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Philly Waterfront gets new life with year-found home for Philadelphia Live Arts Festival.

For 15 years, the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe has operated at the leading edge of both the performing arts and the city’s reinvigoration. The first festivals in the 1990s helped revive Philadelphia’s historic Old City neighborhood. In the late 2000s, the organization moved to the emerging Northern Liberties neighborhood, building out a studio space and developing an incubator program for performing artists. And this decade, anchoring the regional commitment to rebuilding the Delaware River waterfront, Live Arts will build its own permanent home in a historic water pumping station.

Across from the new James Corner-designed park on the Race Street pier, the building originally fed the city’s fire hydrants with water from the Delaware. In its reincarnation, the 10,000-square-foot facility will enable Live Arts to offer year-round programming. Tapping into international booking networks and leveraging partnerships with other American companies that commission and book world-class contemporary artists, the new performance space will ensure that Philadelphians have access to the work not just during the Live Arts Festival, but all year.

When construction is complete, Live Arts will have created: a 250-seat theater with flexible seating, two rehearsal studios, a 2,000 square-foot restaurant and bar, a permanent hub for the annual Festivals, including a box office, an outdoor plaza for performances, and unique and top-notch office space for the organization.

In recent years, Live Arts has presented work from around the world that thrilled Philadelphia audiences. 2008′s bodies in urban spaces by Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner transformed dozens of performers into pieces of public architecture. In 2009, Jerome Bel’s The show must go on rallied audiences to break into dance at their seats. And many prominent local groups, including Pig Iron Theatre Company, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, and Headlong Dance Theater, have found larger audiences and furthered their artistic development with the support of Live Arts.

A permanent world-class performing arts center will allow Live Arts to continue this work. The Live Arts Brewery–a performance incubator project that funds artistic research and experimentation–will offer its annual Fellows state-of-the-art facilities in which to work. And Philly Fringe will have a permanent nexus, including for the annual Festival Bar, where audiences, local performers, and international artists come together for the best parties of autumn.

The challenges of retrofitting the pumping station will be intriguing, but the reward to the organization and to the city will be great. Live Arts is enormously proud to be taking this step and looks forward to sharing its (hopefully few) trials and travails, and (hopefully many) celebrations here in this space.

 

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