Join us for Spare A Dime on April 18, 19, and 20, 2013!
Get your tickets today!
Spare A Dime animated images bring the urban environment to life.
Illustrations by artist Steve Teare animated by designer Gerardo McGarity-Alegrett create projected backdrops for Spare A Dime singers. This cityscape appears as the character of The Builder sings Foundation of Hope, a song about searching for a job and for hope in a time of economic crisis.
Join us for Spare A Dime on April 18, 19, and 20, 2013!
Get your tickets today!
Community members step into the shoes of their 1930s counterparts.
As visual counterparts to the audio stories played in-between each song of the Spare A Dime cycle, COSACOSA constituents from around the city recreated the historical photos on which each character is based. Above, William Hilton, master craftsman and builder from North Philadelphia's Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood, recreates the historical stance of The Builder from Spare A Dime (before the founding of the Works Progress Administration, of course). Check back tomorrow to see his recreation of the post-WPA image of The Builder. And get your tickets to Spare A Dime today at www.pifa.org/events/10!
Spare A Dime's community stories create Gardens of Liberty.
For over a year, COSACOSA youth, artists, and staff have collected stories of the Great Depression and our current "Great Recession" from community residents citywide. These interviews created the taproot of Spare A Dime, defining the project's characters and anchoring the storyline through their powerful interplay of hope and hopelessness in times of crisis.
This summer, thanks to the support from the Knight Arts Challenge, the Kresge Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Union Benevolent Association, and other generous funders, these collected stories will also find a home in a new series of Site and Sound Gardens we're is creating with community members in North Philadelphia. Transforming abandoned lots into "sacred" spaces for our city neighborhoods, the new Gardens join COSACOSA's existing Healing Garden. The Gardens will feature two- and three-dimensional visual art plus temporary sound art exhibitions, including stories, songs, and poetry by neighborhood residents. Visit COSACOSA's website, www.cosacosa.org, for upcoming dates and times to volunteer to help create and maintain the Site and Sound Gardens. You can also read about the Gardens and other community-building efforts in the recently published Philadelphia edition of US Airways magazine!
Best of all, hear our collected stories as part of Spare A Dime on April 18, 19, and 20, 2013!
Get your tickets today!
Spare A Dime performances mark a finale for the historic Bok Tech Theater.
It's now official.
Bok Tech is closing in June.
Bok Technical High School (our venue for Spare A Dime) rose during the Great Depression. On Thursday, amid the Great Recession, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to close Bok Tech along with 22 other district schools. Read more about the history of Bok Tech and the issues surrounding its closing on our earlier blog posts here.
After 75 years of artful operation, Spare A Dime will be the last performances to occur Bok's marvelously New Deal deco theater. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bok Tech Theater is a grand 1000-seat Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. How sad and ironic it is that a piece about the WPA will be the last to be hosted at the site.
Visit this hidden treasure while you can; tickets for Spare A Dime are available by clicking here or by calling COSACOSA at 215.385.2554.
COSACOSA's curriculum for Spare A Dime connects history with civic responsibility.
"...students bring such insightful ideas to our discussions of liberty and justice in America."
COSACOSA Program Manager and Spare A Dime teaching artist Sharnae Johnson truly enjoys working with youth on civic engagement initiatives. "Our Bok Tech students bring such insightful ideas to our discussions of liberty and justice in America," Johnson said. "Our conversations are very lively. It's interesting to see what they already know about the Great Depression and the WPA, as well as about our current economic situation and how the government is addressing it. Helping the students translate their diverse views on our rights and responsibilities into WPA-style posters and new Liberty dime designs is a great experience!"
Johnson is a multimedia artist specializing in community-building projects. As COSACOSA's Program Manager, she has been integral to the development of accessible, intergenerational programming. Johnson has been an artist in residence at a wide range of community centers, as well as a youth development leader at the Free Library of Philadelphia. As an arts educator, she has taught new media and dramatic arts at numerous elementary and secondary schools throughout the Philadelphia region, including working with Spare A Dime participants at Bok Tech. She is founder of Mask Media, a multimedia production company providing photographic, videographic, and new media services to the community at large. Johnson holds a degree in Theater and Communication Arts from Temple University. She is Communications Officer on the Board of the Nicetown-Tioga Improvement Team and a member of the Philadelphia Urban Coalition.
New Deal documentation of the Great Depression helps set the Spare A Dime stage.
The Great Depression is one of the most heavily documented time periods in American history. The National Archives holds tens of thousands of prints and negatives created by New Deal programs (like Dorothea Lange's iconic Migrant Mother, a series of 1936 images taken of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in Nipomo, California, at left).
Photographers typically worked for the Farm Security Administration (like Lange) or in one of three WPA divisions: Creative Projects, Art Teaching, or Allied Art Projects, which documented other WPA programs. Nationwide, WPA's Information Service coordinated state level activities and sent photographers into the field to create journalistic photo essays.
Spare A Dime features many of these historical photographs, plus our own versions replicated with our constituents and communities affected by the "Great Recession." Before each song in the cycle, and audio story from COSACOSA's community constituents sets the stage with WPA photographs that cross-fade into their modern-day equivalents.
Check out the visual parallels across time at Spare A Dime at PIFA 2013! Tickets are on sale now!
"The parallels between...the 1930s and what is happening today are significant"
"The parallels between what was happening in the 1930s and what is happening today are significant, both economically and socially," said Jay Fluellen, Musical Coordinator and pianist for Spare A Dime at the 2013 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. "Some of the same struggles people of the United States faced then are being faced again today. Music is the perfect vehicle for illustrating these connections; Spare A Dime references a previous time while vividly portraying ideas in a modern context. I am looking forward to bringing the completed work to life."
Fluellen is a Philadelphia-born composer, music professor, educator, accompanist, pianist, singer, and organist/choir director. He has a doctorate in music composition from Temple University in addition to certification in music from Eastern University. Fluellen is currently a teacher with the School District of Philadelphia at Parkway West High School. He has taught college level courses in music composition, written and aural theory, music history, piano, and conducting at major institutions including Lincoln University, Morgan State University, and the University of the Arts. Numerous organizations have commissioned his compositions, including Network for New Music, Opera Philadelphia, Relâche, Settlement School of Music, and Singing City. Since 1997, he has been an organist/choir director at the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Fluellen has received the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award given to high school teachers in the School District of Philadelphia. In 2011, Fluellen’s Of Journeys and Refuge, a work commissioned by the Bucks County Choral Society for choir and jazz ensemble, was premiered featuring his own quintet in the performance. In 2012, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Chancel Choir, under Fluellen's direction, was featured in concert with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia as part of their third annual Big Sing.
Rise or fall, we'll always be together, indivisibly.
In COSACOSA's Spare A Dime, the character of The Mother is facing eviction, based on a story told to us by a resident of Opportunities Tower senior living apartments in North Philadelphia. During the Great Depression, her unemployed parents struggled to keep the family housed and under the same roof. They resisted dividing up the children among other relatives and managed, against all odds and through all manner of odd jobs, to keep the family together. The Mother's plight also resonates with so many stories we heard from folks living on the edge today. As one North Philadelphia mother facing foreclosure said, "To be evicted on my own is frightening; to be evicted with my child is beyond what I can imagine. My mind just shuts down."
In the first half of the song cycle, the Mother sings Dimestore Lullaby as she puts her baby to bed. More that just a simple "good night" wish for her child, the song expresses The Mother's desire to escape the overwhelming reality in which she finds herself. In the second half of Spare A Dime, The Mother sings Indivisibly, a song about interconnectedness and our responsibility to each other. Indivisibly merges, appropriately, with FDR's reprise of Life Turns on a Dime to end the show.
By the last census count, nearly 22% of America children live in poverty, disproportionate to 15% of Americans living in poverty overall. In Philadelphia, the poverty rate is even higher and on the rise: nearly 40% of children now live in poverty, as do 28% of residents overall. Although there are no governmental statistics on poverty in the Great Depression, just imagine how much worse it must have been with no social safety nets in place.
Records do show that homelessness grew enormously during the Depression. In 1931, public and private agencies had to provide emergency lodgings for over 1 million people. By 1933, over 4.3 million people were in emergency shelters. (Each night in America today, over 600,000 people are still homeless.) The New Deal shifted much of the responsibility for providing for people in crisis and living in poverty to the federal government.
We've now posted about all the Spare A Dime individual characters, but there is one other presence that plays an important part in our production: The Chorus of Liberty! Tune in tomorrow to learn more -- and to hear more, get your tickets to Spare A Dime at PIFA 13 today!
The seeds of hope necessarily cultivate, sustain, and nurture our lives.
WWI and the roaring 20s brought increased demand for American grain worldwide. The government encouraged farmers to grow more and expand their land holdings. With food prices on the rise, they willingly complied, taking out large mortgages for new land and new equipment. Even when, after the other nations of the world recovered from the war and were able to grow their own food, grain prices fell, American farmers continued to borrow money; credit was easily had. Once the Depression came, farm foreclosures became everyday events. In the Midwest, the farmers' dire economic situation was exacerbated by the Dust Bowl.
FDR's New Deal attempted to remedy these problems through multiple programs. The WPA provided jobs for those who had lost their lands. The Civilian Conservation Corps restored farm lands devastated by dust storms. The Farm Security Administration experimented with resettling sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and submarginal landowners into group farms on viable lands.
Those farmers who were able to retain ownership of their land survived the Great Depression growing their own food and trading goods for other supplies they needed, like our Spare A Dime character The Farmer. Our Farmer survives on hard work and hope. She sings about those two essential qualities of American life in Promised Land, (the duet with The Immigrant described yesterday). In the second half of Spare A Dime, she sings Voices Raised, an anthem to both individual rights and mutual aid. The Farmer is based on Director/Composer Kimberly Niemela's paternal grandmother, a first generation American who raised ten children on a Pennsylvania farm during the Great Depression. She is also an homage to Philadelphia's determined urban growers, especially those in COSACOSA's partner communities of Passyunk Square and Nicetown-Tioga. As one North Philly elder told us, "You have to nurture hope just like seed for it to become what it's supposed to be." Join us at PIFA 13 and help nurture the hopes of communities all over our city!
Tomorrow's post is our final character profile: The Mother!
Spare A Dime
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