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Who’s Next: 16 young Philadelphians shaping the arts scene

From the murals that adorn hundreds of city buildings through the Avenue of the Arts, up regal Broad Street to the small, community theaters in the neighborhoods, Philly’s arts scene is robust. And behind these successes are young people working daily to make this city better.

Take Nicole Allen White, for instance. This 28-year-old works with the city and advocates for adequate funding and cultural-friendly policies here in Philadelphia so she can ensure that inner city kids have access to cultural institutions. Then there’s people like Sebastian Cummings, a Philly-based actor whose work tackles issues like race, gender and sexual identity. And then there’s those like Lindsay Tucker So who aims to promote this city’s vast arts and cultural scene through her work with Creative Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office.

These artists and leaders have been identified with 13 others in this edition of “Who’s Next” as some of the most dynamic people under 40 who are shaping this city.

Before we jump in: We still need your help as we continue featuring some of the city’s young movers and shakers. We have some ideas, but your feedback is essential — please reach out to contact@billypenn.com with “Who’s Next” in the subject line to suggest other topics or nominations you’d like us to consider.

Here’s Who’s Next in shaping Philadelphia’s arts scene:

1. Nicole Allen White

Age: 28

Job: Director of Policy and Community Engagement for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance

Who’s Next Because: Nicole, the Director of Policy and Community Engagement for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, works with agencies at the local, state and federal level to wrangle money and support for Philly’s cultural scene. Included in that are her efforts to make sure inner city youth have access to Philadelphia’s numerous museums and cultural institutions. She also oversees the Alliance’s grassroots advocacy and community engagement program, GroundSwell, and the teen STAMP Program. Nicole is also the co-founder of the Pattison Leader Group and serves on the board of USA 250, along with several other boards including The Spruce Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @NikkiAllen32.

2. Nina “Lyrispect” Ball

Age: 32

Job: Poet, activist, actress and executive producer

Who’s Next Because: Nina Ball, AKA Lyrispect, is one of the faces for Philly’s tourism campaign for making art happen. She’s a passionate teaching artist working with local programs, and has been recognized by the NAACP and the U.S. Coast Guard and was an invited guest of The White House. Nina is also executive producer of the largest open mic in Philadelphia, “The Harvest,” presented by Spoken Soul 215, Buje Concepts and World Cafe Live. In addition, she’s a guest curator for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a director for Black Girls Rock! Inc., a leader with the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement and debuted as an author last year with a collection of poems. Oh, and her social change work is featured on two murals here in Philadelphia through the Mural Arts Program. Follow her on Twitter at @Lyrispect.

3. Kat Buckley

Age: 25

Job: Membership Assistant at the Barnes Foundation

Who’s Next Because: Kat, who works closely with the membership and development teams at the world-renowned Barnes Foundation, is an avid supporter of museums and the arts in Philadelphia. In addition to her work at the Barnes, she’s a founding member of PaperClips215, a digital magazine covering all the artistic happenings in Philadelphia. In addition, she’s a board member and membership chair of the Emerging Arts Leaders: Philadelphia, a membership committee member of the Museum Council of Greater Philadelphia, a Young Friends board member at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and a member of the Association for Public Art. Follow her on Twitter at @katzagaria.

4. Alexander Burns

Age: 33

Job: Founding artistic director of Quintessence Theatre Group

Who’s Next Because: This Philadelphia native founded a classical theater company on a shoestring, and it is now celebrating its fifth year. He’s the founding artistic director of Quintessence Theatre Group based out of Mt. Airy, which is working to build a classic repertory ensemble theatre for Philadelphia. The theater is currently in residence at the Sedgwick Theater in Northwest Philadelphia, and has put on productions include “Hamlet,” “Mourning Becomes Electra,” “The Diary of A Madman,” “Antigone” and “The Wind In The Willows.”

 
5. Sebastian Cummings

Age: 27

Job: Musician and performance artist

Who’s Next Because: Sebastian is a Philly-based musician and performance artist who creates high-concept live shows based around original electronic music, fast-paced choreography, live singing and various technical elements such as voice-over and video projection, as a means to both entertain audiences and to challenge them to explore and question the world. Sebastian produces forward-thinking, relevant and funny live theatre, and his work tackles issues like race, gender and sexual identity — it in many ways draws from his experience as a queer person of color. He’s worked at a number of indie theaters, and now aims to create his own work.

6. Lillian Dunn

Age: 29

Job: Co-founder of APIARY Magazine

Who’s Next Because: Inspired by Philadelphia’s intertwined literary and activist cultural legacies, Lillian co-founded the free biannual APIARY Magazine in 2009 to celebrate Philadelphia writers of all ages, backgrounds and genres. She makes space for people to tell their stories, celebrate their identities, and reflect on their communities in dynamic and interesting ways. Lillian also runs the SPACES Artist in Residence Program at The Village of Arts and Humanities, matching artists from around the U.S. with leaders and makers in North Central Philadelphia to respond to community-identified needs and opportunities through art. Follow her on Twitter at @lillidunn.

7. Liz Green

Age: 32

Job: Audience Engagement Specialist, various

Who’s Next Because: Liz designs audience engagement programs often in underserved communities or through working with people who may not initially define themselves as performers. In 2014, she was part of the producing team for two theater productions that each featured 100 Philadelphians working alongside professional theater artists, including “Henry IV: Your Prince and Mine” with Shakespeare in Clark Park and Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, and “100% Philadelphia” with Rimini Protokoll, presented by FringeArts. She is an Audience Experience Manager with Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, a teaching artist in the Burmese refugee community with Buildabridge, International, the Education Coordinator for the Cultural Data Project and the Magister of Matchmaking for the United States Department of Arts and Culture. (Photo Credit: JJ Tiziou Photography)

8. Erica Hawthorne-Manon

Age: 37

Job: Founder, Small But Mighty Arts

Who’s Next Because: Erica moved to Philly in 2003 to join the performing arts community as a poet, vocalist and actor. She co-founded Spoken Soul 215, a performance collective that curates “The Harvest” open mic, featuring some of Philly’s best emerging artists in music, poetry and performance. In 2012, she founded Small But Mighty Arts, a direct-service organization that provides local artists with micro-grants and connections to career-enhancing resources. She also works with Campus Philly as the program manager for Open Arts, partnering with more than 40 arts and culture organizations to provide college students with opportunities to explore events and venues throughout the city. (Photo Credit: Josh Pelta-Heller). Follow her on Twitter at @sbmartsgrant.

9. Jill Ann Lim (Sybesma)

Age: 33

Job: Manager of Adult and Strategic Programs at the Academy of Natural Sciences

Who’s Next Because: Jill runs programs designed to engage adults aged 18 and older at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University through science and the arts. Between Mega-Bad Movie Night, the Philadelphia Geek Awards and the Overnight for Adults, Jill has taken the Academy’s science and arts game to the next level. She also teaches with a live animal collection of birds, bugs, snakes, skunks and more and is a member of Philly Emerging Museum Professionals, Museum Council of Philadelphia, Philly Museum Educators Round Table and the American Alliance of Museums. She’s passionate about bringing adults together to celebrate science and the arts. Follow her on Twitter at @JillAnnLim.

10. Kathryn MacMillan

Age: 37

Job: Associate Artistic Director of Lantern Theater Company

Who’s Next Because: Kathryn is the associate artistic director of the Lantern Theater Company, a Center City company that serves 20,000 patrons every year. A two-time Barrymore Award nominee, Kathryn directs for the company each season, including “Uncle Vanya,” “Private Lives,” “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” and the recent, acclaimed “Arcadia.” She is a freelance director throughout the area, with upcoming projects at InterAct and Theatre Horizon. Kathryn teaches at UArts and has a particular interest in mentoring early-career women theater artists.

 
11. Adam Mazur

Age: 25

Job: Exhibitions Coordinator, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Who’s Next Because: Adam is currently the Exhibitions Coordinator at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, a mosaicked art environment, gallery and community arts center off of South Street, and the popular Philadelphia destination is open daily to visitors. In addition to providing leadership in exhibitions coordinating at the Magic Gardens, Adam is the Project Manager for the annual “5 into 1” exhibition, co-hosted by the nonprofit Philadelphia Sculptors and the Galleries at Moore College of Art and Design. He’s also a practicing artist who works to promote and inspire community events. Follow him on Twitter at @mazur_art.

12. Matthew Nadu

Age: 28

Job: Actor, producer and host

Who’s Next Because: Originally from Lancaster, Matthew is based in Philadelphia and has worked on film, television and music videos alongside the likes of 50 Cent, Harrison Ford, Maroon 5 and Jimmy Rollins. He’s a former host on CW/ CBS and currently with MyNewPhilly.com. He’s also a co-founder of the Philadelphia-based production company Inkwater Creative. Along with film and commercials, Nadu has worked on several episodes of MTV’s “Guy Code” and “Girl Code,” and appears alongside Corey Parker Robinson (from “The Wire”) in 50 Cent/ Trey Songz’ 2014 music video “Smoke.” Other appearances in his filmography: The Good Wife, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Royal Pains. Follow him on Twitter at @MatthewNadu.

13. Sonia Petruse

Age: 28

Job: Co-founder of PaperClips215, artist, exhibition staff at Freeman’s Auctions

Who’s Next Because: A long-time resident of Philadelphia, Sonia was attending and recording happenings in the art community via social media and felt inspired to co-found PaperClips215, a creative culture resource highlighting art events in Philly. Her goal is to help promote artists and creative venues in Philadelphia whose voices deserve to be amplified. With roots as a painter and printmaker, she explores different outlets and mediums, including installation, performance and street art. In 2013, Sonia teamed up on a Geek Award-winning project #BrailleStreetArt. Now, she’s working as exhibition staff at Freeman’s Auction in Center City, while keeping up a small studio practice, creating various bodies of work including watercolors, installations of sentimental ephemera/ specimens and street art stickers. Follow her on Twitter at @SoniaPetruse.

14. Lindsay Tucker So 

Age: 29

Job: Research and Policy Associate for Creative Philadelphia

Who’s Next Because: As a native Philadelphian, Lindsay Tucker So is the Research and Policy Associate for Creative Philadelphia – the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. Her responsibilities include policy and research initiatives and publications that support and promote arts, culture and the creative industries as essential components of Philadelphia’s economic and social fabric. She manages additional projects developed by Creative Philadelphia or the Mayor’s Office including the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate programs, in addition to CultureBlocks, the city’s free online mapping tool that visualizes the city’s cultural assets and activity. She’s also a member and current co-chair of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council. Follow her on Twitter at @lindsaytso.

15. Amy Scheidegger

Age: 31

Job: Founder at Artistic Rebuttal Project

Who’s Next Because: Amy is an active advocate for artists and the arts in Philadelphia, whether it’s through her organization The Artistic Rebuttal Project, in her classroom or while presenting her artistic work. The Artistic Rebuttal Project, created in 2011, is a collection of books and publications that serve as an outlet for people to share their arts experiences and advocate on behalf of creative careers, artists’ rights, arts access and art education. The project has given Amy the platform to better advocate for the necessity of the arts in communities. She’s also currently an adjunct in the Drexel University Arts and Entertainment Management program teaching strategic planning and marketing. Follow her on Twitter at @amyameshydiggs.

16. Eric Smith

Age: 32

Job: Co-founder of Geekadelphia, literary agent, author

Who’s Next Because: Eric Smith is an author, blogger and literary agent living in Philadelphia. He’s an associate literary agent with P.S. Literary Agency, as well as the author of humor and young adult books, The Geek’s Guide to Dating and Inked. In addition, Eric blogs for a number of sites and is the co-founder of Geekadelphia and the Philadelphia Geek Awards, a yearly ceremony held at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Eric has been a change agent in the Philadelphia writing, literary, arts and tech communities for several years. Follow him on Twitter at @ericsmithrocks.

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