Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Athenaeum in South Philly is Shut Down! L&I saves city from young artists!

I just saw this urgent email from Sean Agnew at R5 Productions, and had to say something. Here is what Sean wrote:

Hello Our Friends at The South Philly Athenæum Really Need Your Help ! Please Read On :
The Department of Licensing and Inspection Strikes Again...........
This past Friday evening / Saturday morning Philadelphia's Department of Licensing and Inspection, The Philadelphia Police and Philadelphia Fire Department raided and proceeded to shut down "The South Philadelphia Athenæum" last evening. It was an amazing inspirational space located on Juniper Street which 30 of our friends called home. It reminded us of the old days at Stalag 13/Killtime but with a more Ft Thunder/Space 1026 vibe (if that make any sense) . The residents provided a place for hundreds of smaller touring bands to show case their work in Philadelphia, including The Double Leopards, Lightning Bolt, USAISAMONSTER, Nautical Almanac, Sunburned Hand Of The Man etc. They would often feed and house the bands at no cost to the artists. The shows were strictly donation only and they never took a dime for the space themselves, always passing on 100% of the the money to the bands. The Athenæum also provided silk screening facilities, meeting space, practice rooms and general studio space to dozens of Philadephia artists and musicians (including us at r5!)
The police immediately evicted all of the residents - not allowing them to gather their belongings, phones, clothes, food or anything else they would need to live "a normal life" for the next few days. If anyone is now found inside the building - they will be fined and jailed for upto 30 days. The police/L&I at this point and time are just giving the kids 2 hours to clear out the entire building early Monday or Tuesday morning. Imagine only getting 2 hrs to gather your life's belongings and work along with 30+ of your friends (creating a very chaotic and messy scenario - 30+ people moving out in just 120 minutes). The residents are now officially homeless with no real home to goto. Just crashing on the floors of various friends couches and floors.
Currently we are hoping that the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (a non profit pro-bono lawyers guild for smaller artists and musicians in philadelphia) will accept their Athenæum's plea and pick up their case to legally fight for a longer move-out period - an established period of time where all of the residents can gather all of their belongings in a proper, non-rushed "supermarket sweep" manner. In the meantime - we are looking for volunteers to help our 30+ friends gather as many of their possessions to move them outside of the building on Monday so that they can properly store them in new locations. Again they only have two hours to grab as much stuff as they can. We need to move instruments, clothes, computers, furniture, stereos, silk screen materials, p.a. equipment, paintings, sculptures etc etc.
If you can help assist in the efforts to move some of their belongings on Monday morning please e-mail : with your name and number (dont worry we are keeping the list private) . We'll provide you with more info tomorrow morning. The residents are especially looking for people with large vehicles or vans to move some of the bigger stuff to new locations (in addition to just getting their stuff outside of the building) .
Thanks !
sean / r5

Please feel free to get in touch at the email above, as that is the only contact info offered. Obviously, the move for the artists living at the Athenaeum is over, but I imagine that any offers of assistance post-move would be much appreciated.

I feel like I'm ready to scream, as my negative thoughts on Philly have been developing over the past few months and are now ready to burst out. The camel's back has broke, I fear. I am ashamed of this city today, and anyone who cares about Philadelphia and its future should feel the same way.

But, in an amazing gesture of patience (in fact, a stunning gesture to those who know me), I am going to hold off on any diatribe until all of the facts are in. I am going to try to find out more on this story, which has gotten no attention in any of the big media outlets yet. Original reporting might come to Pound for Pound, dear reader, as I get all A.J. Liebling on your asses. More to come in a few days...

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