Culture Pitches in for 18th Annual MLK Day of Service. Alliance Launches GroundSwell at Arden

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Karim Olaechea
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Phone: 215-399-3518

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is partnering with Global Citizen, sponsor of the 18th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Across the region, residents will take part in service projects that leverage the power of arts and culture to bring people together to help their neighbors and better their communities.  

Day of Service participants are then invited to the Arden Theatre Company for an after-party and the launch of GroundSwell. Cultural and civic leaders chose Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to launch this new civic movement to honor the life and work of a great man and to underline their mission of uniting residents and civic organizations working to improve our region across issues such as arts and culture, libraries, parks and public spaces. 

Who: GroundSwell, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, With Art Philadelphia™, First Person Arts, Art-Reach, the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, Groundswell Players, and Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.

What: GroundSwell Launch Party

Where: Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia

When: Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 21. 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM

The GroundSwell kickoff takes place on the evening of the MLK Day of Service with an event at the Arden Theatre Company in Old City, Philadelphia featuring spoken-word and open-mic performances curated by First Person Arts, a hands-on art activity curated by the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, and improv from the Groundswell Players. The evening is sponsored by With Art Philadelphia™ and produced in partnership with Art-Reach, First Person Arts and Arden TheatreArt-Reach will provide services to ensure that the event is accessible for people with visual and audio disabilities. 

“With the launch of GroundSwell, we’re showing how culture can help bring neighbors together to transform communities", explained Tom Kaiden, President of the Cultural Alliance. “Anthropologists have shown that something as simple as a broken window can start a downward spiral of neighborhood neglect and crime. With GroundSwell, we will show that the inverse is also true. Through small acts of volunteerism, culture and community pride, we will strengthen neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for all Philadelphians.”

GroundSwell is a grassroots movement to make Philadelphia a better place to live, work and play. Powered by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, GroundSwell unites residents and organizations in order to leverage arts and culture, libraries, parks and public space to enhance the quality of life in our region. GroundSwell invites residents to Do Something Good for a Change and to become a part of a growing community that’s taking action for a greater Greater Philadelphia.

The Cultural Alliance is a partner of the 18th Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service, and many of our members are organizing service projects and special days of remembrance around the region, including:

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is collaborating with Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) The Cascarones Por La Vida Art Fund, and the African American Children’s Book Project. Visitors will create greeting cards to be donated to MANNA and distributed with more than 70,000 meals. Visitors will also create Cascarones (hollowed out eggs filled with confetti.) Completed cascarones will be donated to the Cascarones Por la Vida Art Fund. The fund sells the eggs to raise money for families affected by HIV/AIDS. The museum will also have a special reading by Illustrator E.B. Lewis whose books share the message of love and service.

African American Museum in Philadelphia is hosting a day of learning about the ongoing struggle for equality in the African-American community as well as an essay concert and an MLK Day concert. More details to come.

The Philadelphia Orchestra will present its Annual MLK Tribute Concert at Martin Luther King High School. An afternoon of music, readings, and reflection brings together community groups and notable guest artists including Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder and music director of Philadelphia’s own Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra; award-winning storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston; Elena Urioste; and the Philadelphia All City Choir under the direction of Dorina Morrow. For more info:

Please Touch Museum will be hosting special MLK Day activities including Lend a Hand, which allows children to make quilt pieces which will be sewn into blankets and donated to local shelters and charities. Their ACES students will be collecting and sorting through t-shirts that will later be turned into tote bags as part of their Recyclable Community Service Tote Bags (RCTB) project. The museum will also be hosting specially service themed stories for kids.

Arts Sanctuary is asking Philadelphia residents to join them in reading Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, to share the letter with young people who may not be familiar with its message, and to create and share a poem, letter or artwork and share it on their website.

National Constitution Center is hosting several events in honor of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. including musical and dramatic performances and special craft activities. In the spirit of Dr. King, visitors also can participate in a quilting service project for the Women Against Abuse shelter. In addition, guests can join in a sing-along concert with award-winning duo “Two of a Kind” and students from local colleges will read aloud King’s famous “I Have a Dream.”

The Center also will host an inauguration viewing party where guests can watch the presidential swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Guests to the Center on Inauguration Day also can learn about famous presidential inaugurations throughout history, participate in Presidential Trivia, pose for a photo at the Center’s popular Presidential Oath of Office exhibit, and make presidential crafts, including cardboard models of the White House and masks of famous past presidents.

COSACOSA Art at Large, Inc. will hold an intercultural, inter-community mosaic-making for South Philadelphia at the COSACOSA Studio. Volunteers will prep and create part of the next phase of our giant intercultural mosaic project with South Philly's Jackson School. Entitled the Garden of Diversity/Jardín de la Diversidad, the mosaic celebrates academic brilliance, environmental stewardship, and stories from the almost 30 different nationalities represented at the school. The project bridges cultures and strengthens community through hands-on art-making and storytelling workshops throughout the year.

National Museum of American Jewish History and Fleisher Art Memorial will explore the challenges and blessings of freedom and sharing what freedom means to you. Fleisher will present Drop-in Art at the NAMAJH from 10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. The museum will also be screening From Swastika to Jim Crow, the documentary that inspired the current special exhibition. A talkback with filmmaker Steve Fischler follows the 2pm screening. All admission is free on MLK Day.

Eastern State Penitentiary celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, and the 50th anniversary of his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail, with special readings that are free to the public offered several times throughout the weekend. Professional actors read Dr. King’s letter, followed by an informal Q&A on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at 11:30 and 2:30 each day. All standard guided tours on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday will include information about how the civil rights movement affected Eastern State Penitentiary and how inmates here reacted to Dr. King’s assassination in 1968.

Philadelphia Magic Gardens invites visitors to create tiles reflecting your dreams for change in our community and nation. The reverse-painted glass tiles, a signature of Zagar’s, will be used by the artist as part of his newest public murals. Participants will also have the opportunity to create "doily” tiles, another Zagar trademark, to take home as a souvenir.

Other cultural organizations having service projects include: Community Arts Center, Village of Arts & Humanities, Mural Arts, and Bartram's Garden. More will be added to a special page on ( as organizations finalize their Day of Service projects. 

About the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
The Greater Cultural Alliance is a leadership organization of more than 400 nonprofit arts and cultural institutions located primarily in the five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania. Its mission is to make Greater Philadelphia one of the foremost creative regions in the world. The Cultural Alliance believes that Greater Philadelphia grows stronger and more vibrant by growing its arts and culture. The Alliance’s work promotes that mission through initiatives that leverage arts and culture to inspire individuals and build community and civic engagement. These efforts include connecting cultural resources to community needs; providing direct services for nonprofit cultural organizations; leading cultural research, advocacy and policy work; and producing direct marketing programs for cultural consumers.

The Cultural Alliance’s work reflects these key principles: Arts and culture is an engine for economic growth. It has the power to elevate lives. It has the power to educate. We own it, as residents of the Greater Philadelphia region, because it comes from us. It helps individuals come together and grow as a community. 

About With Art Philadelphia™
The With Art Philadelphia™ collaborative is a first-of-its-kind partnership to position Philadelphia among the world’s great art destinations and to increase visitation to the region from around the world. The groups contributing financial and other resources to the campaign are: the City of Philadelphia, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology), Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Lenfest Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Knight Foundation, Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, PNC and PECO.