As part of its ongoing strategy to showcase Reading’s vibrancy, Berks County Community Foundation has awarded $36,263 for projects that will bring the arts to downtown Reading’s Penn Street.
The programs included in the grant are a dance festival and the staging of a full-length musical, concert-band music performances, a theater project to create Saturday night artistic performance events and a photography project. The grant is the first of five annual grants of up to $50,000.
The Community Foundation has spent two decades visiting cities around the world to determine how they create an exciting atmosphere downtown, said Kevin Murphy, Community Foundation president.
“We have discovered that the blueprint is surprisingly simple,” Murphy said. “In all of the communities that we visited and that have successfully overcome issues that mirror ours in Reading, they have pursued the same strategy: Stage events to showcase how vibrant the urban core can be and then support private investment as it flows in to capitalize on the increased foot traffic and interest in downtown.”
The programs included in the grant are a dance festival and the staging of a full-length musical. This is the first of five annual distributions of up to $50,000 for arts programming on Penn Street.
The most recent round of grants to pursue this downtown art strategy are:
• $9,900 to the Ringgold Band to host three concert-band music performances on Penn Street.
• $8,000 to Reading Theater Project to create Saturday night artistic performance events. Programs will pair unusual combinations, such as a jazz band and a live painter or an improvisational comedy troupe and a slam poet, and will link to events such as the Reading Fire Ice Fest.
• $7,530 to Genesius Theatre to stage a musical on Penn Square with an orchestra and full cast.
• $7,500 to RIZE for the Sept. 12 Dance on the Streets Festival at Fourth and Penn streets.
• $3,333 to Albright College for Faces of Reading 10. This project is wrapping up this week at a studio at 645 Penn St. where an amateur photographer is revisiting his project from a decade ago to capture the unique portraits of hundreds of city residents, workers and visitors.
The Foundation has committed to funding other festivals and events to generate activity downtown. The Foundation created and sponsored the Reading Fire Ice Fest, which will return for a second time, in January. The Foundation gave $50,000 for each production of the festival. The Foundation also gave a $100,000 grant to the Reading Downtown Improvement District for staging equipment for performances. The Foundation also gave another $100,000 this year as the main sponsor of the Downtown Alive free concert series on Penn Street, which is the result of a partnership with DID and the SMG-managed Santander Arena.
• Aug. 5: Striking Matches, 5-8 p.m., 500 block of Penn Street.
• Sept. 23: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, 5-8 p.m., 500 block of Penn Street.
• Oct. 24: Gin Blossoms, 4-6 p.m., 700 block of Penn Street.