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Following the Year of Food and the Year of Evolution, the 2009-2010 Arts and the City Year has been “extraordinarily successful in realizing its ambitions,” according to a statement from Provost Vincent Price.

The goals of the theme year were to “increase the vitality and visibility of the arts at Penn,” “forge stronger bonds” with Philadelphia’s arts and culture groups and to integrate the arts into several diverse disciplines — such as public health, anthropology and urban planning, Price said.

The theme year featured seminars, exhibits and cultural events, including the Penn Reading Project that encouraged freshman to view and discuss Thomas Eakins’ “Gross Clinic.” The project saw high levels of participation, according to the Provost’s office.

The Penn Institute for Urban Programs, which held two arts-related seminars this year and will be hosting another on May 27, “generally attracts more graduate students,” Associate Director Amy Montgomery said. However, since the topic of art is also relevant to undergraduates, there were several undergraduate students in the audience for this year’s seminars.

“It was exciting for us to see that we had a tapped a subject that was of particular interest to undergrads,” Montgomery said. In addition to integrating undergraduate students, she explained that interested members of the Philadelphia community also attended.

Penn’s partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance during the theme year has produced PennSavers, a weekly e-mail notification about Penn and Philadelphia cultural events, along with discounted tickets. PennSavers has attracted over 1,000 subscribers, according to the Provost’s office.

The Arts at Homecoming weekend — which featured a film festival and other cultural events — saw a 60-percent increase in program attendance.

Exhibits at the Arthur Ross Gallery drew attendees from Penn and West Philadelphia, including one featuring a partnership between the Penn Archives and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to “engage the West Philadelphia community,” according to gallery director Lynn Marsden-Atlass. The gallery also held a family day — such as those frequently hosted by the Penn Museum — which “was not as successful as we’d hoped,” but the goal of increasing the audience for Penn’s “rich” art and culture was ultimately successful.

Price hopes to see the “same high level of energy” in 2010-2011’s Year of Water theme year, which will “focus campus attention on critical global issues of sustainability and resource management.”

The Institute for Urban Programs’ seminars were financed through the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Seminar fund. If renewed, PIUP hopes to host three similar seminars for the next theme year, paying particular attention to water innovations in Philadelphia as well as cities in the “global south” — cities in developing regions such as parts of Asia.

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