Mission and History
The Mann Center—situated in historic Fairmount Park—seeks to advance its position as one of the nation’s leading outdoor summer performing arts festivals by:
- Creating a broad spectrum of high quality, compelling, accessible and fun, communal entertainment experiences in its acclaimed multi-stage campus.
- Providing leadership in arts education, through innovative and high impact collaborative educational activities for young people throughout the Philadelphia region.
- Being a deeply valued civic asset to everyone in the Philadelphia region and a responsible community stakeholder in West Philadelphia and our immediate neighborhoods.
The Mann Center has served for many decades as the City of Philadelphia’s premier outdoor summer performing arts festival, presenting a wide array of cultural programming and popular events that has created a lifetime of memories for generations of Philadelphians. As it prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2016 at its 20 acre home in West Fairmount Park, the Mann is poised to launch an exciting, creative and comprehensive plan for the future that will position it with all Philadelphia residents and visitors alike as the Delaware Valley’s town square—the “go to” place for consistently high quality, compelling, accessible and fun, communal entertainment events, as well as powerful educational experiences.
The Mann fully embraces and welcomes the expectations of 21st century audiences, who are seeking more than a passive listening experience, no matter how good the music. They want participatory, new engaging experiences, with video screen close ups of the performers and an opportunity to share their reactions to the performance in real time through interactive social media. They want to escape from their daily pressures and socialize with friends or family around an entertainment event, in a relaxed, informal, festive environment, with good food and drink. They gravitate to venues with state-of-the-art amenities and unparalleled customer service. And, they have varied, eclectic musical tastes that are less “siloed” in terms of genre than previous generations, with many of them being as passionate about an emotionally compelling orchestral score and 60’s retro tour, as they are for the latest hot indie band.
The Mann—with its upgraded multi-stage facilities in a natural park setting and a breathtaking skyline view—has a unique opportunity to meet the expectations of these 21st century audiences. By taking on a more assertive role as an initiator of innovative programming, events and themed festivals, the Mann will become recognized by all in the Philadelphia region as a trusted curator of “must see” performance experiences.
This strategy will make the Mann’s dynamic events appeal to the widest range of music lovers, including the group of young audiences and donors coveted by many traditional arts and culture organizations in the Philadelphia region. Building patron loyalty with this younger demographic, along with a passionate commitment to serving its community, will enable the Mann to make the philanthropic case to individuals, corporations, foundations and government leaders that the Mann’s future is unquestionably bright and that an investment in that future will yield a meaningful return to many future generations.
The Mann is committed to fostering long-standing relationships with its audience, artists, donors, board and staff, volunteers, community and business partners, and other internal and external stakeholders that are based on the following core values:
- Power of the arts to inspire
- Integrity and trust
- Welcoming, accessible and affordable
- Informal, relaxed, fun, casual experiences
- Financial viability and shared responsibility
- Service to community
- Unique and attractive natural surroundings
- Well maintained facilities
- Environmental stewardship
The Mann Center for the Performing Arts was founded in 1935 under the name Robin Hood Dell Concerts, as the summer venue for the concert presentations of the world famous Philadelphia Orchestra (known from 1935-1976 as The Robin Hood Dell Orchestra in the summer). The Center moved into its present outdoor facility in 1976, and subsequently was designated the Mann Music Center in honor of Frederic R. Mann, a Philadelphia businessman who supported the cause of summer musical performances in Fairmount Park. In 1998, the facility was renamed to “The Mann Center for the Performing Arts” to reflect the Center’s plans to broaden its programming and service to the overall community.
The West Fairmount Park theater has the capacity of 14,000 patrons, including 4,500 under cover. The Mann serves more than 180,000 patrons annually, presenting diverse musical genres including classical, pops, jazz, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, indie, and country. The Mann has always focused on bringing world-class artists and touring companies to the community. This history includes such landmark performances as the Philadelphia premieres of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Kirov Ballet, CATS, The Metropolitan Opera, Riverdance, American Ballet Theatre with featured artist Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sarah Brightman, the North American conducting debut of Zubin Mehta, the international debut of violin prodigy, Midori, world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and in the summer of 2005, the Philadelphia premiere of the Bolshoi Ballet and Orchestra’s production of Spartacus.
The Mann is one of the region's leading cultural and civic assets—presenting a world-class performing arts series that reflects the diversity of this region, providing broad access to and an educational context for its presentations, and serving as a community anchor for its surrounding neighborhood and the City. The Mann has one of the largest free educational programs of any outdoor presenter in the country. Started in 1997 to serve disadvantaged children in West Philadelphia, from across the City, and throughout the surrounding counties, the Mann’s education programs expanded in 2007 when the Field Education Center was built as part of a $15 million capital campaign to renovate the facility. Today, the Mann’s education programs serve 50,000 people annually through young people’s concerts, in-school presentations, workshops, and master classes.
Under the leadership of Catherine M. Cahill, who joined The Mann as President & CEO in 2008, the Mann has developed a new artistic/business model in partnership with Evans Mirageas, consultant to classical organizations world-wide; Princeton Entertainment, internationally-known producer with high-profile popular artist relationships; and AEG-Live, internationally-recognized music promoter has served to bring exciting programming to The Mann, e.g. Orchestra with Idina Menzel, BBC film ‘Planet Earth’, Aretha Franklin/ Condoleezza Rice; and alternative music with the highly-rated Arcade Fire. These partnerships resulted in a 38% increase in overall attendance for The Mann in 2010 vs. 2009, and an average classical attendance doubled that for other classical concerts, i.e. 5,000 vs. 2,500. In 2010 and 2011, the Mann was nominated by Pollstar, the concert industry’s leading trade publication, as "Best Major Outdoor Concert Venue” in North America.
Most recently, at the end of the 2013 season, the Mann raised $13.76 million as part of the Campaign for the Future, completing the second phase of a major capital improvement plan in which both expanding and improving the overall patron experience was central.
A key initiative of the Campaign for the Future was the introduction of the Skyline Stage--a provisional, flexible stage at the top of the hill with unparalleled views of the Philadelphia skyline. During the 2013 season, the Skyline Stage hosted seven major performances drawing audiences of up to 7,000. Located on a newly annexed 3.5 acres of lawn, this stage enables the Mann to offer shows on multiple stages; attract artists who prefer scalable, open-air venues to a large, fixed-seat house; expand the number of concerts we present; and appeal to a younger audience. Facility improvements completed for the summer 2013 season included; expansion of the terrace and lawn seating areas, renovations to the top of the hill promenade, construction of a new top of the hill entrance, and drop off, and upgrades to the visual and lighting systems.