The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jul 19, 2012

The Circus Comes to City Hall

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Josh Dubin, Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy City of Philadelphia Image courtesy of Amanda Brandt for the City of Philadelphia

It's 5:30pm on a Wednesday in the Philadelphia. The City Hall Courtyard, a key pedestrian corridor and public transit access point in the heart of Center City, would typically be in the midst of an epic rush hour. But, while today's crowds are just as large as usual, they aren't going anywhere. Not until the show's over, anyway.

City Hall Presents is a new series of free events that welcomes the full spectrum of Philadelphia's performing arts into the spaces of City Hall throughout the year. The program, made possible through a 2011 Knight Arts Challenge grant, began earlier this spring with performances in some of the building's impressive indoor spaces. Warm summer evenings have brought the action outdoors into the newly restored courtyard, where a bigger stage and larger crowds have brought the excitement to new heights.

Image courtesy of Amanda Brandt for the City of Philadelphia

Speaking of new heights, it will be hard to top last week's performance by the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. Their talented aerial squad, comprised of both students and instructors, took to the air on static trapeze, corde lisse, aerial silks and lyra, sometimes as much as 20 feet above the ground, no net in sight. Their acrobatics were a dazzling combination of grace and athleticism, and the audience of over 300 - some standing, some seated on bleachers and picnic blankets - happily "oohed" and "aahed" with each remarkable feat.

Image courtesy of Amanda Brandt for the City of Philadelphia

Even Mayor Michael A. Nutter was on hand for the performance, as entranced and delighted as everyone else. During a press conference the following morning, he took the opportunity to talk about his experience watching the show, as well as the powerful ways in which programs like City Hall Presents can inspire citizens and enliven public spaces. Donna Frisby-Greenwood, of the Knight Foundation, was also at the press conference and echoed the Mayor's sentiments.

If you haven't been to a City Hall Presents event yet, you've still got plenty of chances. The program will host three more performances outside in the courtyard, then move back indoors for eight more autumn shows plus a holiday-themed event in December. Be sure to visit to see the latest show announcements and RSVP for any upcoming events.

Image courtesy of Amanda Brandt for the City of Philadelphia


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