Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Lenfest Plaza to Open With PAFA’s “Party on the Plaza” on Saturday Oct 1

Event celebrates new civic space and lighting of Claes Oldenburg’s Paint Torch

PHILADELPHIA — The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) will celebrate the completion of its new civic space, Lenfest Plaza, with PAFA’s Party on the Plaza on Saturday, October 1, 2011. The celebration will culminate at sunset with the inaugural lighting of Paint Torch, a sculpture by world-renowned American artist Claes Oldenburg.

PAFA’s Party on the Plaza will feature activities and entertainment for all ages. The afternoon Family Arts Festival will include free art activities and other kid-friendly entertainment from noon until 6:30 p.m. PAFA will offer complimentary admission to the Historic Landmark Building and free museum tours; the museum’s doors will remain open until 6 p.m. As evening descends, visitors are invited to witness the sunset Paint Torch lighting ceremony. Entertainment and a variety of food vendors will be on-site throughout the day. Torch Club, a patron cocktail reception and dinner inside PAFA’s Hamilton Building will kick off later in the evening, followed by a late-night dance After Party on the plaza. Lenfest Plaza is currently under construction through the summer. Complete event programming will be announced soon. Visit www.pafa.org/lenfestplaza for up-to-date information on plaza construction and detailed event information.

The installation of Oldenburg’s towering 53-foot high sculpture in the form of an illuminated paintbrush will make Philadelphia home to four large-scale public sculptures by the artist, more than any other city in the world.

PAFA will present works by other artists in a second space on the plaza for rotating displays. At the event, PAFA will unveil Grumman Greenhouse, a sculpture crafted from a decommissioned U.S. warfare aircraft by PAFA alumnus and Philadelphia artist Jordan Griska.

“We look forward to welcoming the community to Lenfest Plaza to celebrate this new civic space and the works of public art that will enhance the city’s landscape,” says David R. Brigham, PAFA’s President and CEO. “The opening of the plaza gives PAFA an extraordinary opportunity to provide a new arts-focused gathering place that will invite visitors to our museum and school, while enhancing PAFA’s role as a cultural destination for regional and national visitors.”

About Lenfest Plaza

Designed by Philadelphia-based, internationally renowned landscape architecture firm OLIN, led by project architect and OLIN partner David A. Rubin, Lenfest Plaza will offer an inviting space for visitors to Philadelphia, city residents, students, museumgoers and art lovers. The plaza design includes a stage, a three-part serpentine bench, mosaic pavers, a platform for temporary sculpture, plantings, displays, lighting, and tables for outdoor dining. “As an addition to Philadelphia’s urban fabric, Lenfest Plaza accomplishes so many significant goals in the continued positive growth of this great city,” says Rubin.

OLIN’s award-winning projects range in scale from master plans for entire urban districts, to the design of public parks and plazas, to intimate garden spaces and residences. Projects and clients include the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, the J. Paul Getty Trust and New York City Parks and Recreation. In Philadelphia, OLIN’s clients include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Comcast, and the Barnes Foundation.

The 24-hour pedestrian plaza on the grounds of the Academy will be open year-round and will play host to public events and feature outdoor seating and an upscale restaurant, which will look out onto the plaza from the ground level of PAFA’s contemporary Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building (restaurant details to be announced). Together, Lenfest Plaza and Oldenburg’s Paint Torch will establish the public space as a new cultural attraction and Philadelphia destination.

“Lenfest Plaza will not only link together the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts’ two buildings with a first class outdoor public space, it will create a major destination and civic gathering space for students, residents, workers and visitors to the city,” said Paul R. Levy, President & CEO of Center City District.

Lenfest Plaza will occupy half a block of Cherry Street (between North Broad and Carlisle), which was permanently closed by the City of Philadelphia on February 2, 2011 to make way for the new civic space. Lenfest Plaza is located directly across from the entrance of the new Convention Center expansion, expected to host 1.5 million visitors annually. As the start of the “Museum Mile”, Lenfest Plaza will not only be a destination and gathering place, it will also connect convention-goers and the public on North Broad with the museums on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway: the Barnes Foundation (opening in 2012), the Academy of Natural Sciences, The Franklin Institute, the Rodin Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Lenfest Plaza is made possible by a generous gift from Marguerite and H. F. Gerry Lenfest with additional financial support from the City of Philadelphia and many other generous patrons. The project holds special significance to Marguerite Lenfest, a PAFA board member. Marguerite’s grandfather was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and her great-great-grandfather, a painter, exhibited at the Academy.

About Paint Torch & Claes Oldenburg in Philadelphia

Installed at a daring 60-degree diagonal position, the 53-foot high Paint Torch sculpture by Claes Oldenburg stands on the point of its handle in a gravity-defying gesture. Nearby on the Plaza floor is a six-foot high “glob” of paint, part of which the brush has lifted into the sky in a depiction of the act of painting a picture. The “Glob” and “Blip” at the tip of the brush are both illuminated from within at night by changing red hues.

The startling 60-degree angle of Paint Torch is unusual in the vertical-horizontal structure of a large city, such as Philadelphia. The sculpture will protrude into the space of Broad Street, visible against the background of City Hall, within Lenfest Plaza, between PAFA’s Historic Landmark and Samuel M.V. Hamilton Buildings. Paint Torch acts as a beckoning gesture to enter the plaza and proceed where the plaza leads, to the Museum Mile of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Philadelphia’s Chief Cultural Officer Gary Steuer remarked, “Philadelphia has more public art than any other City in the nation, perhaps the world. It was the first City in the nation to create a Percent for Art ordinance, more than 50 years ago. This extraordinary new Claes Oldenburg, in effect a gift by PAFA to the citizens of and visitors to Philadelphia, creates an unprecedented collection of his work as part of this rich tapestry of public sculpture. PAFA is to be commended for making sure a significant investment in great public art is a cornerstone of the design of Lenfest Plaza.”

PAFA commissioned Oldenburg to create the new work, which celebrates the spirit of the Academy. The monumental paintbrush points to the growth and vitality of American art, while celebrating a milestone in the history of the Academy, America’s first school of fine arts and museum, founded in 1805. Paint Torch honors the act of painting, from the classical masters in the Museum to the students in the School of Fine Arts, and also, in its spare but voluptuous form, the practice of sculpture, also displayed in the museum and created in the school.

Its form also doubles as a torch and a symbol of liberty, homage to the city’s historical significance as the birthplace of America and a leader in the American Revolution.

Paint Torch, currently being constructed in California, will journey across the country to Philadelphia in late August.

Oldenburg’s first public sculpture to be realized in urban scale was the 45-foot high steel Clothespin created for the City of Philadelphia to commemorate the 1976 bicentennial. A work examining form and structure is comprised of two arches held together by stainless steel clips forming the numbers “76.” Clothespin has become a fixture in the city’s urban landscape, standing tall across from the historic late 19th century City Hall and alongside modern architectural buildings (located at Centre Square Plaza, Fifteenth and Market).

Oldenburg’s second major Philadelphia work, done with his partner and wife Coosje van Bruggen, was Split Button (1981), an enormous white aluminum button commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania and installed on campus at Levy Park near 34th and Walnut. Its four buttonholes recall Philadelphia founder William Penn’s design for laying out the center of the city around four symmetrically placed parks. Philadelphia’s third Oldenburg is the colossal steel and bronze electric plug, Giant Three-Way Plug, Scale A (1970), which was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and installed in the museum’s d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden in 2010.

Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1929. He became an American citizen in 1953. For much of his career, Oldenburg worked with Coosje van Bruggen creating large-scale public works all over the world until her death in January 2009.

About Jordan Griska’s Grumman Greenhouse

In addition to Oldenburg’s Paint Torch, the opening festival will unveil Grumman Greenhouse by 2008 PAFA alumnus Jordan Griska. The sculpture is being created from a 45-foot-long U.S. military bomber plane, which Griska found and purchased on eBay.

“The repurposed finished pieces simultaneously lead the viewer to contemplate the history of ‘the thing’ while changing the function of the object,” explains Griska. “Halting the actions of this machine by grounding it in Lenfest Plaza will turn this mobile weapon into a stationary iconic object.”

On view for the next year, Grumman Greenhouse will be the first work by an emerging artist on display at Lenfest Plaza, which will offer a permanent space to showcase the work of students, alumni and faculty year-round.

About Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America’s first school of fine arts and museum. A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts presented by the President of the United States, PAFA is a recognized leader in fine arts education. Nearly every major American artist has taught, studied, or exhibited at the Academy. The institution’s world-class collection of American art continues to grow and provides what only a few other art institutions in the world offer: the rare combination of an outstanding museum and an extraordinary faculty known for its commitment to students and for the stature and quality of its artistic work.

Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Academy is located at 118-128 N. Broad Street in Philadelphia. Admission to the Permanent Collection is Adults $10, Seniors (60+) & Students with I.D. $8, Youth ages 13-18, $8. Admission to Special Exhibitions (includes Permanent Collection) is Adults $15, Seniors (60+) & Students with I.D. $12, Youth Ages 13-18, $12. Admission is free for members and children under age of 12. Admission to Morris Gallery exhibitions is free.

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