Philadelphia Debuts Citywide Arts Festival

by  Justin Ocean | Feb 11, 2011
Philadelphia skyline
Philadelphia skyline / pabradyphoto/iStock

Philadelphia: Birthplace of America, city of firsts – the government-funded tourism org broke ground in LGBT destination marketing back in 2003 with its “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay” campaign – has a whole new bag of tricks up its sleeve when it launches the month-long, citywide Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts ( this April 7 till May 1, 2011.

A $10 million precedent-setting effort by a U.S. city to pull together all its major arts organizations (100 partners and counting), PIFA welcomes more than 1,500 artists for the 25-day French-tinged event, its inaugural theme harkening back to the avant-garde, epoch-defining buzz of 1910-1920s Paris. Think Chagall and Champagne, absinthe-fueled cabaret, aerialsts, puppeteers, and silent film symphonics. That's a hell of a lot of creative energy and a boon for any arts-loving traveler, almost like a more mainstream version of Edinburgh's famous Fringe Festival. And you can bet more than a handful of the 135-plus events will have a queer bent.

Centered around and inspired by the Kimmel Center (, Philly's glass-enclosed multi-discinplinary performing arts heart the size of a city block, you can brush up on your français with free daily lessons, catch circus acts, watch roving mimes, or sip coffee under a scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. Film and video, modern dance and ballet, sculpture and paintings, jazz, classical music, pop concerts, and more, plus events for kiddies, whatever it is that whets your arts appetite, you can be sure to find a treat. Clearly, the festivals' organizers have taken the wisdom of its greatest resident, Benjamin Franklin, to heart: “Never confuse motion with action.”

Highlights include, among 31 commissioned pieces:

Pulcinella, a first-ever collaboration between the Philadelphia Orchestra and Pennsylvania Ballet
• Five-times daily trapeze lessons
• Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibit on the Montparnasse artsists
• Parisian street fair on April 30
• ?uestlove, drummer of hip-hop legends The Roots performs with Karen Ann
• Free street performances by Watcha Clan, Marseille-based muscial nomads
Sculpting Dance at the Rodin Museum
• Animated and interaction family-friendly piano plunker Who Stole the Mona Lisa
HEAVEN, a major dance collab between Renni Haris PureMovement and French choreographers Gemini

Visit the fest's slick website for schedule, ticketing info and comprehensive listings of the events and participants. To help you sort the plenty – check the video previews below – book a ticket package such as “No Jacket Required”, “Great Orchestras, or “Taste of PIFA” for a trio of the most compelling events (

For general trip-planning info check out our Philadelphia Travel Guide or head to Visit Philly's spectacular LGBT microsite.

Official PIFA video.

Visit Philly's flirty 2011 campaign

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