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Men of the Moment: 5 Men Shaping the Future of Philly Right Now

By Antonia DePace, Kristin Detterline and Sarah Jordan | April 12, 2018 | People Feature

Meet five forward-thinking names who are shaping the future of Philadelphia.


WHAT’S NOW A new exhibit collaboration with the African American Museum and PEW Charitable Trusts
WHAT’S NEXT Readying a project with the Mural Arts Program


Long before Danny Simmons was an abstract expressionist painter, he was a social worker in New York City. Simmons found a way to combine those two passions with Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, the nonprofit he founded in New York in 1995 and expanded to Philadelphia in 2016. Simmons, who has a working relationship and partnership with the Barnes Foundation and serves as a collection committee member for PAFA, provides inner-city youth and adults with major access to the arts through seasonal outreach programs like acting classes and art lessons. Now at home in Northern Liberties, Simmons is an avid collector of African art and comic books (think Spiderman No. 1). He’s currently working on a collaboration with the African American Museum in Philadelphia and PEW Charitable Trusts that will host the works of two artists, and a personal project to paint a mural along Old York Road in conjunction with the Mural Arts Program. Says Simmons, “I want Rush Arts to be known for finding great, new, emerging artists and really engaging communities.”


WHAT’S NOW Meeting with students across Pennsylvania to talk about gun control reform
WHAT’S NEXT A run for re-election in November


A self-described history buff, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey doesn’t have to go far to see America’s most important landmarks. “I may be the only one in Philadelphia who likes the old Senate Chamber in Congress Hall,” laughs Casey, who has held his seat since 2007 and is the son of former Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey. “That room is where my predecessors met.” Casey makes another run for re-election in November, with hotbutton issues like healthcare, gun control and the opioid epidemic more urgent than ever. The father to four daughters and a lifelong resident of Scranton, he remains unwavering in his commitment to children’s causes. “I have four guiding principles: We have to protect our kids, make sure they have enough to eat, opportunities to learn and healthcare. If we did those four things, well, we would be doing not only what was expected of the country at large, but we’d have a stronger economy and a stronger nation.”


WHAT’S NOW Unveiling the new Middle East Galleries
WHAT’S NEXT Completing the Penn Museum’s $21 million transformation


Julian Siggers, the winningly English director of the Penn Museum, grew up about 10 miles from Stonehenge—an area rich in archaeological history. So it’s no surprise Siggers fell in love with archaeology at age 13 when his schoolmaster allowed him to dig on an active site. Now 53 and having come to Philly in 2012 by way of the Royal Ontario Museum and London’s National Museum of Science and Industry, Siggers is leading the world-class institution through a massive multiyear transformation. The $21 million first phase is planned to debut in fall 2019. In the meantime, the $5.2 million Middle East Galleries are to be unveiled on April 21. “We’ve taken our remit to inspire wonder about the human story very seriously. At our heart we are a research and teaching museum, but this renovation is the public presentation of our discoveries,” explains Siggers. He also launched the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Material, the only one of its kind in the country. But he’s especially proud of the museum’s Unpacking the Past program that brought 6,000 seventhgraders to the museum last year for free. Siggers hopes some of those 13-year-olds get hooked on archaeology as he did.


WHAT’S NOW New projects in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., plus finishing guest room renovations at The Rittenhouse
WHAT’S NEXT Reimagining The Westin Philadelphia


When hotelier Jay Shah says that he’s “worked in the business at every level,” he’s not exaggerating. Growing up, he and his brother, Neil, would fold towels and skim the pool at the suburban motel his parents owned. Decades later, Shah says those hands-on jobs have been the secret to his success as CEO of Hersha Hospitality Trust, the Philadelphia-based real estate investment firm that he oversees with Neil, who is president and COO. With the opening of Los Angeles’ Hotel Figueroa behind him and his Miami and Washington, D.C., hotels in the midst of changes—restaurateur José Andrés has signed on at The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown and The St. Gregory Hotel debuts new rooms and public spaces this spring—Shah is focused on the posh projects in his own backyard. As The Rittenhouse’s years-long renovations end, Shah is gearing up to reimagine The Westin Philadelphia. Though hobbies like cooking and sailing keep Shah inspired, he still marvels at the city’s unique wonders. “Neil and I have always felt there’s a real truth and honesty to [life in] Philadelphia.”


WHAT’S NOW Rolling out his new fine-casual concept, DK Sushi
WHAT’S NEXT Giuseppe & Sons, a classic Italian restaurant opening this summer


Michael Schulson is about to put his enviable sneaker collection (check out his Instagram for proof) to good use this spring. His Schulson Collective, the Philadelphia-based restaurant group he oversees with COO and wife Nina Tinari, just debuted DK Sushi at UPenn’s new food hall. It’s the first of a few locations planned for his elevated fast-casual— or “fine-casual,” as Schulson says—riff on Double Knot. Come summer, Giuseppe & Sons will open, bringing red-gravy Italian classics to Center City with the same impossibly smart interior design schemes that have made sister concepts like Harp & Crown (located next door), Independence Beer Garden, Sampan, Graffiti Bar and Atlantic City’s Izakaya (there’s also Monkitail in Hollywood, Florida) such in-demand reservations. For Giuseppe & Sons, his fifth Philly restaurant—there’s also Osteria, thanks to a new partnership with chefowner Jeff Michaud—Schulson teamed up with the Termini family of Termini Brothers Bakery fame. “No one goes to dinner and a movie anymore,” he says. “Dinner is the movie. We need to create the movie by making sure the design and service are spectacular.”


Photography by: Photography by Gene Smirnov // Shot on location at Roche Bobois