Kimmel Center Adds an Edge

By Kathy Matheson
|  Thursday, Nov 14, 2013  |  Updated 6:19 AM EDT
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The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts plans to introduce a space for cutting-edge programming that officials hope will increase the building's reputation for creativity and attract a younger crowd.

The SEI Innovation Studio, a 200-seat black-box theater, will house new jazz and theater residencies, plus a rotating art gallery. A formal unveiling is set for Thursday morning in downtown Philadelphia.

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The $3 million initiative, which includes an art installation of a slow-motion car crash in the Kimmel's lobby, comes as a result of a partnership with the Oaks-based financial services firm SEI.

Company CEO Alfred West Jr., a major collector of work by emerging artists, said he's glad to support the facility's vision to bring in avant-garde acts and new audiences.

“These people are changing what the establishment thinks of (as) performing art,” said West. “I just think it's terrific that the Kimmel Center is taking this chance.”

The building, whose main tenant is the Philadelphia Orchestra, has been working to shed its image as an insular space for highbrow music and dance. Officials want its huge indoor plaza to be seen as an accessible community gathering point and gateway to a variety of art types.

To that end, West will loan a series of three works to be displayed in the lobby. The first is Jonathan Schipper's “The Slow, Inevitable Death of American Muscle,” in which two high-horsepower cars crash together over several weeks and leave the floor littered with twisted metal and broken glass.

“It's another opportunity for people to come in for free, to feel like they're welcome, and see something exciting,” said Kimmel Center president Anne Ewers.

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In addition, visitors will now be able to enter the building through a stylish new entrance that highlights the presence of the SEI Innovation Studio. It's on the north side of the facility, next to another soon-to-be unveiled amenity: Volver, a lobby restaurant by chef Jose Garces that is expected to open in January.


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