Today, International House Philadelphia announced plans to sell its building and property at 3701 Chestnut Street and set a new course for the organization (read the full announcement here). With Lightbox Film Center’s history of operating as a public program of IHP, we want to share more about these changes with the Lightbox community and the impact that they will have on the program moving forward.
IHP has a proud legacy as a pioneering nonprofit that has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of international students and scholars who have come to Philadelphia to advance their studies. It has expanded the perspectives of an even greater number of local residents through programming, celebrating a range of global cultures and artforms, including film. But in recent years, IHP has been forced to reexamine its role as a hub for international students and cultural programming in a changing Philadelphia.
When IHP was founded over a century ago, housing market discrimination against foreign-born students was the norm in Philadelphia, along with concerns about safety and social isolation. Thankfully – and due in no small part to the cumulative impact of this institution – that is not the environment in which we live today. Area universities are now providing supports and community-building services to welcome international students like never before.
And when we began providing international cultural programming decades ago for the broader Philadelphia community through events such as our Lunar New Year celebrations and global galas, we were in many ways the only game in town. Philadelphia simply didn’t have as many windows onto the broader world compared to today’s more global city.
The good news is that these broader trends – becoming a more welcoming community for international students and for cultural exchange – are exactly the kinds of changes that IHP set out to make from its founding. However, it has become increasingly difficult for IHP to continue to provide student housing and cultural programs in a Philadelphia where both are now in ample supply, contributing to operating deficits that, along with substantial deferred maintenance on the building, have put the organization at financial risk.
These challenging conditions set the stage for the decision to sell the property and start a new chapter for IHP. As we pursue these changes, Lightbox Film Center will continue to present a full slate of screenings through the remainder of 2019, including the Shimmering Synths series in July, an Abbas Kiarostami retrospective in September, and culminating with Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller film series and exhibition October through December.
We are working aggressively to ensure that Lightbox’s unique mix of repertory, nonfiction, experimental, and international cinema programming continues well past the exciting 2019 that we have planned. We are in active conversations with arts organizations to provide a new home for Lightbox to ensure its sustainability moving forward and will have more to share about the program’s future in the coming months.
We deeply appreciate your support of Lightbox Film Center and your understanding as we navigate this difficult but necessary transition period for IHP. If you have any questions or concerns regarding these upcoming changes, please do not hesitate to reach out to Lightbox Managing Director Sarah Christy at 215-895-6539 or email@example.com.
Lightbox Film Center
Ludo Scheffer, PhD
IHP Board of Trustees