Twenty years ago, Philadelphia was a much different city. Instead of happy hour crowds flooding pop-up beer gardens, Center City was all but desolate after rush hour. While there was certainly a rich arts scene, it was largely an in-the-know, locals-only affair, all but swallowed up in the shadow of New York.
But the tides were turning. Then-Mayor Ed Rendell and his wife, Judge Marjorie Rendell, spearheaded a successful campaign to transform what was once a forgotten stretch of Broad Street into the Avenue of the Arts. At the same time, the Roots were quietly changing the face of hip-hop—and with it, the hometown they didn’t forget as they went from local legends to household names.
Tonight, the Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia will honor Rendell and Roots frontman Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter for their contributions to the city.
“Tariq isn’t just from here—he’s still very much a part of Philadelphia as he continues to give back,” says Karin Copeland, executive director of the Council, citing Trotter’s support of the Mural Arts Program and his alma mater, the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. “And Ed Rendell was just amazing. He was the one that started Philadelphia on this path– he really focused on making Center City a place that you want to live and work and visit.”
This evening’s ceremony at the Art Museum will host more than 600 guests, including Mayor Jim Kenney, and will also honor business, legal, technology and creative professionals working to make Philly a cultural destination. “The creative economy is the new economy, and we’re trying to attract more and more people to come to Philadelphia,” says Copeland. “There are amazing people doing amazing work here, and along with them, we want to ensure that the world sees us as a global creative capital.”
Rendell spoke eloquently of Philadelphia’s arts scene. “From the Kimmel to the Fringe, Philadelphia’s cultural assets have become a tremendous motivator for businesses, baby boomers and now young people to come back to the city in droves,” he said in an Arts + Business Council press release.
Black Thought echoed his sentiments while nodding to the city’s role in his success. “The work ethic I got from growing up in Philly is something I've carried with me throughout my life. If you can make it in Philly, you can make it anywhere. Infinite love and respect to the city that helped make me the man and artist I am today,” he said in the release.