Kensington businesses

One of the treats of living in a diverse, developing neighborhood is setting foot in new and old businesses. From hand-crafted guitars to bougie ice cream to a comic book shop lauded by The New York Times, Kensington is always surprising. This year Forbes magazine proclaimed southern Kensington (Fishtown) as America's hottest new neighborhood. Here are a few of the unsung and farther-flung businesses they didn't mention.

Dr. Chris Feudtner

From "Departure and Discovery: New Directions at the Apex of Creativity," a blog for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society by Leah Hood.

PA Philadelphia Mural Arts—2016 September 26 15;12;47.jpg

As a palliative care researcher and physician very much in his mid-career, Dr. Chris Fuedtner is an interesting choice of subjects for a series on Late Style. But his research, and the patient population Dr. Fuedtner serves, reveals insights into what inspires people to create, explore, and live life to the fullest — even when the end of that life is within view. ...

Like many of the great composers, Fuedtner is adamant that his palliative work is not about death, but rather how to “live well” within all the constraints and challenges of life. ... “[Composers] have lost a child, a spouse, a sibling, and their work is dominated by grief. … Think of Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ … The question of mortality isn’t simply that I’m going to die. It’s also: I have lived and what does that mean? Does death negate the value of everything I’ve done up to this point?”

Robin Black

This past year I had the chance to work with writer Leah Hood on an unusual project for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. "Departure and Discovery: New Directions at the Apex of Creativity" explores the idea of "late style"—that is, what do artists create when their work is mature and they're established in their careers? Hood interviewed a score of prominent creators—writers, dancers, designers, producers, scientists, actors, and yes, musicians—for a blog that accompanied a trio of curated concerts, all supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Before she began writing, author and writing teacher Robin Black struggled with agoraphobia and anxiety. “When I started writing, I felt like my life depended on it. And my sanity,” she told Hood. “It was kind of leaving the domestic sphere in this extreme version because I had actually been hiding. I wasn’t just home with my kids, I was home with my kids and scared. When I went off to graduate school at age 41 it was a big, big deal.” 

“As a woman, when you hit 40 and then 50, I think it’s pretty universal in this culture anyway, to feel emboldened and to care a lot less what people think of you and just go for it. But in literature it’s difficult … Particularly after you’ve had a couple books out and you’re used to getting reviewed. I hope that my most masterful books are ahead of me but I do worry about the self-consciousness of the career.”

Streb

From "Departure and Discovery: New Directions at the Apex of Creativity," a blog for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society by Leah Hood.

With a decorated career in both dance and choreography, Elizabeth Streb has spent the last 20 years inventing an entirely new discipline of movement and machinery. She calls it “extreme action” — a fusion of dance and athleticism, combined with a precisely timed set of movements that pushes dancers’ bodies to new realms of discovery.

A visit to SLAM, the Streb Laboratory for Action Mechanics, is disconcerting and energizing, confusing and awe-inspiring. It is rare to witness something for which your brain has no paradigm, but that is exactly what happens in the presence of Streb’s dance company. 

Streb explains some of her philosophy that is built around rhythm and timing and risk: "My intention has always been: What story can action tell that no other discipline can tell? What is the iambic pentameter of action?… Our job is to confuse people and take them to new zones. New zones can be temporal and spatial and physical. … It does have to be extreme; it has to be dangerous."

Larry Gold

From "Departure and Discovery: New Directions at the Apex of Creativity," a blog for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society by Leah Hood .

Larry Gold, self-described “orchestrator,” is best known for arranging and producing pop music hits. His client list is a who’s-who of the pop music world: the Roots, Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, Jay-Z and Kanye West. ...

At this point in his career, Gold has plenty of experience to draw from and the mastery of his craft has made a few things easier. “I’m more mature. I know music a lot better now. I spent my whole life listening, writing and learning. Technically it’s easier, that’s for sure. But it’s also that I hear more… Right now in my life, a song tells me what it needs."

Judith Schaechter

Although she lives in Philadelphia, Judith Schaechter is not to be confused with the author of the Skippyjon Jones children's books about a whimsical kitten who imagines he is a chihuahua. Schaechter works in stained glass, and her pieces are considerably darker.  

"I think that my work, subject matter wise, it is really in keeping with the tradition of images of martyrs…the everyday martyrs," Schaechter told writer Leah Hood on a tour of her studio last fall. "I want to speak in that language [of suffering] about what is beautiful in life." 

Hood was interviewing artists as part of a blog series on "late style" for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. We wanted to learn how creative people think when their careers are established and their work is mature.  

"I think my whole process has been one of surrendering my ego time and time again," Schaechter said. As a young artist, “I was like a child. I believed that my work was really good and that people would want to look at it. ... I was in my 30s when I started being able to see that my work was somehow flawed. This was devastating to me.”

"I’m not making my work for myself," Schaechter says now. "I‘m not pandering to an audience, but if my work isn’t resonating with other people I feel like I’ve failed."

Terell Stafford

The shift from classical to jazz was a turbulent one, Terell Stafford told writer Leah Hood. “The jazz musicians told me don’t do it because it is too late to have a career in jazz. The classical musicians told me don’t do it — it’s going to ruin your classical career. So I got this negative vibe from both sides."

Today Stafford is the Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, founder and band leader of the Terell Stafford Quintet, and Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (JOP). He has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner.

I met Stafford through a Philadelphia Chamber Music Society project exploring the concept of “late style”—that is, what do artists create when they have nothing left to prove?

“At this point in my life I am not so concerned about letting people know who I am,” Stafford said. “What I am concerned about is feeding my palate, my passion for the music, so that I can constantly grow. … That is my creative process now.”

Jane Golden

Jane Golden is the founder and executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia. Under her direction, Mural Arts has created more than 3,800 works of public art through innovative collaborations with community-based organizations, city agencies, nonprofit organizations, schools, philanthropies and the private sector.

This past fall I had the chance to meet Golden—and a bevy of other directors, writers, artists and scientists—through an unusual project for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. "Departure and Discovery: New Directions at the Apex of Creativity" explored the idea of "late style"—that is, what do artists create when they have nothing left to prove?

“Everyone one here feels like a public servant working on behalf of the citizens, Golden told writer Leah Hood. "I feel this unstoppable, tireless passion around the process of how we do work: we try and fail, we try and learn...we are like a sponge soaking up best practices from around the world." 

Read Hood's essay here.

Milton Glaser

This past fall I had the chance to work with writer Leah Hood on an unusual project for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

"Departure and Discovery: New Directions at the Apex of Creativity" explores the concept of "late style"—that is, what do artists create when they have nothing left to prove? 

Hood interviewed a score of prominent creators—writers, dancers, designers, producers, scientists, actors, and yes, musicians—for a blog that accompanied a trio of curated concerts, all supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Milton Glaser has the rare distinction of being a famous graphic designer. I ❤ NY is his. The iconic 60s poster of Bob Dylan with a Medusa-like fury of colored hair is his. So is the Brooklyn Brewery identity. And the ill-fated Trump Vodka. He cofounded New York Magazine. 

If you use Canva, a Glaser quote pops up occasionally as the app is loading: “There are three responses to a piece of design—yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”

Leah and I were wowed by Milton Glaser. Not just his insight and body of work, but his humble and considerate attitude as we plied him with both camera and questions. Read the essay here.

Susquehanna wedding

I'm continuing a recap of this past summer, where I had time to take pictures but no time to post.

One of my favorite summer events is attending weddings, and one of my favorite nuptials of all time was Angie and Jeremy's “destination wedding”—along the picturesque Susquehanna River about a half-hour motorcycle ride from their home.