The team that spearheaded the Temple-based performing arts event are injecting some community activism into the show. PhilaLive takes place Feb. 4 in the Underground at 8 p.m. for a $7 cover.
Ariana Santiago has built her life around the performing arts and community service, and she’ll be melding the two together live on stage during this semester’s comeback of her brainchild event, PhilaLive.
After a semester’s break of events that began as biweekly in February 2008 and have since trickled down to semesterly, Santiago and her partner Dominique Wilkins will reintroduce the performing arts event to Main Campus with a twist – a new theme of community activism.
“Now that we’re seniors, it’s just a lot to be trying to keep up,” said Santiago, a broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media major. “This semester, our focus is ‘Giving Back to the Future.’”
Aside from spearheading PhilaLive, Santiago, the event’s creative director, and Wilkins, the business manager, are both making individual footprints in the Temple and Philadelphia community.
Santiago volunteers her time North Philadelphia-based nonprofits such as the Village of Arts and Humanities, as well as Neighborhood Bike Works. She also serves as artistic director of Babel, Temple’s poetry performance group, which will also be PhilaLive’s featured artist in the upcoming Feb. 4 event.
She said her interests in theater, poetry and performance have roots in Atlanta, where she grew up.
“I’ve always done community service. That’s just the way I was raised,” Santiago said. “When I came to Temple, I still wanted to volunteer. I took a class with [former Temple professor] Eugene Martin called ‘Experimental Learning,’ in which we got to help students put on movies and documentaries at the Village of Arts and Humanities. Once I got to be part of the community, I just couldn’t leave.”
Santiago said her positive experiences with the Village were enough to make her want to inspire more Temple students to get involved in the causes of their choices.
“We just want to provide the students and the young professionals who come to the event the opportunity to give back,” she said. “Some students come to Temple and don’t know anything about the surrounding area. The most we can do is put the information in their hands, and it’s up to them to make the decision to follow through.”
Wilkins, a senior sports management major, has also dabbled in community service as well as event promoting. As a freshman, he co-founded Konnoissuer Creative Group, a marketing, management and media company.
“My partner [senior sociology major Nosakhere Khalid] and I started out as party promoters, and we had a couple of successful parties, but the party scene became saturated and kind of corny,” Wilkins said. “We wanted to find a way to differentiate ourselves. When we met Ariana, who was thinking of creating the same kind of performance event, we just vibed.”
“Once Dominque and Ariana linked up, we all began to have discussions about alternative events, and we wanted to create an event that promoted purely the art,” Khalid said.
Wilkins said, as a business owner, he learned how difficult it was to find volunteers and interns, so in Summer 2009, he decided to volunteer at Blues Babe Foundation, an organization founded by Jill Scott.
“PhilaLive usually attracts [as many as] 250 attendees, so we figured that was the perfect pool of people to attract as volunteers,” Wilkins said.
Along with the numerous nonprofit organizations that will set up shop in Temple’s Underground, where PhilaLive will be held, the ‘Giving Back to the Future’ event will feature what the two-year-old event is so well-known for: performing art.
In addition to the featured artists, Babel, PhilaLive will also feature numerous to-be-determined guest artists and an open mic, an asset to the event that Wilkins said thrives in its new venue.
“Patterson’s Palace, [where the event was previously held], tried to squeeze us out with their prices, but it actually ended up being a blessing in disguise,” Wilkins said.
Santiago said students should know there will be as many as 10 open spaces, so students should arrive to sign up for the open mic promptly at 7 p.m.
As Santiago and Wilkins are both seniors, the future of PhilaLive after the Spring 2010 semester is uncertain, but Santiago said she thinks regardless, the team has made its mark in both Philadelphia and Temple communities.
“The point of PhilaLive at the beginning was to provide an alternative opportunity for students and artists, and I think that’s what we’ve done,” she said. “But still, we don’t want to let it go.”
In the past, the event has featured acts ranging from live painting to sneaker designers and live bands to mini fashion shows, but Santiago said the heart of this upcoming event will be in the underlying message of community activism.
“So many students spend three hours on Facebook, when we could have been teaching a kindergartner how to write,” Santiago said. “To [Wilkins] and I, it’s just important that when PhilaLive is over, we know we’ve done everything we can.”
Maria Zankey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.