Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust (ASMH) continues to build a sense of joy and connection in the iconic 200+ year-old Old City meetinghouse by offering fresh events that explain Quaker history and attract new visitors in engaging ways.
After hosting a successful Meetinghouse by Candlelight fundraising event last weekend, followed by the Tempesta di Mare Baroque Orchestra, several more rich and exciting events are coming in the next two weeks.
Although the ASMH mission is to preserve, operate, and interpret the meetinghouse and grounds, the space also serves as a much-loved venue for weddings and community events that involve a number of Quaker presenters, musicians, and other organizations.
Up next, from December 8th to 12th, Ben Camp and his Team Sunshine Performances will be on site with their vivid, entertaining, and creative magic in the East Room. “Sincerity #4”, the newest installment of their experimental performance series, is running for five shows (don’t miss it!). The much-loved troupe is dedicated to serving as a hub for the imaginative consideration of contemporary American culture and what it means to be a participant in it.
Founded in 2010 by theatre and dance artists Benjamin Camp, Makoto Hirano, and Alex Torra, the company’s works come in the form of (1) ensemble-created performances and (2) interactive, community-gathering social events.
Another exciting performance is on tap for December 18th at 7 PM – Charles Dickens One-Man Show. Local performer Peyton Dixon will present his self-authored short play “Prelude To A Carol” about Dickens’ creation of “A Christmas Carol.”
Behind all the focused energy at ASMH is Sean Connolly, the ASMH Executive Director. Here’s a deeper conversation about what Friends can look forward to at ASMH:
Q. We know ASMH is hosting a lot of new events, both for Quakers but also for the community. Can you talk about that?
Yes, it’s a nice change compared to 2020, when we hosted all of our events virtually. But we are back (in person) and have hosted a lot of events this past year.
We had several fun, community-driven garden events over the Summer, a mural building event that encouraged visitors to answer the prompt “How Will You Change The World”?, along with more traditional historic and Quaker-themed events.
As we have gotten closer to the holidays, we’ve been thrilled to partner with other organizations to make Arch Street Meeting House available for others to use, including for a theatre performance running through December 12th, a baroque concert, and an upcoming one-man show about Charles Dickens. It’s been an exhilarating end to the calendar year with so many various events, but we’re thrilled to be back!
Q. What is your favorite ASMH event so far?
My favorite event so far has been our Meeting House by Candlelight event, which occurred during December’s Old City First Friday celebration. We invited several Quaker schools to perform in the East Room, and we had the West Room lit with lanterns.
It looked really beautiful, and the music provided by local schools was extra special. This event attracted some locals off the street, and I’m personally looking forward to expanding this event in years to come.
What about outside events – who has been presenting or hosting events at Arch street, and what remarkable things have happened?
As for outside events, it’s been great to see so many people out and about on the street and use the grounds to picnic or meet up with friends.
The most interesting outside event we had this year was certainly a guided tour of our burial ground as part of a cemetery conference organized by several Philadelphia-based burial grounds.
Our history as a burial ground is one of my favorite parts of our history, and exploring that legacy with others interested in the macabre was very fun.
Q. A year from now, how do you see ASMH Preservation Trust’s role in growing connections with Quaker history? How can meetings learn from what you are doing?
A year from now, we will have our new outside exhibits installed. I see that as a huge game-changer for the site.
More visitors will be coming to the site and learning about the Quaker faith. My hope is that it will increase interest in Quakerism throughout the tri-state region.
The Preservation Trust prides itself as the number one destination in the world for tourists to learn about Quaker history, so we’re really looking forward to more international travel returning to Philadelphia in the summer of 2022. With that return of international travel, we are so looking forward to educating thousands of visitors about the Quaker faith as visitors explore Philadelphia’s historic district.
In that spirit, I hope that other meetings will look to us as a resource as we spread information about Quakerism and reach out to our museum staff for ideas about how to attach visitors to their own meetings.