Society Reflected?

We have seen a wide range of styles of plays this semester. Most of the plays are contemporary, but even if they are not, many people have spent many, many hours producing them.

So – if art is a reflection of our society – what are these plays saying about our society? Why do you think the artists and producers chose to produce them now? Do you see a connection among the themes? Or are the disparate themes significant in their own right?
Keep in mind, even if art is a mirror of society, that mirror doesn’t always give a clear reflection.

Please post your replies below.

General George Meade

Some time ago, we all ventured to Laurel Hill Cemetery to observe and reflect on the rural cemetery movement. Prior to attending the trip, I did some research into the cemetery and was surprised to find that General George Gordon Meade was buried there. Having always been interested in the Civil War, I was immediately intrigued to find that the General of the Army of the Potomac was buried in Philadelphia. I believe his burial in Philadelphia is as important to our culture as statues of William Penn or Swann Fountain. George Meade led the Union army during the most brutal conflict the United States had seen to that point. There is something peculiar about the Civil War, almost poetic. The war lasted four years and the turning point of this war is considered to be the Battle of Gettysburg, almost exactly two years into the conflict. The armies engaged on July 1. Another overmatched loss by the Union could have proved disastrous to Lee’s surging army, but George Meade, along with heroes such as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, fought bravely. After three days of fighting, the Union awoke bloody, weary, and victorious on Independence Day, . We all owe a debt of gratitude to General Meade and if you ever return to his grave at Laurel Hill Cemetery, I ask that you acknowledge this debt.

Philadelphia’s Chinatown

A place in Philadelphia that I find to be fascinating  and an important part of Philadelphia’s culture would be Philadelphia’s Chinatown. To be more specific, the entrance gate on 10th street serves as a symbolic piece of artwork made up of bright gold, green, blue, and red which is said to be similar style of the Qing dynasty. The gate is designed with beautiful dragon motifs, floral patterns and small animal sculptors. The gate was dedicated from Officials from Philadelphia and Tianjin in 1984 to display the friendship between the two cities.  This work of art is also supposed to represent the amount of cultural and economic contributions from the Philadelphia’s Chinese community. I think that this is an important part of Philadelphia’s cultural because it shows that we can expand beyond our city and incorporate other cities culture to create a beautiful master piece.

FDR Park

FDR Park was used as one of the main points of interest for the 1926 World’s Fair, hosted by the city of Philadelphia.  It is located in South Philadelphia, toward the Naval Yard and in the shadows of the sports complex.  FDR Park, in my opinion, serves to be a version of Fairmount Park that is more accessible for those who live in the southern part of the city.  Today, it connects the city to the Naval Yard and serve as a reminder of a point in time when Philadelphia was on a world stage.

Laurel Hill Cemetery

Laurel Hill cemetery is more than just a cemetery. It is outdoor sculptural garden, historical gem and truly unique resource and also happens to be one of the few cemeteries in the United States to be honored with a designation of being a national historic landmark. In the 18th hundreds, right at the time when the Laurel Hill cemetery was founded by the primary founder of the cemetery, John Jay Smith, Philadelphia city and the nation itself was at the peak of industrialization and the church yards and burial grounds were constantly being ripped up for building purposes. Therefore, peoples’ loved ones were constantly being moved to the mass graves and often times when the family members go to cemetery to visit their ancestors, they would not know where to find them. Therefore, to give people a better mode of burial, Laurel Hill cemetery was found. John Jay Smith had the nation to form a place where people could place their loved ones and be assured that they would be there in perpetuity. Laurel Hill cemetery is located at the proximity to the Schuylkill River and Fairmount Park, which is the major selling point of the Laurel Hill cemetery. The early visitors traveled to Laurel Hill vial stream boats making a circle between the Fairmount Park and the Falls of Schuylkill River. People would spend leisure time with their family at Laurel Hill cemetery. Peoples’ favorite past times at Laurel Hill were picnics, sightseeing, and carriage rides. In the 19th century, Laurel Hill cemetery’s prestige and popularity increased by obtaining the remains of famous American historic heroes. For example, Charles Thomas, who signed the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Godfrey, the inventor of the marine’s quadrant are few of the many other famous figures buried at Laurel Hill cemetery. Laurel Hill cemetery welcomed figures as diverse as Matthew Baldwin, who built locomotives, and Henry Disston, who manufactured saw blade and built the town of Tacony. These two were the two heroes that contributed to the industrialization of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Museum

Although it may seem like the most obvious choice, I believe that the Philadelphia Museum founded by Charles Wilson Peale in 1786, is without doubt one of the most critical sites of Philadelphia Arts and Culture.  Peale’s museum is considered to have shaped early American culture and is the first model for what the American museum system is today. This museum emerged during a time when Philadelphia was booming politically, economically and culturally. Peale’s museum united people from all classes under a common goal: to display knowledge; inform and define. Peale established the first public museum of art and science in America. This transformed the way Americans viewed learning, it shifted the approach from collecting to know and export to collecting to inform and define. ”By understanding nature, promoting innovation and showcasing accomplished people, Peale felt that he could encourage this economic independence” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92388477). Without Peale’s museum which became a model for all Philadelphia museums, the progression of arts and culture in Philadelphia would have been severely stunted.

Murals In Philadelphia

When thinking of something that illustrates a critical moment in the story of Philadelphia Arts and Culture, there is one thing that stands out to me. I feel as though the murals that can be seen all over the city are perfect examples of this. Murals allow anyone to express themselves in a creative or an artistic way. The City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program’s website states that their mission is to “unite artists and communities through a collaborative process, rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives.” The Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as a part of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, and was led by then Mayor Wilson Goode to get rid of the graffiti problems that were plaguing the city. The Anti-Graffiti Network hired a muralist named Jane Golden to reach out to graffiti artists and ask them to redirect their energies from destructive graffiti writing to constructive mural painting. By doing this I believe that the city was able to eliminate the graffiti that was destroying the exterior of buildings all over the city and turn it into something beautiful. The murals in Philadelphia are a symbol of the people of the city. Each different creation signifies the story of the individual artist. The City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program allows muralists from all over the city to come together and let their art be seen. The murals represent the people of Philadelphia as a community and will continue to do so for years to come. The buildings with the murals have turned the city into one big art gallery and tell the story of the city itself. Because of this program, the cultural and artistic identity of Philadelphia has changed forever.