Bridging art and the community, The Art Commons launches tonight with Birdie Busch performing in a West Philly cemetery - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

In a world that never stops moving while demanding that we do the same, engaging with neighbors and the community can seem as daunting as work on a Saturday (when was the last time you went next door to borrow some sugar?) Thanks to the arts and some passionately driven members of the community, that’s all about to change.

Meet The Art Commons Philadelphia: an initiative committed to creating events where art and discourse are able to meet in perfect harmony, in order to provide healthy and beautiful environments where artists and all members of the community can meet and experience and share together.

If this seems like a sentimental mouthful, allow us to elaborate: this is no hippie drum circle in the woods.

The goal is to provide practical, financial, and creative support for artists by rallying the community to support their work. At the same time, it provides providing the community with spaces to explore art and celebrate and heal with their neighbors in a safe place. This can have a healing effect on communities, explains event organizer and local musician Catherine Prewitt. (Note: Prewitt works as volunteer coordinator at WXPN. –ed.)

“I feel really strongly that works of art ask us several things: they ask us to pause, reflect, and process the things in our lives that are worth grieving or are worth celebrating,” says Prewitt. “I hope that these events are a place where people can pause and have those kinds of moments.”

The launch event, happening on Friday, November 15 at the Hamilton Mansion in the Woodlands Cemetery in West Philly, features Philadelphia musicians Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night. For Prewitt, finding the right person to perform at the pivotal launch event was a no-brainer after experiencing the Liberty Bell Sessions back in June. The sessions, featuring local musicians Birdie Busch, Ross Belanoit, Sonja Sofya and Chris Casper, was a “round robin” style folk music night at Studio 34 in West Philadelphia.

“I connected with Ross after I saw that… I saw him at the coffee shop here and just went up to him and was like, ‘I saw you at the Liberty Bell Sessions, it was amazing!’”

Although the four were unable to come together for the November 15th launch event, Ross plays in Birdie’s band when she performs as Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night, and the rest is history.

When asked “why Birdie?” Prewitt answers:

“I really admire her as a songwriter. She’s got this really gentle and compelling stage presence that I think is really restful and I really enjoy her, like the whole package of her performance. I’m so excited to bring a whole bunch of people to listen to her; I think it’s going to be great.”

Busch’s intrinsic knack for storytelling melds with excellent guitar interplay and instrumentation of her band: Bellenoit and Carl Cheeseman on guitar, Todd Erk on bass, Craig Hendrix on keys and Tom Bendel on drums. Known for performing in unique spaces, from double-decker busses to rooftops, she should be right at home playing the launch event at Woodlands cemetery. Her folk/blues/rock sound will swarm the walls of the Hamilton mansion perfectly and embrace all with harmonious, loving arms.

But Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night are not the only local community members contributing. The Art Commons Launch Event will feature donations from many local businesses, from spirits favorite Art in the Age, who will be pouring spiked cider, to West Philly’s Four Worlds Bakery, who will be donating baked goods. If spiked hot apple cider and cookies over live music doesn’t move you, consider taking a long, hard look in the mirror.

Although the Art Commons launch event is just the beginning of a long and trying journey, the initiative has some serious plans for the future of the organization. It is seeking nonprofit status to expand its budget, with an ultimate goal of programs that respond to the needs of artists – from retreats to interest groups to a hostel for touring artists.

Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night perform at the Art Commons Launch Party tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Woodlands Cemetary. Tickets and information can be found here.

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