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The Archdedream for Humankind is an arcehtypal black light dance theater company. They performed a short piece during the Birthday Gala. Credit: Melanie Lei

From a live silk screening to a rap about a “master penis,” the Rotunda celebrated its 10th birthday with extravagant performances and art exhibitions from members of the West Philadelphia community.

On Saturday, the Rotunda hosted a gala to recognize its 10 years on 4014 Walnut St. The organization, founded in 1999 by Penn undergraduates, is a community-based center that allows local artists and performers to showcase their work. According to the Rotunda’s website, the center hosts over 300 events annually, and operates on the “belief that art is a catalyst for social change.”

Saturday’s birthday gala brought in an eclectic array of local performers, including black-light theatre dance troupe ArcheDream for Humankind, Brazilian folk group Old Goats, rock band The Notekillers and a variety of spoken-word poets. In addition to the performances, there was a silent art auction of pieces by local artists, a raffle and a buffet of samosas and Allegro pizza.

Among the gala’s performers was Djo Fortunato, a local artist who has performed at the Rotunda on many occasions. Fortunato commented on the uniqueness of the Rotunda, noticing the rare way it fosters an “interaction between a university and the community in which it lives.”

Over the past 10 years, the Rotunda has proved a valuable asset in promoting greater community cohesion. Khenti, a West Philadelphian, commended the Rotunda for “bringing the community together through the power of music and art” and letting people know that “it’s all about the little guy, the local guy — the musicians and artists who are just starting out.”

In the past, the Rotunda has served as a launching pad for several local artists and musicians.

Gina Renzi, executive director of the Rotunda, was integral in organizing the night’s events, and commented that “the events we put on are really motivated by the people who live in the neighborhood.” Part-time assistant Jason Neugent shared his fervor for the organization, which has exposed him to “people giving a part of their heart” on stage to the community.

The evening culminated with birthday cake and the singing of “Happy Birthday” to the Rotunda.

Rashida Holmes, a volunteer and former board member at the Rotunda, expressed excitement about the opportunity to “celebrate the Rotunda, which has been going strong for 10 years” and hopes to continue this cultural hub “for at least 10 more.”

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