Like our history, a house in progress

George Washington kept at least nine slaves on Fifth and Market streets while he was president. In 2007, after years of debate, Philadelphia and the National Park Service finally decided to include this inconvenient truth in the President’s House Museum, which is still under construction.

But while the archeologists, architects, contractors and politicians continue to tussle, three local artists are working to create a more visceral discussion about this historical site. Commissioned by the Pew’s Dance Advance fund and the Philadelphia Folklore Project, “Riffing on the President’s House” is, like the President’s House itself, still a work in progress.

Local avant jazz guru Bobby Zankel, photographer John Dowell and dancer Germaine Ingram first met up in July 2008 to discuss the project. Since then they’ve been attacking the historical material from different angles, and this weekend will blend their artistic discoveries in a rough draft performance at the African American Museum of Philadelphia. “We’re trying to hear from audiences,” says Ingram. “What is it about the President’s House that matters to them? Why does it matter?

Their answers to those questions will help inform us of how to approach this work.”

‘Riffing on the President’s House’
Friday, 3-5 p.m.
African American Museum of Philadelphia, 701 Arch St.
Free, 215-726-1106

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