Esperanza + FringeArts: A Match Made in Heaven
At the end of October, a bus full of talkative and excited ninth graders descended upon FringeArts, dressed up in sparkly dresses and ironed slacks. When they rounded the corner to enter the theater, they were greeted with two ceiling-to-floor panels displaying their original artwork. There were squeals of excitement.
These ninth graders, students at Esperanza Academy in Hunting Park, had worked hard the previous spring in their eighth grade art class with teacher Kala Parthemore-Estrada to generate original artwork inspired by FringeArts. Several of the students had come for a site visit that fall to see the building and hear about FringeArts’ role in the Philadelphia arts community. They took pictures of the theater, went on a tour with FringeArts staff-members, and learned about the historic High Pressure Fire Service pumping system. Kala asked them to pay particular attention to the color scheme of the theater and the details in the building. “We want to create something that feels like it belongs in the architecture,” she told them.
Esperanza, a nonprofit in Hunting Park addressing systemic poverty, provides services like housing aid, legal counsel, and immigration advocacy to the Hunting Park neighborhood, and has grown to include a middle school, high school, and a theater space (modeled with inspiration from FringeArts’ space!). We at FringeArts knew we wanted to be in partnership with the amazing educators, administrators, and artists up at Esperanza, particularly as Teatro Esperanza began to build its programming. Esperanza was the host of two of the Step Library locations for our 2019 Fringe Festival show Úumbal: Nomadic Choreography for Inhabitants, and was featured on one of our podcast episodes about a First Person Arts co-presentation for Power Street Theater Company’s show Pa’lante.
For FringeArts, the goal is not only to be in relationship with another arts organization serving an entirely different neighborhood, but to engage with young people on a level fundamental to our mission: art-making. On October 29, 2019, the Esperanza students and members of their families, as well as a core team from Esperanza Academy and Teatro Esperanza came to toast (with grape juice) the successful installation of their artwork into two of the Fringe hallway panels outside our theater. FringeArts staff joined and listened to remarks from our President and Producing Director Nick Stuccio, and ninth grader William Batista (who we’re pretty sure will one day become the President of the United States).
Come check out the panels for yourself and take a peek at the incredible artwork that weaves performance, High Pressure Fire Service, FringeArts, Philadelphia, and Esperanza all in one!