Philly Firsts!

Earlier this year, the Lonely Planet ranked Philadelphia as #1 of Best Places to Visit in the U.S. To celebrate, let's look at a couple "firsts" and "bests" that might explain why Philly, indeed, is so great.

+ In 1731, Philadelphia opened the first US library.
+ The first US hospital was established in 1751.???
+ UPenn was the first-ever American university, founded by Ben Franklin in ((()))
+ Philadelphia boast's America's first zoo, just two miles north of Penn (1874).
+ The world's first full electronic computer, ENIAC, was created in Philadelphia in 1946. 
+ Philadelphia experienced the greatest growth in millennial population among major metropolises between 2006-2014, at 6.3% (NYC totaled in at 3.1%).
+ Temple Health was the first researchers to successfully eliminate the HIV from cultured human cells
+ In 2015, the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania gained international acclaim for executing the first bilateral hand-transplant on five-year-old Zion Harvey.

Notwithstanding all of the above, the city of Philadelphia is still in an upward trajectory like its never seen before, and man, it feels good to be number one.

-Helen N. '18

Little Campus; Big City

One of the biggest things that swayed me to apply to Penn was that it was an enclosed campus within a larger city, that is to say, a Philadelphian school that's actually in the geographical, actual Philadelphia proper.

How often and where else in the country can you drop $1.80 (the price of a SEPTA token) and leave your dorm, finding yourself with slow-churned ice cream in hand, looking across the river at the next state over?

What's more, is that Philadelphia is also just one bead in a string of pearls that make up the metropolises of the East Coast. Ten bucks can get you to Boston; five bucks will take you to the Big Apple, and MegaBus has just recently announced its $1 service to/from Washington DC(?!).

With the hustle and bustle of the Ivy League lifestyle, getting out of the Penn bubble can sometimes be difficult. However, knowing that these urbanities lie just a cab, bus, or train ride away makes the world—and all its treasures—seem that much smaller.

-Helen N. '18

Your Own Two Feet

One of the wonderful advantages of Philadelphia: the ability to travel the city space with your own two feet. Freedom knocks at the doors of us Penn constituents’; all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes to explore a city of cultural prowess. Here at the University of Pennsylvania, times can get stressful rather quickly in this academically rigorous institution. Homesickness will assuredly hit the masses and students tend to get into some type of funk (like at any other college)—eyelids start drooping from lack of sleep and complaints of midterms or papers become more prevalent in casual conversation. However, we are fortunate to have access to the fresh Philadelphian air, access to exploration, access to escape the stresses that accompany the Ivy League. I often take walks away from campus with a couple of friends by my side. We’ll cross the Schuylkill River on the bridge or walk along the river and immerse ourselves in the peacefulness that comes with a nice stroll. Sometimes, I walk into Center City to check out the popular shops on Walnut Street to do a little bit of retail therapy. Other times, I’ll go out to eat in the city with a few peers by my side just to get away from academics for a little while. Philadelphia provides a healthy backdrop for scholarly pursuits because, as a Penn student, you will find yourself occasionally wanting to get away from stress—something that this amazing city will give you. At Penn, you can walk your way to success.

-Karis S. '18

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