For nearly half a century, the Annenberg Center has served as a nexus of creativity for the University of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia. This year, a new influx of support promises to strengthen the Annenberg Center’s impact and build new connections with communities throughout the region.
2020 marks the inaugural year for the Center’s new Brownstein Residency for Artistic Innovation, made possible through the generosity of Andrew Brownstein, C’75, W’75, WG’76, PAR’12, PAR’14, and Elise Jaffe Brownstein, CW’76, PAR’12, PAR’14. This permanent residency links notable visiting artists to the Penn and Philadelphia communities, providing a focus on interdisciplinary work and experiences for broad audiences.
This May, the Annenberg Center will welcome Grammy® and Latin Grammy® Award-winning vocalist and global superstar, Lila Downs, as the inaugural artist-in-residence for the Brownstein Residency. Downs will work with University partners and the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia as part of the Annenberg Center’s series The Philadelphians: Migrations That Made Our City—participating in discussions surrounding Mexican immigration in Philadelphia and highlighting its long-standing impact on American culture.
In addition to her own much-anticipated performance on May 1, Downs has also curated a selection of performances with a spotlight on one of Philadelphia’s largest current immigrant groups – Mexican Americans. The Annenberg Center will host contemporary folk band Jarana Beat for their own concert on May 2; later in the month, Tania Pérez-Salas Compañía de Danza—Mexico’s leading contemporary dance troupe—takes the stage for three performances between May 29-30.
While the residency will create a new legacy of artists coming to Penn, the Brownsteins also created an endowed scholarship to support students pursuing the arts at Penn, ensuring that the next generation of artists has the opportunity to make an impact.
The Annenberg Center links the crucial skill of developing innovative thought with the educational mission of the University. It serves as a gateway—between artists and researchers, between artists and students, and between Penn and the city—and impacts a great number of people, both inside and outside the University.”Andrew Brownstein, C’75, W’75, WG’76, PAR’12, PAR’14
An Enduring Vision
The Brownsteins were inspired to establish a permanent endowment for performing artists two years ago by the Annenberg Center’s first artist-in-residence, choreographer Mark Morris. In collaboration with faculty from Penn Medicine, the Annenberg Center created a one-day symposium around dance and movement disorders, involving a workshop for professionals in the field, a film screening, and a dance class, led by Mark Morris, for approximately 100 Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers. In addition to the workshop, the dancers presented a series of professional performances at the Annenberg Center.
“It was a great example of how dance has a demonstrable impact on patients with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease,” says Christopher Gruits, Executive Director of the Annenberg Center. It inspired the Brownsteins to see the capacity of performance to reach across campus and make an impact in countless ways. An endowed residency program will empower dynamic artists to join with cutting-edge researchers to tackle the most pressing issues of the day.
When artists such as Downs and Morris have the opportunity to step off the stage and into the academic community, they amplify the creative energy that fuels innovation, fosters inclusion, and generates impact—the three pillars that support Penn’s enduring vision for the future of higher education.
The couple’s involvement with the arts reflects Penn’s strong commitment to educating students to engage fully with the world and employ the full breadth of their knowledge on the problems they confront.
The new Brownstein Residency embodies the Center’s Power of Performing Arts Campaign, supporting the creation of innovative work and positioning Penn as a gateway to broader communities. Now, thanks to the Brownsteins’ and other donors’ support, students will have even more opportunities for the performing arts to inspire them, expand their worldview, and challenge conventional wisdom.