their vibrance before they begin to wilt, and a scene depticting a winter dawn captures a transient moment of morning peace. Her whimsical brushstrokes are remeniscent of the en plein air Impressionists, colorful and full of contemplation.
Only through attentiveness, Bryant maintains, can we truly take the time to appreciate these scenes of nature that surround us. A look at her paintings and a moment in her presence are a welcome respite from the fast-paced working day, and may help you pause to appreciate the breeze in Rittenhouse Park next time you pass through in hurried transit.
Through Sept. 9, opening Fri., July 13, 6–9 p.m., Twenty-Two Gallery, 236 S. 22nd St., 215-272-1911, melissambryant.com.
Though Philly’s day to shine is indubitably on the Fourth, many locals extend brotherly loving arms to the French to pay celebrate fourteenth, aka France's Bastille Day. After all, Philadelphians have plenty to thank the French for — from the design of City Hall to the Champs-Élysées-inspired Ben Franklin Parkway.
➤ The Philadelphia Museum of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.) begins the weekend celebrations tonight at 5 p.m. with a Bastille-influenced Art After 5, which coincides with the reopening of the Rodin Museum. The evening will include confetti cannons, go-go dancers, a cardboard version of Parisian attractions and a bawdy performance by experimental cabaret group The Bearded Ladies, who will undoubtedly be dressed in their Marie-Antoinette best.
➤ Cinephiles will get their fill tonight at International House (3701 Chestnut St.), where there will be a screening of Jacques Tati’s legendary 1958 film, Mon Oncle, at 7 p.m. Following Monsieur Hulot, the flick hints at the evils of consumerism as it flashes through his family’s lavish ultramodern home and prosperous hose factory. In spite of the message, there will be plenty of wine to consume afterward.
➤ When you're good and pre-gamed, get set for plenty of Francophilian shenanigans on July 14. At 4:30 p.m., Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Ave.) will also play home to The Bearded Ladies, who will take bystanders on a two-hour musical history lesson of the French Revolution. Expect beheadings, stilts, Ben Franklin, a bigass catwalk and a tempest of Let-them-eat-Tastykakes.
➤ At 6:30 p.m., London Grill (2301-2303 Fairmount Ave.) will host a block party complete with performances by The West Philadelphia Orchestra and The Hot Club of Philadelphia. Meanwhile, its neighboring sister restaurant, Paris Wine Bar, will pacify tamer attendees with a chill set by Philly guitarist Mike Kennedy.
Viva La Revolución, bitches!
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