Avenue of the Arts goes Live with outdoor performance program

Philadelphia Orchestra
The Kimmel Center is pictured.
Provided / Kimmel Cultural Campus

Center City’s Avenue of the Arts is already a hub of excitement and activity with the Kimmel Cultural Campus, Wilma Theatre, The Clef Club, and everything University of the Arts, as well as the Broad Street block’s outstanding restaurants.

Yes, Avenue of the Arts is thriving.

And it’s about to get even better.

Avenue of the Arts, Inc. Executive Director Laura Burkhardt and Marketing and Development Chief Holly Keefe have created Avenue of the Arts Live, a three-nights-a-week outdoor performance program — running now through Dec. 31 — where musicians, singers, dancers, jugglers, magicians, poets and more take over the sidewalks.

On any given Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, if you’re standing in front of the Kimmel Center, Wilma or Miller Theater, you’re likely to run into vocalist Patty MacMahon and her The Arcardians. Or drummer and U of Arts student Bryana Crockett and The Small Group. Or any number of bands and celebrants making music and brightening up the busy block.

“We are thrilled to activate South Broad Street in the evenings, to create a sense of excitement, and to engage visitors in the arts, while supporting the incredible Philadelphia artists who will be performing,” said Burkhardt. “There were a lot of factors that went into these decisions, too. We knew that we were coming up on our 30th anniversary. We wanted the Avenue to have constant movement as did our collaborators such as the Kimmel and the Wilma. And the City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy were a great help as they too wanted such activity on the Avenue of the Arts to take place, to brighten this arts and commercial corridor.”

The AAI is a nearly-30-year-old, nonprofit organization founded to promote development, beautification, and marketing along the Avenue of the Arts — from South Broad Street, from City Hall to Washington Avenue, east to 13th Street, and west to 15th Street. The Avenue of the Arts draws 2.8 million visitors a year and generates beyond $1 billion annually in economic impact.

Regarding the curation of the Avenue of the Arts Inc’s Live series, Keefe was excited to get the assignment due to her background in local music foundations throughout the decade.

Wilma Theater Getty Images

“I put together a call for a group of local performers to perform on the Avenue to create a sense of excitement,” she said. “We wanted artists who would engage passers-by and make people feel safe because there was this constant activity going on along the Avenue. And beyond music – beyond hip hop, jazz, rock, opera, and Latin music – we wanted all styles and genres of performer to become part of the action. We want our audiences to stop and pay attention for a minute, so we also have a diverse and wide range of acts, tap dancers, Indian classical dance troupes in beautiful costumes and such. Our street performers are getting great response from neighbors and those new to the city.”

Burkhardt added proudly: “We are paying each and every of our entertainers, a fair wage for all. That was an important part of doing this.”

While drummer Bryana Crockett said that she and her R&B Small Group performed to audiences during a rain storm—“Great music transcends terrible weather,” she said—MacMahon, too, is delighted to be part of the creative dialogue along the block. “Audiences finally coming back after COVID – we even have a song about the pandemic blues – and it is great to be in the middle of that renaissance.”

For more information and a full list of Avenue of the Arts Live acts, visit avenueofthearts.org