The Mann will mount its fourth consecutive festival this Spring titled New Frontiers: Launch, Explore, Discover. The festival, which was announced today during a Black History Month celebration, will feature an inspiring collection of original, artistic programming linking the arts and sciences. New Frontiers is a six-month festival inspired by the 75th birthday of Colonel Guion Stewart Bluford, Jr., pioneering NASA astronaut, Philadelphia native and the first African American in space. “Presenting curatorial festivals has become central to the Mann’s strategic vision as we work to reflect our commitment to artistic excellence, collaboration and community focus through unprecedented programming,” said Catherine M. Cahill, president and CEO of the Mann. “This year’s festival presents an opportunity to not only join with many of our longstanding partners, but also to join with new partners of art and science to present exciting new programming that takes the Mann beyond our walls and into the community.”

Through a series of arts initiatives, signature performances and educational projects, audiences of all ages will be encouraged to learn about Bluford’s legacy, to take a greater interest in space exploration and its core subjects of math and science, and to embody in their everyday lives the daring ambition to launch, explore and discover. New Frontiers is presented by the Mann in partnership with NEWorks Productions. “Colonel Bluford is an American hero and NEWorks Productions is thrilled to extend our partnership with the Mann to develop this festival in his honor. His life embodies the true spirit of daring achievement. We have curated this festival with a range of programming that will undoubtedly inspire audiences of all ages to launch, explore and discover,” said Nolan Williams, Jr., the Mann’s festival artistic director.

Bluford, whose career serves as an important backdrop for the festival, is an American aerospace engineer, retired U.S. Air Force officer and former NASA astronaut. He launched his career as a NASA astronaut in 1979 and, just four years later, became the first African American in space, participating in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010. On Nov. 22, he will celebrate his 75th birthday.

The festival events, which aim to inspire others through Bluford’s pioneering spirit, include in-school participatory workshops and performances, a stargazing event in collaboration with the Philadelphia Science Festival presented by The Franklin Institute, newly commissioned works and a Mann main stage concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

During the main stage concert entitled The Heavens are Telling (July 25), Bluford will be in attendance and will be honored for his spirit of discovery and his important contributions to history. The festival will culminate with Super Solar Saturday (Aug. 19), a free community day at the Mann featuring family fun and entertainment and a free movie screening of Hidden Figures. Several of the events will be free and open to the public. The Mann’s 2017 community festival is under the direction of the Mann’s festival artistic director, Nolan Williams, Jr., one of the country’s foremost producers of inspirational arts programming, and Rhoda Blount, vice president of education and community engagement for the Mann. Williams’ work has been performed at the White House, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and by the National Symphony Orchestra.

Unique Partnerships

The festival is presented by the Mann Center for the Performing in partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Franklin Institute, the Free Library of Philadelphia and NEWorks Productions. Festival program partners include the African American Museum of Philadelphia and Clef Club of Philadelphia. In addition, KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy, Global Leadership Academy, Gesu School and Our Mother of Sorrows/Saint Ignatius of Loyola will serve as festival partner schools. The festival is supported by Bank of America, Cigna, Independence Blue Cross, Merck, Pitcairn, The Presser Foundation, PWC, Republic Bank, TD Bank, USLI, Universal Health Services and Wells Fargo. Festival support was also provided by the Lenfest Foundation.

For a full schedule of events and programs go to



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