May is the month to take in some of the beautiful art outside the museums in the gorgeous gardens of Philadelphia, including several along the Parkway like the Barnes, the Rodin, the Azalea and Sol LeWitt's 'Lines in Four Directions in Flowers' behind the PMA. (Photo courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art)
With so much happening on Philadelphia’s arts and culture scene, we want to make Uwishunu, in conjunction with sister site With Art Philadelphia (which just won a Webby Award!), your one-stop-shop for all that’s happening with local art. Every month, we gather our top art picks, featuring exhibits and events at smaller, alternative galleries and art spaces, as well as at the city’s major art institutions.
This month, May flowers are in full bloom — bringing picnics in the park, outdoor festivals and much less welcome battles with the pollen monster. It’s time to distract yourself from hay fever with a prescription of our top arts picks:
PAFA After Dark: Thursday, May 2, 6-9 p.m., PAFA, 128 N. Broad Street. Head over to PAFA to party like an astronaut in celebration of National Space Day. While you won’t be able to somersault in zero gravity or bounce across the moon, you can immerse yourself in a Secret Cinema screening of Rocketship X-M, the first feature film made about space exploration. If playing with starlight is more your style, then create a Self-Portrait Silhoette from light and shadow, or tour the galleries by flashlight. Between the Space Bingo and Cosmo Cocktails, just remember there’s no flying car to take you home at the end of the night. And come May 10, pay a return visit to take in the Annual Student Exhibition, a show of serious student works, now in its 112th year.
Magical History Tour: Thursday, May 2, 6-9 p.m., Penn Museum, 3260 South Street. It’s time to break out those Carmen Sandiego skills for the Magical History Tour, a scavenger hunt at the Penn Museum. In teams of four, you’ll have the chance to uncover the museum’s mysteries. And while this may not include watching artifacts come to life Ben Stiller-style, there will be prizes and gift certificates to add some magic to the mystery.
First Friday: The Late Edition: Friday, May 3, 9-11 p.m., North Bowl, 909 N. Second Street. The great dilemma of any First Friday afficianado is where to go once the doors of the galleries start to close and you’re not quite ready to watch your arts adventure end. While you could just wander over to the nearest bar, the late night party at North Bowl lets you bask your eyes in more art — and your wallet in drink specials and complimentary snacks — until the respectable hour of 11 p.m.
Above and Below: Opening May 3, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut Street. We’ve all tried to capture starlight in the form of fireflies flitting across the backyards of summers past. But Sharon Harper has succeeded with the real thing, thanks to the aid of a camera and a few experimental lens techniques. Dance along milky pathways where mortals seldom tread, and then unlock the secrets in the Vault room, where Jan Rattia explores the backstage lives of male dancers with his photography series.
The Art of Sushi: Wednesday, May 8, 6-7:30 p.m., PMA, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. If that sake bottle in your house is looking a little lonely, that might be because you don’t have any sushi to pair it with. And while the Youtube videos you’ve watched probably haven’t brought you very far in your sushi chef career, a course taught by former Executive Chef of Morimoto restaurant, Gerald Drummond, is bound to do the trick. Head over to the art museum for a 90-minute lesson in Maki rolls and nagiri. Because you know you’re dying to try your hand at those bamboo rolling mats.
Voids that Bind: Opening May 9, Crane Arts Building, 1400 N. American Street. While you’re busy using Google Maps to find your way around the city, be sure to plug in the Crane Arts Building, where artist Ana Rankin maps the stars. With the eye of an explorer and the lens of a historian, Ana charts her place in the world through ancient cartography. Discover new skies of canvas this May.
Art Star Craft Bazaar: May 11-12, The Great Plaza at Penns Landing, Columbus Boulevard between Market and Walnut Streets. While there’s always the saving grace of a gift receipt, why not let mom choose her Mother’s Day gift in person? With over 140 artists, Art Star Craft Bazaar features handmade items in every medium. Between the bands and the food and a day outdoors, it just might make up for your gift-giving procrastination. And if you find yourself bitten by the bazaar bug, check out Punk Rock Flea Market on May 18-19, and Philly PHAIR opening May 18.
Through the Looking Lens: Opening May 17, American Philosophical Society Museum, 104 S. Fifth Street. Cornelius Varley, like every other classic hero of the Victorian era, blended perfectly a passion for natural science with a penchant for artistic expression. Yet unlike the Mr. Darcys and Mr. Rochesters, the very real Mr. Varley is fully accessible to any modern lady willing to venture over to the American Philosophical Society Museum. The founder of the Watercolor Society, Varley didn’t stop at just painting the world around him, but invented microscopes and other optical equipment to make the invisible world visible. Find his instruments and paintings (of algae and other things) on display beginning May 17.
Check out the rest of our With Art Picks, below.
The Making of a Modern Man: Opening May 17, James Oliver Gallery, 723 Chestnut Street. Fresh off the heels of the Nosego exhibit, James Oliver Gallery brings another local powerhouse for a solo exhibition. Artist John Y. Wind ventures beyond his jewelry business, Maximal Art, to present a show that blends the personal with the authoritative — from ticket stubs to Beethoven busts.
First Anniversary Party: Friday, May 17, 6-10 p.m., Barnes, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It’s officially one year since the Barnes became a welcome addition to the Parkway. In celebration, the foundation hosts its first contemporary art exhibition since 1923 — Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall — as well as a one-night-only soiree. So in between jogging up the Rocky steps and posing with the Thinker, be sure to spend some time partying at the Barnes, with just enough cocktails and Brazilian music to spice up your evening.
Dance Party at the Pen: A Masquerade: Saturday, May 18, 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m., Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Avenue. The Blues Brothers and Elvis aren’t the only ones who know how to throw a party in prison. With the aid of creative cocktail attire and masks, guests help transform the Eastern State Pen into a Masquerade, where doors are unlocked, dance music echoes along the cell-blocks, and mysterious gentlemen lead you on flashlight tours through the prison’s secrets.
Caveat Emptor: Fakes, Forgeries and Reproductions: Thursday, May 23, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Freeman’s, 1808 Chestnut Street. With the slew of antique shows cropping up on tv stations in recent years, it might be difficult to resist the urge to go deep-dust diving in your grandparents’ attic. But before you waste your time carting family heirlooms to the nearest expert, why not take a mini-course in “Fakes, Forgeries and Reproductions”? The seminar, led by Curator Emeritus Charles F. Hummel of the Winterthur Museum, will have you out-talking your real estate agent in no time.