The Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The Benjamin Franklin parkway that starts from the City Hall is a wide, long parkway that demonstrates the magnificent aspect of Philadelphia. Its magnificence culminates with the Greek Revival-style Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest art museums in the country. On top of such great landmark, the district has many other museums, and the one that I enjoy going is the Barnes Foundation.

Originally located in Lower Merion, the Barnes Foundation holds over 2,500 objects collected by Albert C. Barnes, an avid collector of art. The foundation has a significant amount of Impressionist and Modernist works, such as those by Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Modigliani.

The prominent characteristic that stands out to me every time I visit the Barnes Foundation is the placement of its objects. Paintings, metal works and furniture are compactly put together, in a way that the ensemble itself becomes a work of art. Although it is sometimes hard to articulate, I sense that Barnes is narrating a story through his collection.

Another aspect that grabbed my attention was the different feelings I perceive from the same painting as the lighting changes. The cloud drifts over the sun during the day, and the brightness of the room adds a new layer to appreciating the collection.

Whether you are a huge museum-goer or are just pleasantly interested, I would suggest walking down the parkway and view the collection. It is one of the ways the city helps me take a break from busy school routines.

-Michelle J. '17

Mural Arts Philadelphia: The Bigger Picture

Philly is known for plenty of things: cheesesteaks, the LOVE statue, the playground for Nicolas Cage in National Treasure. But not many people know that Philly is also known for being, quite literally, an outdoor museum.

In my last post, I talked about the courses that took you beyond the confines of the traditional classroom, which included FNAR 222, "Big Pictures: Mural Arts". More than a mere course about wall paintings, the class took us around the city and back in time, highlighting the socio-economic, cultural, and political impact on public art in a community.

Aimed at integrating service with research, teaching, and learning, the class focused on the work done by Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program (the director of the program, Jane Golden Heriza, co-teaches the course with muralist Shira Walinsky). Many, if not most, of my friends at Penn actually had never heard of the organization before I took the class (re: could never stop talking about it). This is surprising, however, as there have been over 3,600 murals painted in Philly since 1984. The program also employs over 300 artists annually, ex-convicts, art students, and interested community members—all of whom want to give back to the community.

Sit on a Market-Frankford train heading westward and you’ll see 50+ “love letters” to an unnamed woman scattered across the buildings. Look up while shopping on 15th and Chestnut to gaze at a 27-story painting of a Pakistani immigrant. Or walk ONE block off campus, to 40th and Chestnut to view one of the most vibrant compositions you’ve ever seen.

Once in a while, get your head out of the books and into the city. Take a walking tour to see these works, scan the accompanying QR codes to learn more about the work and its artist. As Jane Golden describes it, the city becomes a visual autobiography. What started as an anti-graffiti movement has since echoed its increasingly diverse population and rich history, transforming Philadelphia into one of the most colorful cities in the nation.

-Helen N. '18


How to burst the "Penn Bubble": Courses that Take You Beyond the Classroom

Before coming to Penn, I was excited to take advantage of its "campus within a big city". I wanted to see the PMA, watch Broadway shows at the Kimmel Center, enjoy the perks of Restaurant Week, and frequent Phillies and Eagles games.

However, upon arrival, I was instantaneously swept up into the maelstrom that is NSO and the piece of jargon known by Quakers as the "Penn Bubble". But perhaps more importantly, I soon came to appreciate the classes that transported us outside of the classroom and into the wilderness city. Often times, I've found that in such classes, I've learned more than a textbook or a slideshow could ever teach me (and far more interestingly at that), and I've been able to explore and appreciate the city better. My favorite Penn-bubble-bursting classes? I’ve described a few of them below:

ENGL 157 -- Introduction to Journalistic Writing: Writing About Food with Rick Nichols

A class that not only teaches how to think and write critically, but how to think and write critically about food (...and the people, the trends, and the experiences, of course). Frequent field trips took us to restaurants around town, where we could profile famous chefs or prominent members of the Philadelphia food scene and hang out with them for a day before writing a piece on them for a final project. Not only a nice break from Penn, but also a nice break from Penn dining halls!

ARTH 106 -- Architect and History with Professor Haselberger

What better way to learn about architecture than to walk in the shadows of one of America's most culturally diverse and historically rich cities? Professor Haselberger is famous for teaching this course every fall, which attracts majors and non-majors alike. Almost every Friday afternoon, we would take the SEPTA into the city proper and look at a different building inspired by whatever time period we had been looking at earlier that week—Greek, Post-modern, Rococo, etc. A bonus? I learned how to better navigate the city for outings to come.

FNAR 222/URBS 322 -- Big Pictures: Mural Arts with Shira Walinsky and Jane Golden

This class is taught by two wonderful women—Shira Walinksy and Jane Golden, the founder of the prolific Mural Arts program that has created thousands of murals all around Philadelphia and given employment opportunities to hundreds of inmates of Graterford Prison. It’s a community-service based course in which you learn about the ways in which public art shapes the socio-economic development of an area and changes the people who inhabit it. The final project involved creating a mural with a community that was eventually installed at a school in West Philadelphia—an unconventional solution to a common problem.

The Penn bubble is, in my opinion, absolutely real. We get sucked into our textbooks and laptops and papers. And while the resources that we have here on campus are beyond wonderful, sometimes you really cannot beat learning from the real thing. There’s so much of Philadelphia to be explored, and luckily Penn provides the courses to do so.

-Helen Nie (C’18)