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Just like so many other events and traditions, Homecoming at Penn will look different for 2020. But even with an empty campus and no football game, there’s still a packed schedule of virtual arts-oriented programming on tap from Nov. 9-14.

In fact, hosting “Homecoming at Home” actually opened up some new opportunities this year, according to Sheila Raman, the director of development for arts and culture at Penn who has curated Arts at Homecoming since it began in 2008. She says that going virtual has allowed the festivities to stretch to a full five days and, with that extended timeline, made it easier to limit overlapping events.

Then there’s the programming itself, including new pre-recorded, watch-when-you-please sessions in addition to live virtual broadcasts. Raman says the pre-recorded fare will include David Brownlee’s ever-popular tour of Penn’s architectural gems, filmed during his final time offering it. “That tour would always sell out the first week—I’d have to keep a waiting list,” she remembers. “Now anyone can just click on the link and watch it.”

Virtual Homecoming will also allow the annual Gallery Hop—typically constrained by both head count and time—to bounce between four cultural institutions at Penn in real-time, no walking required. (Raman notes that it also won’t be held during the usual slot of post-game Saturday afternoon. Instead, you can tune in Monday, Nov. 9 from 4-5 p.m.)

Raman says she’s thrilled by the Gallery Hop’s lineup this year: starting with a presentation on contemporary artists who work with recycled or repurposed materials at the Arthur Ross Gallery, then beaming over to the Architectural Archives for a look at the architecture and design of George Nakashima and others, continuing on to Penn Libraries to hear about the works of artist/writer/storyteller/children’s book creator Ashley Bryan, and concluding at the Institute of Contemporary Art for a presentation on the solo exhibition of jazz musician/interdisciplinary artist Milford Graves.

Mixed media collage by Milford Graves, 1994, photo courtesy of the artist 
Shofuso & Modernism, photo by Elizabeth Felicella, 2020

Other live virtual arts events include the Arts at Homecoming Annual Launch Party, which starts at 12 p.m. on Nov. 9, and “The Botany of Design” at 4 p.m. on Nov. 11, in which Morris Arboretum’s new director Bill Cullina will unpack the secrets of strong garden design.

Also on Nov. 11, Jill Krutick W’84 will discuss her transition from finance professional to full-time artist, present some of her work, and explain how she’s adapted her business in the face of coronavirus closings.

Among the lineup for Friday, Nov. 13 is “Tales from the Crypt” at 4 p.m. The head of Penn Dental’s library and its vice dean will offer a deep-dive into the Thomas W. Evans collection housed there—including the 19th-century carriage that sits in the school’s lobby.

Jean Baptiste Labourdette, Carriage, ca. 1860

That evening at 8 p.m. will mark the third annual “Paint the Dancefloor” party at ICA, and its first time going virtual. The celebration will feature an interactive DJ set on Twitch, inspired by the Milford Graves exhibition—with BYO at-home dancing and cocktails.

The Homecoming masterminds even found a way to take the annual Alumni Arts Fair virtual. Instead of sprawling down Locust Walk, this year you’ll find it all online.

Raman says she’s looking forward to seeing how “Homecoming at Home” unfolds, and whether more alumni are able to participate than usual with no travel required.

“The whole weekend is free, by the way,” she adds, “and this is really quality material. Penn is your intellectual home forever—a place to go to be fed intellectually. You’re not going to find this on TV.”

—Molly Petrilla C’06

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