On Sunday mornings, when most people are sleeping in, dancer-choreographer Germaine Ingram is working on her most recent project at the Community Education Center on 35th St. and Lancaster Avenue. This facility has served as a cornerstone for not only the dance community but all performing arts in Philadelphia as well.
Ingram likes the CEC studios because of the variety and availability of the spaces. Additionally, Ingram applauds the way the management has embraced the dance community.
Theresa Shockley, the CEC director, was a dancer herself and is deeply invested in seeing that the facility remains a major resource for dancers.
The CEC has been vital in building upon Ingram’s project that has been five years in the making.
“The impulse for the project is the story of the enslaved Africans who worked for George and Marsha Washington in the President’s House at 6th and Market,” Ingram said. The Independence National Park in Center City Philadelphia opened a President’s House exhibit outside of the Liberty Bell almost two years ago.
What initially began as a dance piece for Ingram has grown into a collaboration with a musician-composer and visual artist. Her piece is a converging of different forms of art under one roof.
Ingram said she wants to inform her audience on what she called a “story of the juxtaposition of the practice of slavery with that site being a symbol of a new nation purportedly founded on freedom and democracy.”
Ingram performed a preview of her project last June but she admits that the project may never come to a full stop.
“There is so much richness here and in some ways I think we limit ourselves by thinking that we have to wait until we have funding to start a project and it starts and it ends with a premiere.”
However, Ingram plans to show a revised work from her President’s House project on October 21 as well as hold a humanities panel to discuss the modern perception of slavery on Nov. 4. Both events will be held at The Painted Bride Gallery on 3rd and Vine streets in Old City.
Ingram intends to continue finessing her visions on the well-loved floors of the CEC’s studios. “It’s been around so long that it’s sometimes easy to forget how it’s been a constant struggle to keep CEC opened and operating.”
With a small staff and a high volume of maintenance for such a large space this community center always faces fierce financial restraints. The CEC staff hardly makes enough to maintain the amount of effort and energy they put into keeping the space accessible to the large arts community in Powelton Village.
Among countless artists who have been fostered by CEC, Ingram firmly believes its important for the Drexel community and the Powelton Village community to both know what an important asset CEC is and the danger lurking that this could be lost as a resource.
“The whole city needs to know that as well,” Ingram said.