Can art and spirituality build a bridge between communities?  That is what members of Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting (CHFM) and local business leaders hope a new meetinghouse will do.  A James Turrell Skyspace will be the the focal point of the project, which will feature a chamber containing simple seating, lighting and an aperture in the ceiling. It will open to the sky overhead and is aimed at inducing deep, silent reflection.

CHFM held a community reception Thursday evening on the grounds of the Cliveden Historic Trust to promote awareness of the new meetinghouse and to raise funds.  CHFM has raised most of their three million dollar capital campaign, but still needs $200,000 for the project.  The cocktail reception was sponsored by Weaver's Way Co-op, Valley Green Bank and Elfant Wissahickon Realtors.

 

Major sponsors plan to match donations

The three local sponsors promised to match "dollar for dollar" any donations raised that night, Bob Elfant, President of Elfant Wissahickon Realtors announced and added, "We have a real stake in this."

Each of the sponsors agreed that their support behind the meetinghouse project stems from a desire to foster greater connection between Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods.  "What we cherish as a community is this sense of 'bringing us together'," stated Stu Katz, At-Large Director of Weavers Way.

Bob Elfant, noted that he is not typically interested in arts and culture, yet he is excited about a Turrell Skyspace being in the neighborhood.  "I'm pumped about this!" he exclaimed.

 

Enthusiasm building for Turrell Skyspace

Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass was among the many community leaders present. Attendees enjoyed libations and conversation in the Cliveden Carriage House and then took in a slideshow presentation about world renown artist James Turrell in the Benjamin Chew House. Local resident Jordan Bastien, former director of the Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York, remarked that as far as artistic prominence goes, James Turrell "is as big as it gets."

The new meetinghouse will be open year round to visitors and neighborhood organizations, such as the Mt. Airy Learning Tree, who may wish to utilize the space.  The project utilizes sustainable design in accordance with CHFM's mission to serve as an ecological conservation steward for the area.  "We want this to be a knitting together" of the Wissahickon Valley Park neighborhoods said CHFM Fundraising Co-Chair, Signe Wilkinson.

The new meetinghouse is anticipated to break ground in the spring.