What’s the deal with First Fridays?

Why is one of Philadelphia’s time honored arts traditions important to me as an artist, arts administration student, and as a human?

by Meg Wolensky

Today is First Friday – an event which, as the name implies, takes place every first Friday of the month, rain or shine, year-round, from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

Since 1991, Old City district’s First Friday represents unique cultural event in Philadelphia and one of the city’s most enticing casual evening events and best of all, it’s FREE. Unless, of course, you’re looking to buy – in which case there is a massive range of items which you could take home with you. For the $10-$20 crowd, you could have your portrait drawn by a five year old while his parents hand him markers or a painting by a street vendor who is probably enrolled at one of the local art schools. If you’re looking to spend over $1000 and “student loan repayment” isn’t a phrase you recognize, you could have a painting or sculpture from any number of galleries in the area. Either way, there’s no pressure to take out your wallet during First Friday because there is a welcoming informality that promotes curiosity and proves to be one of the most attractive qualities of the event.

My introduction to First Friday took place during my first week of college at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. I was 18 years old on a packed Subway with roommates I hardly knew. I couldn’t tell if my nervous excitement was coming from the prospect of meeting other artists or because I wasn’t entirely sure I’d remembered to put my keys in bag before we left. One thing I did know was that I had never been to Philadelphia’s Old City district and I was very anxious about navigating the Market Frankford Line. Thankfully, my navigational skills are far less challenged now and I am capable of getting most anywhere, (barring all times when the Pope is visiting.) Five stops later I arrived in the middle of an arts experience I’d never had before.

I was coming directly from my first week of classes at PAFA, an institution which prides itself on adherence to the academic tradition of art and its place in the history of Philadelphia’s art scene. I generally love to be in any and all social settings which revolve around the arts, so I was very pleased to find a perfect combination of my interests and education in Old City. There was a small band playing while a man in wearing a giant rat head and red velvet vest danced around crowds of onlookers. There were street vendors selling everything from finely articulated portraits to homemade jewelry and small succulent plant arrangements. Galleries throughout Old City opened their doors to the public, inviting everyone to see current exhibitions in a casual atmosphere. Gallery owners spoke with us about curatorial decisions openly while artists discussed concepts and practice. I exchanged many business cards and promised to check out at least fifty websites. Art students were everywhere, many of them beginning to court the galleries and see where their work might meet the right clientele. First Friday appeared to be a lively event where people from all over the city came in to enjoy art and each other’s company. When I got back on the subway that night, I was no longer nervous because I knew I’d built a small but crucial corner of the network I’m still working to build today.

Officially established in 1991, Old City Arts Association has organized and represented the area as a primary arts and culture hub in Philadelphia. Old City is perfectly poised to deliver a point of access to a range of art for many kinds of audiences. A short walk from center city hotels, landmarks, and historic sites, The Old City neighborhood is an easily accessible and manageable destination to be seen during a brief walking tour. At the same time, there’s always something new to see that draws audiences time and time again. First Friday regularly draws crowds of window shoppers as well as serious collectors and curators.


The Drexel Mafia

How to connect to the fabulous alumni network? Read on!

by Carly Rapaport-Stein

I heard the term at the beginning of my first quarter:

“Oh, you’ll meet him soon. He’s a member of the Drexel Mafia.”

The Drexel Mafia? It conjured images of sleeping with the fishes, guns, Italian food, and a mumbling Marlon Brando, all hurtling around corners in the labyrinthine staircases of the URBN building.

The reality, however, is much less scary and a lot more intriguing. The Drexel Mafia is an unofficial network – a loving nickname for the population of bright young things from Drexel’s Arts Administration program who are out and about in the field, putting their knowledge to use at arts organizations all across the city.

The Mafia won’t do a hit to make your dream job available, but they are useful in myriad other ways:

Brand Magic: In Philadelphia, Drexel alums have a great reputation, powered by the neat things that the Mafia do. Almost every major institution has an arts admin alum somewhere within its walls, lifting the visibility of your degree, and giving an unofficial seal of approval to the knowledge and experiences you’ve gained throughout your Drexel education. Want to meet someone who works with the City of Philadelphia? The Philadelphia Museum of Art? Opera Philadelphia? Mural Arts? The Wilma? The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance? Mafia connections galore!

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: We all sift through posting sites like philaculture.org and idealist.org for employment potential. But have you looked at the AADM Facebook and LinkedIn groups? Former and current students post up a storm when there’s an opening at their place of employment, and the Mafia are incredibly generous in sharing information with their fellow alums or soon-to-be alums.

Here’s My Number: Mafia members will gladly talk to you about their places of employment. Coffee, phone calls, emails – if they can help, they will! I experienced this first hand when I was job-hunting. I emailed a student to ask about her time working at an arts organization. She got back to me within an hour, we had coffee a few weeks later, and she was a huge supporter as I went through the interview process. See a job where a Drexel alum works? Reach out to the Mafia – lots of them love to help up and coming Drexel-ites figure out what workplace or work type might be a good fit.

Have you used the arts admin Mafia to find out more about job or to get career advice? What’s your advice to colleagues about using a network effectively?

2015/2016 AAGA Second-Year Board


Carly Rapaport-Stein, President
Carly is an ardent arts appreciator, participant, and facilitator. She holds a Bachelor’s of Music in Voice Performance from Westminster Choir College, a Master’s of Music in Opera Performance from Temple University, and is now a full-time student in the Arts Administration program. In 2014-2015, Carly was the editor of ArtsLine, the program’s quarterly newsletter, and the graduate assistant for the Arts Administration program. After her assistantship ended, Carly began work as the Communications Manager at the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. Carly volunteers as the Development Consultant for Best Day of My Life So Far and also volunteers for The Food Trust at their Headhouse Market.


Hannah Rechtschaffen, Vice President
Hannah moved to Philadelphia to pursue a Master’s degree in arts administration, after developing a professional interest in business and art separately. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2006 with a double degree in theatre and history. After moving to Asheville, North Carolina, she worked in Spa Management for five years, while nurturing her interest in theatre outside of work. In 2012 she was offered an opportunity with a local Shakespeare Company, developing and taking on their first Artistic Director position. These professional experiences piqued her interest in the intersection of art and business, and she decided to pursue further study to develop professionally and explore the business opportunities in the art sector of Philadelphia. Her interests have continued to evolve and sharpen, bringing into focus the need to develop the arts and culture sector in line with the current demands of society and technology.

Clare Lowry, Events Director
The daughter of a former art teacher, Clare began her love of visual arts and dance from an early age.  Her passion for all art disciplines lead her to Ohio University where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and finally to Drexel where she is studying Arts Administration. Clare currently works as the Marketing Assistant for a small business owner. As the Events Director Clare hopes to develop value driven content and programming for her colleagues.


Meg Wolensky, Advocacy Director
Meg Wolensky is a full time on campus student in the Arts Administration Program and a recent BFA graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Meg currently works for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Visitor Services and is a passionate supporter of visual arts initiatives which provide platforms for underserved narratives. She is a visual artist who utilizes painting, drawing, photography and video to communicate shared experiences and relationship dynamics.


Dorian Volpe, Communications Director
Originally from Louisiana, Dorian completed her undergraduate studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon in 2005.  Upon graduation she moved to New York City where she worked in a number of arts administrative positions at organizations including the Paul Kasmin Gallery, MoMA, and Carol Simon Dorsky, Inc.  After relocating to Philadelphia in 2013, she began working full time as the studio manager of a small arts education nonprofit.  Dorian is also a full time student in the Drexel Arts Administration on campus program and is expecting to complete her degree this coming March.

A Panel on Arts Advocacy: Why it’s Important to Me

2014 was an exciting year for the arts sector. We saw Russia attempt to ban swearing in public performances and here at home we saw threats of attack with the release of The Interview, a film that pokes fun of North Korea and its leaders. We also heard major news out of Detroit that the city’s battle with bankruptcy ended thanks, in part, to the art museum.

These stories all have something in common – in addition to being about the arts, they also relate to policy and the government. As arts administrators, these and related events affect what we do everyday, though we may not immediately think of them as being important.

So, how can we get involved in policy and government actions that affect our field? The simple answer is: advocacy.  

If youre anything like me, the word advocacy can give you a minor panic attack. A trip to the dentist office sounds more exciting than going out to argue with a bunch of politicians. Yet here I am, serving as an advocate for the arts. But why?

I have witnessed the powerful effects the arts can have on people, myself included. I want to continue to share its positive gift with others, but know that the critical economic state were in is affecting our arts programming across the country. While I pursue my education here at Drexel, I am learning what it really means to advocate for the arts and how important it is. And as I learn more about advocacy, the less intimidating it becomes. Many in the arts field get scared off by the idea of advocacy, thinking it really is just putting on a sharp suit and arguing with politicians. But the definition of advocacy goes beyond this narrow view and it is an important skill for all arts administrators to have.

To help us grasp a better understanding of the word, the Arts Administration Graduate Association will host an Arts Advocacy Speaker Series Thursday, January 15 from 6-8pm in the URBN Center 125. This years panel will feature Jenny Hershour of Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania, Nicole Allen of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and Amy Scheidegger of the Artistic Rebuttal Project. Throughout the discussion, our speakers will cover advocacy basics, what careers in advocacy look like and why students should be excited to participate in Arts Advocacy Day, both nationally and locally in Philadelphia. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions during the Q&A portion of the night.

Please join us in this informative talk and lets get excited about advocating for what were all so passionate about!

Suhee You is a first year Arts Administration student and is the Advocacy First-Year Liaison on the AAGA Board

The Barefoot Artist – Lily Yeh

Lily Yeh is coming to Drexel University on Thursday, October 23rd at the URBN Center Annex! Check-In and Reception begins at 6:00 pm and the screening begins at 7:00 pm. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Lily Yeh and the filmmakers of The Barefoot Artist, Glenn Holstein and Daniel Traub. Registration is required at lilyyehdu.eventbrite.com. See you there!

lily1 lily2“Recognizing that creativity and beauty are powerful agents for healing and change, Barefoot Artists works with poor communities around the globe practicing the arts to bring healing, self-empowerment and social change.”

There is great need in the world. This is a time when we are struggling, as a global community, to address issues that have been building for so long, and are embedded so deeply, that we cannot always even remember how they started. Hunger, disease, corruption, inequality- these issues plague us across the globe, and all we can do is work together towards their end; towards their solution. Where does art fit in to these solutions? I look at organizations like Barefoot Artists, and I am humbled by the willingness of people to soldier on, in the face of great adversity to art and evolution, to bring artistic experiences to those who might otherwise never get to express themselves as so many of us are privileged to do. When was the last time we truly appreciated the time we get to paint, to write, to photograph our world? And what can we do to ensure that others are given this time as well. As a child of art camps and community theatre, I have felt this connection to art my whole life, uninterrupted and unquestioned. Too many children are not given the time to express themselves, to surround themselves with color, or to question the world through their artistic conversations.

It takes people like Lily Yeh to remind us all that for many, perhaps for most, artistic moments must be carved out of the roughness of life, often with the help of an organization like Barefoot Artists. Lily Yeh inspires me with her ongoing work to address these issues through her art, and through her efforts to encourage community and caring through art. As so many of us do, Lily Yeh draws on her life and experiences to find the stamina to encourage artistic voices and minds all over the world. Art is not a base need of the body. It is a nourishment of the mind and the soul that no one should have to go without. The world needs healing now. It needs people to look one another in the eye and say “we have better things to do with our lives than be in conflict, in hardship, or in a creative desert.”

The Barefoot Artists organization works to “bring healing, self-empowerment, and social change” to the world through art. Lily Yeh’s lifelong work and message has been one of raising herself and others up through artistic expression and freedom. Her new documentary, The Barefoot Artist, which will be screened on October 23rd at Drexel University’s URBN Annex, with an open conversation with Lily Yeh and the filmmakers following, is a story not only of her international work, but also of her internal work, which any artist will tell you, is often inextricably linked. Our internal world, our struggle to be our most honest and healed self, is the key to truly effecting change outside ourselves. Now 70, Lily Yeh opens up this lifelong work to a wide audience through this new documentary.

Philadelphia is home to many artists, young and old, foreign-born and born a block away. I came to Drexel University to study art and artists, and find myself ever-more amazed at the strength, the honesty, and the creativity that is embedded in each of us. Not just artists, but each of us as human beings. And it takes women like Lily Yeh, willing to give so much time and energy to the cultivation of art and artists around the world for many people to realize what might have been simmering in themselves all along. When we are little, and someone puts a paintbrush in our hand and lays colorful pigments before us, there is no hesitation, no question of what to do. We splatter, we slosh, we laugh, and we live. Lily Yeh is helping the world to live, one community, one child, one inner world at a time.

Written by Hannah Rechtschaffen, First-Year AADM Student

Event Review: Alan Brown Residency

Guest post by: Laura Sancken & Cara ScharfIMG_0172

On the evening of Monday, April 28, the Drexel Arts Administration graduate students and the Philadelphia arts and culture community were honored take part in a lecture and reception with Alan Brown, renowned arts research consultant at WolfBrown, in the URBN Center Annex. Arts Administration Professor and Research Director Neville Vakharia and Director of the Drexel Online Arts Administration Program Dr. Jean Brody organized this event as part of the Westphal College’s Rankin Scholar-in-Residence program, which brings leading scholars, researchers, and professionals to campus. “Alan Brown’s residency is key to providing our Arts Administration students with an experiential understanding of important trends and emerging opportunities. We were thrilled to bring him to campus to share his insights with our students and our region’s arts and cultural leaders,” said Professor Vakharia.

Increasing participation and interest in the arts is first and foremost in the minds of arts administration students and practitioners, though the field has not yet settled on a common language with which to talk about developing audiences. Brown introduced his language of “building demand”—which encompasses all activities that attract new and existing audiences to attend, participate, and engage more deeply with the arts. During his presentation, Brown shared examples of how real arts organizations are creating new methods to build demand, something he will study in a seven-year research project with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Brown emphasized that his research repeatedly emphasizes that audience demographics are a direct reflection of the type of performance or exhibit offered. As a result, he challenged the audience to think about our individual experiences and organizations; if we wish to engage new audiences, how can we rethink the way we present art?

IMG_0182“Innovation” was a theme in Brown’s participatory lecture. In today’s world dominated by social media and online interest groups, what can the arts borrow from their success? First, considering “taste communities” or what Brown describes as the affinity-based networks to which we belong. Can the arts market directly to or curate targeted experiences for a particular taste community? In addition, Brown introduced the online sales technique called “preference discovery,” suggesting items the buyer didn’t know they wanted or needed, as a transferrable marketing technique in the arts. How can arts administrators make an audience member, who never thought she liked Beethoven, discover a preference for the composer and buy tickets to his Fifth Symphony? While these exciting, large-scale ideas open a realm of possibility, Brown reminded the audience that engaging new audiences is a long-term, incremental process.

Following the lecture, the crowd dispersed into a reception in the URBN Annex lobby where the conversation continued, as attendees had the opportunity to network with one another and converse with Alan Brown. Surely, this is an event that will be long remembered in the arts and culture community of Philadelphia.

Watch Alan Brown’s lecture here.

Interested in learning more about these types of events and the Arts Administration program? Sign up for ArtsLine, our quarterly e-newsletter.

2014-15 AAGA Executive Board

We are excited to announce the AAGA Executive Board for 2014-15! We have posted the Board here along with their platforms, which give an introduction of the goals they have for AAGA in the coming year. We are very excited to welcome the new Board, which will officially take office after the last formal meeting of the current Board on May 5th.

President: Brittnie Knight
Vice President: Mike Tanis
Advocacy Director: Cara Scharf
Communications Director: Olivia Morton
Events Director: Naima Murphy

Each position is running unopposed, so there will be no need for an election. Thank you to all those who participated in the nomination process!

Alan Brown Master Class

Join a select group of Drexel Arts Administration students who will learn from leading management consultant and researcher Alan Brown, Principal, WolfBrown.

Alan Brown is a leading researcher and management consultant in the nonprofit arts industry. His work focuses on understanding consumer demand for cultural experiences and helping cultural institutions, foundations and agencies see new opportunities, make informed decisions and respond to changing conditions. His studies have introduced new vocabulary to the lexicon of cultural participation and propelled the field towards a clearer view of the rapidly changing cultural landscape. 

This interactive master class will be offered on Tuesday, April 29th from 4:30 to 6:00 pm in the URBN Center. A second class later in the evening is possible if registration exceeds the limit. Attendance is limited to 15 students. Food will be provided.

Master Class Description:
What really happens when the lights go down and the curtain rises? Most arts groups do a great job of tracking attendance and revenues, but these are poor indicators of impact. Aside from the buzz in the lobby, is it possible to define – and even measure – how audiences are transformed? If you had this information, what would you do with it? Alan Brown will summarize results from a series of studies over the past six years, tracing the theoretical foundations of intrinsic impact, and illustrating how arts groups in the US and abroad are using impact assessment to improve programs and measure audience engagement.

Register here. Please note: this is available only to Drexel University Arts Administration students.

Nominations for the 2014-15 AAGA Executive Board


Nominations are now closed. Be sure to check back on April 28th when we post the platforms of the candidates and open voting

These are the candidates for the 2014-2015 AAGA Board:

Brittnie Knight

Vice President
Cara Scharf
Mike Tanis

Communications Director
Emily Hart
Sarah Johnson
Olivia Morton
Christina Wallace

Advocacy Director
Cara Scharf
Josie Slavsky

Events Director
Alice Anne Dolbin
Erika Gardner
Naima Murphy