Kenny Scharf is a Brooklyn-based graffiti artist-turned-Mural Arts ally. This past July, the spray-painter took over a Midtown Village wall and turned it into a technicolor bugout with drooping faces on vaguely sperm-looking droplets of color. Using bring shades of the rainbow, Scharf’s faces are googly-eyed, sinister and sweet, beguiling the bourgeosie that traffics up and down the Gayborhood’s main street. It’s modern, aesthetically pleasing and a surprisingly awesome flourish of art in the heart of our beloved Center City.
Kenny Scharf mural, 116-120 S. 13th St.
Best Place to Pretend You’re in Art School
So you got a business degree and now, years after crunching numbers and looking at bottom lines, you feel dead inside. Or maybe you attended art school but were too busy getting high and reading Kerouac to give a damn about color theory. The Fleisher Art Memorial welcomes all to pay next to nothing to learn the craft their heart desires. It was the vision of Samuel S. Fleisher, back in 1898, to develop a place where an invitation was always extended for ‘the world to come and learn art.’ The tuition-free classes offer basic and intermediate lessons in crafts like pottery, figure painting, screen-printing, printmaking and photography. There are also low-cost specialty workshops for the more advanced artists that would like to refine their skills in batik, sculpture or a whole spectrum of hands-on pursuits. Got kids? Go on Saturdays where they offer youngin’ and adult classes at the same time so you can keep the little grub busy while you perfect your watercolor.
Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St. 215.922.3456. fleisher.org
Best Married Acting Couple
He’s a big man who looks like he’d be more at home playing for the Eagles than treading the boards. She’s as small and light as a snowflake. Together this seemingly mismatched pair is Philadelphia Theater’s ultimate power couple. For two decades Jennifer Childs and Scott Greer have been beguiling audiences with their acting prowess. They met as understudies for Into the Woods in 1992, married in 1998 and raised an 8-year-old daughter in South Philly. According to Childs, their babysitting bills are astronomical, but it’s a small price to pay for being the city’s most sought-after actor (Greer) and an acclaimed actress/playwright/director (Childs), who as 1812 Productions’ artistic director has transformed the small company into Philly’s top producer of stage comedies.
Best Introduction to Experimental Classical Music
Bowerbird is a nonprofit founded in 2005 that is bringing some of the foremost classical music artists to the city. The weeklong June celebration of Morton Feldman’s works was the highlight of Director Dustin Hurt’s careful ear and tireless dedication. Every detail, from the venue to performer, seemed to give the music a stronger voice. Whether intimate or expansive, challenging or immediately resonate, Bowerbird is committed to bringing classical music to the city in an unpretentious, accessible way.
Bowerbird, 2226 Locust St. 267.231.9813. bowerbird.org
Best Place For a Cheap Laugh on a Saturday Night
Should you find yourself with nothing more than a six-pack and a dollar to your name, here’s what you do: Around 10 p.m., pound two then pack up the rest and head to Philly Improv Theater’s free Late-Night Improv Jam. Held every Saturday, the stage inside the tiny, BYOB Shubin Theater is opened to improvisers of all levels for an hour. Will the show be hilarious? Maybe. If not, you can always return the next weekend when you do have some money and see PHIT’s house teams perform.
Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge St. phillyimprovtheater.com
Best Place to See Obtuse Art That Looks Cool But No One Can Understand
Conceptual art is just that: it starts from a concept, an idea, something inherently intangible. So of course first encounters with it, be it visual or performance-based, usually end like this: “My child could make that!” or “Why is she dancing around?” Bodega in Old City has a real monopoly on the best, but still accessible art in the city, often seeking to break down the barrier between the “concept” and the physical product. Go down and take a look—and if you don’t get it, at least a pyramid covered in slime looks pretty awesome.
Bodega, 253 N. Third St. 215.440.0711. bodegaphiladelphia.org
Best Gay Theater Company
Theater in Philadelphia used to be decidedly heterocentric. Sure there were gay theater artists, but on stage the characters were overwhelmingly straight. Thankfully in 2008, Mauckingbird Theatre Company arrived on the scene to inject a queer perspective. Debuting with a sparkling, all-male version of The Misanthrope, which re-imagined Moliere’s classic comedy as an exploration of gay dating rituals, the company has single-handily reinvigorated GLBTQ theater in Philadelphia. Artistic director and co-founder Peter Reynolds describes the company’s mission as “telling good stories from a gay point of view.” They’ve stuck to that mission and while Mauckingbird has struggled financially (apparently major funders of the arts don’t think gay theater is worthwhile) their productions have been a hit with savvy theatergoers across the sexual orientation spectrum.
Mauckingbird Theatre Co. mauckingbird.org
Best Multipurpose Art Gallery With the Coolest Themed Art Shows
Ever think to yourself: Hey, I wonder where I can have a threesome and then promptly forget about it? Well, one of our writers thinks he's found that place. Want Mexican food that doesn't burn on the way out? Of course you do. More of these questions and answers have found their way into this year's Better Than Best issue. And what's better than best, you ask? We have no idea. We just knew we couldn't use Best Of, because another publication in this town has it on lockdown. But that doesn't mean we didn't put an enormous amount of effort into bringing you the most random hidden gems Philly has to offer. Because we did. And we think we've got a pretty good list going on here.