Parkway Council Details Initiative to Celebrate 100 Year Anniversary of Parkway
A century ago, after decades of planning and debate over how to connect Fairmount Park to the center of Philadelphia, construction began on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Now, there’s more than 20 museums and institutions surrounding one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. And last Thursday, members from several of those organizations spoke about Parkway 100 — a vision consisting of several events and initiatives planned over the next two years to commemorate the legacy of the parkway.
Judi Rogers, executive director of the Parkway Council Foundation, said collaboration between institutions along the Parkway is what her foundation seeks to continue. What separates Parkway 100 from other projects like it is the effort to encourage support for all the different programs happening, she added.
“It’s a strong effort to focus on the Parkway and the riches we have here,” Rogers told Spirit News. “And to try to get people to think of it not as much as a street or an individual group of destinations, but one destination.”
During last week’s press conference at the Logan Hotel, several representatives from Parkway 100 sponsors and Parkway Council members spoke about the value of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to Philadelphia, along with what the next two years will specifically look like. “The Parkway … is the heart of this great city,” said Gail Harrity, president and chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “A great cultural access that weaves together the historical urban fabric of the river, boathouses and green landscapes beyond.”
The official start of the Parkway 100 will be September 8th, when more than 100 free, family-friendly activities will be offered at multiple museums and institutions, and also outside in parks and public spaces along the Parkway. Mike Innocenzo, senior vice president and chief operating officer of PECO, detailed the “We Are Connected” Kickoff Festival, which will also feature discounted or free admission to the museum’s collections and exhibitions.
Along with the attractions, the Parkway will also be decorated with “Winter Fountains for the Parkway,” five illuminated dome-shaped installations covered in glass beading that will light up the Parkway at night. The William Penn Foundation has donated $1.25 million toward the project, which is being designed by Jennifer Steinkamp, an artist who specializes in installations and has taught at UCLA and other California universities.
Steinkamp told Spirit News the process for creating the seven-and-a-half foot high structures spanning 35 feet started early last year. She was immediately intrigued by the history of the Parkway and the challenges the project presented.
The idea for how the installations would be shaped came from the fountains at Eakins Oval, she added. “These don’t run in the winter, and I was thinking, what if I cover them and do something else,” Steinkamp said. “But then it was too big … just logistically, having bright enough projectors and it would be a pretty huge dome … so we backed off that plan and decided to put domes near the fountain.”
Construction on the installation will begin later this year, and the fountains should be running from December 2017 through March 2018.
Rogers acknowledged that outside of bringing additional tourism to the area, it will be important to consider the impact on nearby residents. She said the Parkway Council Foundation has maintained partnerships with Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Fairmount CDC and other local civic organizations.
“We’re not interested in shutting down the Parkway for an event,” she told Spirit News. “We’re interested in bringing people from the neighborhoods and from afar to enjoy what’s already here.”