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South Street Renaissance

Produced by Karen Smyles

March 2011

This month's segment of Art of Life tells the story of how a group of young artists and entrepreneurs turned a once decaying section of Philadelphia into one of the coolest places in town. They arrived to South Street around 1970 and found mostly the remnants of the immigrant businesses that once kept the neighborhood bustling. The realestate was cheap and they were poor, so they immediately moved in and began renovating. They opened galleries, restaurants and theaters, many of which are still around today.

In October 2010 they gathered on South Street for a 40th reunion. Almost all of the original group attended with several traveling from across the country. The event took place over three days and included performances, parades, and lots of partying. Friday Arts was there for it all and hopefully captured the incredible spirit that was clearly experienced by all.

In 1972 Suzanne and Eric Sennhenn were looking for a place to call home and they found South Street. Immediately attracted to the warmth of the residents and the creative feeling of the community, they stayed there with their three children until 1995. Eric is a camera man at WHYY and Suzanne is a professional photographer. So, Eric was more than happy to be our shooter for this event and also provided the archival video seen in the segment. Suzanne documented the entire event through photography and provided the wonderful images used on this page.

A South Street Renaissance highlight!
Back in the old days parades down South Street were common and spontaneous and artist Isaiah Zagar was known to occasionally get the urge to streak. Not wanting to disappoint, he did it again at the 40th!