Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Inaugural Phila International Festival Of The Arts A Standout Success For City And Arts Community

MAY 23, 2011

La Compagnie Transe Express grand finale at PIFA Street Fair, April 30

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) events and performances may be over, but Philadelphia’s arts and culture community has much to continue to celebrate. While the final results are still being tallied, PIFA organizers say that all indications point to a standout success for the 25-day, 135-event, inaugural festival.


Kimmel Center President and CEO Anne Ewers noted, “From its very inception, our goals for the festival were clear.  PIFA would enable us to create a way to draw together the region’s outstanding arts organizations, and at the same time elevate the profile and visibility of both the organizations and the amazing artists whose talents illuminate our city.  As a result, we hoped that both residents and tourists alike would experience – many for the first time – Philadelphia’s treasure-trove of arts and culture. So far, we are delighted by early returns suggesting that all of our festival goals were met. The Kimmel Center is incredibly proud to have led this inaugural effort, bringing Philadelphia’s arts and culture communities together for the first time for such an extraordinary initiative.”


The Kimmel Center, with the help of over 200 volunteers, acted as PIFA central, attracting thousands to the venue to learn about the Festival.  From the twice nightly Eiffel Tower light-and-sound show and daily performances inside the transformed Kimmel Center Plaza, to kids and family events, dance and theater performances, culinary and fashion events and more, there was much to draw an impressive number of Festival attendees, as the official count demonstrates:


  • A total of 177,000 people were drawn to the Kimmel Center Plaza over the festival’s 25 days
  • 195,000 attendees enjoyed the April 30 PIFA Street Fair along Broad Street and its grand finale: an unforgettable mid-air performance by La Compagnie Transe Express
  • The Kimmel Center’s first-ever Plaza fashion show attracted standing-room only audiences
  • Over 750 children and parents took part in the first Easter Egg Hunt in the Plaza on Easter Sunday
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis dazzled a sold-out house on the final day of PIFA


But it wasn’t just the Kimmel Center that benefited.  Many PIFA events across the city were sold out, or nearly so. For example:


  • The Green Fairy Cabaret served up an inventive melding of cabaret and circus arts to sold-out crowds.
  • All of Woodmere Art Museum’s jazz nights, celebrating jazz of the PIFA era and beyond, sold out.
  • Orchestra 2001’s PIFA event featured two new works and a first-ever collaboration with visual artists.
  • Several of Fly City’s daily trapeze classes on Broad Street were full; extra classes had to be added to the schedule.
  • Scribe Video’s screenings of documentaries included a commissioned video about the trailblazing musician and orchestra leader James Reese Europe.
  • Restaurants featuring PIFA’s special French Chef dinners were frequently packed.
  • The Gala opening was highlighted by the sold-out Pulcinella Alive, attended by an unprecedented number of Gala patrons.
  • Tongue and Groove Spontaneous Theater’s improvisations grew out of the experiences shared by their enthralled audiences. 
  • Alliance Française sold out its trolley tours of French Philadelphia.
  • Artists’ House Gallery featured new paintings, many by local artists.  Their accompanying slate of performance and lectures more than doubled their typical attendance.
  • Sharp Dance offered a multimedia, late-night cabaret to a full house.


These and many more PIFA events drew large audiences which often included new, more diverse attendees.


Stated PIFA Executive Director J. Edward Cambron, “Looking at the overview of the festival, there’s so much to point to: the diversity of programming and the diversity of audiences, attendance at the events mounted by our 145 arts and culture partners as well as at Kimmel Center events, and major strides toward connecting with new and potential arts supporters.  By all of these measures, PIFA was an even greater success than we could have imagined. And while the Kimmel Center was the catalyst, PIFA couldn’t have worked without the participation and commitment of our 145 partners. Their creative energy and collaborative spirit galvanized our entire community. It was truly inspiring to see so many arts organizations working together in such exciting new ways.” 


PIFA Artistic Producer Barbara Silverstein adds, “While we’re still researching the festival’s impact, most of our partner organizations have seen significant value in their participation and creative collaborations.  Partners were actively involved in the more than 30 newly-commissioned works presented over 25 days, a tribute to their enthusiastic embrace of the festival theme as well as to their creative daring, and the collaborative projects also brought about some very intriguing results.”


Among them:


  • ?uestlove’s “Philly Lockdown” put the spotlight on the music of French composers from a hundred years ago and jazz and pop performers of today.
  • The Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Gershman Y, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art collaborated on Bella: The Color of Love.
  • The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia embarked on an unprecedented collaboration with one of Philadelphia’s own national treasures, Robert Smythe.
  • “Puentes/Bridges” brought together for the first time artists of Taller Puertorriqueño, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra,  Artistas y Músicos Latino Americanos, and Intercultural Journeys, who ultimately performed together in the heart of Latino Philadelphia, before the largest crowd Taller has ever attracted to a performance at their North Philadelphia home base.


PIFA’s emphasis on collaboration and innovation led to other highlights as well, in just about every genre:



  • EgoPo Theater’s production of HELL at the German Society turned a brilliant and controversial 1910 French novel into a compelling night of theater;


  • White Box Theatre presented a delightful amalgam of puppets, whimsy, surrealism and imagination, Paris Wheels and the Ready Maids.



  • Jeanne Ruddy Dance’s first full-length work, MonTage à Trois, made full use of  the galleries at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as it combined new choreography with the artworks of Elizabeth Osborne, as seen through the lens of multimedia artist Ellen Fishman-Johnson.


  • Miro Dance Theatre deployed its many-faceted approach in reinventing Stravinsky’s Pulcinella as Punch.



  • The Rosenbach Museum and Library commissioned Joseph Hallman’s Raving Beauty, based on research he did among the writings and artifacts of Mercedes d’Acosta, which are part of the Rosenbach’s collection.


  • The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Ballet collaborated in an historic and highly-lauded production of Pulcinella, with a newly-commissioned production by renowned choreographer Jorma Elo.


  • Convergence: The world premiere of a new work by Thomas Pasatieri commissioned and performed by the Commonwealth Youth Choirs in and through the galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.



  • Free To Be: The Artistry And Impact Of African American Artists in Paris, 1900 – 1940, The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s multi-faceted array of exhibits and events


  • The Locks Gallery put together The Insolent Eye, an exhibit inspired by Alfred Jarry, of works by artists from Paris one hundred years ago to the current day, all of whose work refers back to Jarry.


Family-friendly programming

  • Basil Twist’s puppet theater version of Stravinsky’s Petrushka at the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts


  • Astral Artist’s brilliant pairing of Micah Chambers-Goldberg’s animated film, Who Stole the Mona Lisa, with a live performance of the suite from Stravinsky’s Firebird


  • A Night at the Movies, providing a grab bag of films, music, and vocals by Martha Graham Cracker


Mixed Genres

  • Wilma Theater and Ballet X’s witty, smart, and hilarious take on surrealism, Proliferation of the Imagination


  • Remember Paris, a collaboration that brought together a world-famous organist and composer (Thierry Escaich), the directorial talents of Emmanuel Delpech, the astounding performers Geoff Sobell and Nicole Canuso, videography by Gilles Boustani, and the renowned Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ


  • Temple University’s double bill of the Suite from Pulcinella, with video animation and design created by composer Maurice Wright; and the world premiere of Richard Brodhead’s Crystallina, complete with original choreography.


Overall, the festival generated an average of 80% capacity for the Kimmel Center Presents events over 25 days.


And some of the largest events at the Kimmel Center, including the PIFA Street Fair on Broad Street, the nightly Tower light shows, and the Last Party in Paris, drew enormous crowds – something organizers were hoping for but, with no prior PIFA activity to draw on could not predict.


Said Cambron, “We really had no idea whether we’d get 5,000 or 50,000 people for some of these events. Yet on Easter Sunday families were lined up out the door and down the block. The Eiffel Tower light show, from the very first night, brought thousands into the Plaza. And the Street Fair was one of the biggest outdoor events on Broad Street ever – if not the biggest. And even though it was the biggest, we repeatedly heard from everyone, merchants, restaurateurs, Street Fair attendees, that it was the nicest, happiest crowd they’ve ever seen.”


Detailed results will be available in the next few weeks, with the completion of the economic impact study currently in process. “At the moment,” stated Cambron, “we know from an initial informal survey of PIFA partners that many received more PR as a result of their inclusion in the festival and more than half had above average attendance.  But the best feedback is that more than two thirds reported seeing new and often diverse audiences at their events.


The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts gratefully acknowledges the generosity of its sponsors: lead sponsors the Annenberg Foundation; lead media sponsor Philadelphia Media Network, which includes the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and; major sponsors Kimberly V. Strauss, in loving memory of Eugenia P. Strauss, Macy’s, Sonepar in a collaboration with Acuity Brands and Sylvania, and Wells Fargo, and PIFA Information Booth construction sponsor Citizens Bank. Air Travel provided, in part, by Open Skies.  The project was financed in part by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Economic and Community Development.



The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), inspired by the Kimmel Center, launches the city's art and cultural scene onto the world stage with a three week festival offering performances, exhibits and events for loyal fans and casual attendees. Based on the philosophy of collaboration, innovation and creativity, PIFA's programs represent every arts discipline and include more than 100 partners. Offerings include newly commissioned works, classical performances and exhibits, surprising partnerships featuring local and international artists and exciting explorations of traditional, non-traditional, new and emerging art forms. In homage to the artistic energy of Paris 1910-1920, PIFA celebrates works from that era and new creations inspired by the brashly innovative spirit of the period. The festival was made possible by an extraordinary grant from Philadelphia philanthropist Leonore Annenberg, whose vision for a city-wide celebration of the arts shaped its philosophy and programming. PIFA takes place April 7-May 1, 2011. For the most up to date information, contact PIFA at (215) 790-5800 or visit



Kimmel Center, Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit organization, owns, manages, supports and maintains The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which includes Verizon Hall, Perelman Theater, Innovation Studio and the Merck Arts Education Center.  Kimmel Center, Inc. also manages the Academy of Music, owned by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, and the University of the Arts’ Merriam Theater. Our mission is to operate a world-class performing arts center that engages and serves a broad audience from throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. The 2010/2011 season is sponsored by Citi, and the Broadway 2010/2011 season is sponsored by Verizon, and American Airlines.  For additional information, visit 

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