While wandering Penn’s campus, pop into the free Institute for Contemporary Art to see work by some of today’s top emerging artists. Or head across the river to see work by some of history’s greatest artists. In addition to being home to our co-host, The Barnes Foundation, The Ben Franklin Parkway’s “Museum Mile” is dotted with sculptures and Philly cultural attractions, including two other must-sees for art lovers: the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum. The PMA’s vast collection of Renaissance, South and East Asian, Impressionist, and American visual and decorative art makes it one of the world’s premier art museums, and the adjacent Rodin Museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of the sculptor’s work.
Center for Art in Wood
If you’re short on time, pop into an exhibition at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, America’s first art school and museum, or head to Wonderspaces, a rotating collection of immersive and interactive art with a side of signature cocktails. If looking for off the beaten path or just wonderfully off-beat, check out little-known gem the Center for Art in Wood, a hub for art, craft, and design in the material of wood, or Philly fan-favorite, the Magic Gardens, on South Street.
Head to the “Avenue of the Arts”, the stretch of South Broad Street running from City Hall to South Street, for the city’s premier theater and dance shows. Take in the soaring architecture of the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, designed by PCfN board member Rafael Vinoly and home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, before seeing a show at Philly’s premier performing arts venue, the Academy of Music, home to the Opera Company of Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Ballet.
If Broadway shows and bold theater productions are more your speed, catch a show at the nearby Merriam Theater or Wilma Theater. The Arden Theater Company, and The Walnut Street Theater are also popular venues for traveling shows. You can also catch a variety of acts, ranging from comedy to live concerts at the lavish and recently restored Metropolitan Opera House, The Met Philadelphia
The Kimmel Center for Performing Arts
The Wilma Theater
The Philadelphia Ballet Company
In our totally biased opinion, Philly ranks as one of the world’s best destinations for public art, whether sculptural, mural, and (especially) unofficial street art. Philly’s international reputation as a “City of Murals” reflects the success of Philly’s 35 year-old Mural Arts Program. With more than 4,000 public murals, you can enjoy the world’s largest outdoor art gallery no matter where you are in the city. Highlights include, Philly’s first augmented-reality mural, a 6-story mural by Amy Sherald – known for painting the official portrait of first lady Michelle Obama, and Spring Arts Murals, the program’s rotating outdoor gallery. For all you instragram fans, Electric Street is a must-see, an illuminated neon mural down a hidden alleyway that dazzles both by day and by night.
For smaller scale, but no less resonant or home-grown, be sure to follow Conrad Benner’s Streets Department photo blog or instagram for the best in documenting and celebrating Philly’s wealth of street art. If you can, squeeze in a visit to Graffiti Pier! You can also explore Philly’s neighborhood and public art at the same time by following one of the six walking/biking tours suggested by the Association for Public Art and using it’s Museum without Walls: AUDIO app.
Tired of walking? Hop on the El and read an iconic love letter that spans the city, emblazoned two-stories up on the walls of otherwise unassuming buildings. Last, but definitely not least, no visit to the city of brotherly love is complete without paying a visit to Love Park for a selfie in front of the most iconic of Philly public artworks.
Amy Sherald mural (untitled)
Electric Street, Philadelphia