Icepack | Feb. 27-March 5

What happened to Philly’s cool museum scene, music musings and more

Why didn’t anyone notice that Philly’s museum scene was beginning to be run by such levels of scumbaggery? Icepack wonders this and much more this week. | Image Kelly Kiernan

I’m pleased as punch spiked with grain alcohol that Philadelphia’s Museum Row will finally open its books (ay, like the mob) to beloved Lawnton, PA-born sculptor/mobile maker Alexander Calder.

Calder will get his own museum across from the Barnes and the Rodin, and that the architects behind London’s Tate Modern will design the property. Pip pip. 

My question is WTF happened to Philly’s museum culture when we weren’t paying attention? Who are these motherfuckers, and how did such a staid, cool environment breed such reportedly abusive types such as one-time Philly Museum of Art/Erie Art Museum employee Joshua Helmer, recently let go amid allegations of sexual harassment against him by his coworkers? 

Or THIS Tweety Bird, James A. Cincotta, the ex-retail director at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who allegedly ran around slapping and abusing his employees, and was allowed to stay on the job even after the museum knew of his doings (he was let go in 2018). That’s one fucked up gift shop manager. 

My first thought in all of this was to find these guys and push paintings over their heads (we have a few Wyeth portraits we’re not using at the PMoA, right?) like in the old Looney Tunes cartoons so that they could see a series of stars and bluebirds. Now, that’s a pretty picture. In oils. 

Major Wilma news

My favorite Broad Street café with a theater attached – the Wilma – dropped major news the other day when its co-founder and longtime sole artistic director, Blanka Zizka, decided that she would share that role and the Wilma’s future (well, for a few years, at least) and leadership with Morgan Green, James Ijames and Yury Urnov. Why not? Fresher eyes, diverse eyes, African-American, LGBTQ and another woman’s new perspectives. 

They’re going to have to get a bigger office. But, yes. I like the zeal. One announcement buried at the end of that story is pretty huge though: that Leigh Goldenberg, the current exec director of Theatre Philadelphia, would join the WIlma as its new managing director. Which means after pushing to develop the Barrymores and make it more inclusive and diverse in all matters non-binary (actors awards) race and beyond for the last three years, she’s out of there March 5. 

“It’s definitely not a goodbye to the theater community, just a shift of how I’m serving,” noted Goldberg. “I’m incredibly excited to be working at the Wilma at a time that they are experimenting with shared leadership – something I’ve been increasingly interested in over the past decade through my work with the South Philly Food Co-op. We’re at a time in our regional theater where we need to examine new models and find ways to include multiple voices in the decisions we make, the work we produce, the folks we connect with. I’m really hoping we’ll find ways to have the board, staff, and audience feel the energy and collaborative spirit of the work on stage.” 

” My question is WTF happened to Philly’s museum culture when we weren’t paying attention? Who are these motherfuckers, and how did such a staid, cool environment breed such reportedly abusive types?”

OK that’s cool. But, what about Theatre Philly? Reminding us that TP was here before her and will be after her and that its board will leading a search for a new executive director to work alongside existing staff (“and bring new ideas into the organization and Philly’s regional performing arts sector”), Goldenberg said that “it was a great three years, we’ve made a lot of changes that have been meaningful, and now I’m excited to see what else the organization can do. I’ll just be supporting the community in a different way, and cheering on TP as a leader at a particular theatre. The opportunity at the Wilma – to work with a cohort of artistic leadership, with boundary-pushing art, and in the heart of the city – was too good to pass up! There, I’ll be able to put more ideas into practice and get closer to the art than I was able to during my time at TP.”

Attention, ‘80s fans

You don’t just wake up a “Stranger Things” obsessive and that’s it: either you’re a freak for all things ‘80s, or you’re that old. Either way – hold onto your cash. Tickets for electro-pop kings Kraftwerk (July 30, The Met) go on sale today  (Feb. 27), with tix for the New Order/Pet Shop Boys tour (the Mann, Sept. 11) going on sale Feb. 28.

Cooking up morale 

Chef Al Paris? I’ve known him since the old Zanzibar Blue (on Broad) days, the wild nights with the guys from Xero (Circa, Rococo), his own raging spots, such as Guru, the TSOP restaurant, his running the kitchen in the Italian Market at the space that is now Bar One; you know, so many spaces they start to blur into one big frigging meatball? Anyway, when Al got tired of Center City, he went up to Chestnut Hill and made that sleepy burg into a restaurant row, with live jazz, at hop spots such as Paris Bistro & Café. 

Now, Paris is back in Center City at One Degree, a consulting agency looking to boost corporate morale and all levels of inner happiness. And he’s gone from Paris Bistro. 

Now, part of me wants to say that if you want to boost corporate morale, Al, feed a boss an Étouffée and cut out the Tony Robbins schtick. But, Paris has always been Philly’s Zen master, a real Castanada type, so, I’m sure he’s onto something good. 

New music

One of Philly’s most intense guitar-tangling ensembles, Screamcloud, just dropped its most anxiety-producing record, “The Slums of Your Mind.”Hit up their Bandcamp and enjoy the noise.

Remembering Spady 

Found out from Scribe Video’s Louis Messiah and poet master Sonia Sanchez during their appearance at the African American Museum on Sunday that Philadelphia author James G. Spady had just passed. The legendary writer penned early, valuable, scholarly works on rap and hip hop with “Hip Hop Music and Culture: Nation Conscious Rap: The Hip Hop Vision” (1991), “Twisted Tales in the Hip Hop Streets of Philly” (1995) and “Street Conscious Rap” (1999). He also edited “360 Degreez of Sonia Sanchez: Hip Hop, Narrativity, Iqhawe and Public Spaces of Being” (2000). 

“If you have children, they should read him, honor him,” said Sanchez from the stage of Arch Street’s AAMP. She’s right. No word on services, yet, but, keep them in mind and keep Spady in your heart.