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2 X 4: An Innovation Forum at the Barnes Foundation

Philadelphia — In February 2017, the Barnes will present 2 x 4: An Innovation Forum at the Barnes Foundation. Conceived by Shelley Bernstein, deputy director for digital initiatives and chief experience officer, and sponsored by Drexel University LeBow College of Business, 2 x 4 will bring two local thought leaders together with students from Drexel’s Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center to create a collaborative response to a major Barnes initiative.

“The core of our mission is to be an educational and artistic resource for Philadelphia’s many diverse communities, and so continually developing our audiences is a high priority for us,” says Bernstein. “Through 2 x 4, we’re creating a hub for innovation and interdisciplinary creativity at the Barnes. We’ve engaged two of Philadelphia’s forward-thinking leaders and four impressive Drexel students from varying disciplines and academic levels to explore a big-picture question: how can we grow our audience to be reflective of Philadelphia? We’re excited to see what they come up with.”

Maria G. Arias, vice president of diversity and inclusion for Comcast Corporation, and Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, will work on-site at the Barnes with four Drexel University students, selected through Drexel’s ExCITe Center, to develop at least one response to the question.

The student team will become acquainted with the Barnes and its organizational functions via tours and staff meetings. After a 90-minute discussion with Arias, Reardon, and Thom Collins,  executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation, the students will continue discussing viable ideas and will begin work on the project. Their response(s) may take many forms, including a prototype, a concept, a drawing, or a diagram.

2 x 4 will culminate in a free public program on Friday, February 3, at 3 pm in the Barnes Foundation’s Comcast Auditorium. Moderated by Thom Collins, the program will feature a live discussion between the students and leaders about their findings.

To gain better insight into the community’s engagement with the Barnes, a BeHeardPhilly survey was commissioned from Temple University’s Institute for Survey Research. As part of 2 x 4, data from the survey, which was designed to understand how the knowledge and perceptions of the Barnes varies throughout Philadelphia by zip code, will be shared via the program website.

2 x 4: An Innovation Forum at the Barnes Foundation is sponsored by Drexel University LeBow College of Business.


Maria G. Arias, vice president of diversity and inclusion for Comcast Corporation: Ms. Arias leads the strategic planning and implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives across corporate governance, workforce, supplier diversity, programming, and community investment, and is one of the company’s highest-ranking Latina leaders. In her role, she also manages Comcast NBCUniversal’s external Joint Diversity Advisory Council (JDC), comprised of over 40 national leaders in business, politics, and civil rights.

Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia: Since joining the Free Library in 2008, Ms. Reardon’s vision for the future—Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries Initiative—includes the launch of a new model of service wherein neighborhood libraries will undergo physical and programmatic changes to directly respond to and meet the needs of the surrounding neighborhood. The initiative also includes the renovation and reimagining of the Parkway Central Library.


Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business connects the latest research and experiential learning opportunities with the challenges facing today’s business leaders. LeBow also values civic engagement, cross-sector collaboration, and strategic design that benefits both global and local communities. 


The Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center was established in 2013 as a University-wide initiative for research innovation. The Center pursues activities at the intersection of technology, design, and entrepreneurship—a reframing of Drexel’s founding pillars of art, science, and industry for the modern age. ExCITe is focused on inspiring interdisciplinary research and discovery connecting technology and communities.

ABOUT BeHeardPhilly

BeHeardPhilly is a civic engagement and community access tool used to understand the opinions, thoughts, and activities of Philadelphia residents. At its core, it is a group of community members who have “opted in” and agreed to take surveys and participate in ongoing research driven by local government and nonprofit organizations and initiatives. It is a cost-effective and convenient resource for conducting social science or public opinion research in the City of Philadelphia. BeHeardPhilly is owned, managed, and operated by the Institute for Survey Research at Temple University.


The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes holds one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico; works by American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast; Old Master paintings; important examples of African sculpture; Native American ceramics, jewelry, and textiles; decorative arts and ironwork; and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. 

While most collections are grouped by chronology, style, or genre, art at the Barnes is arranged in ensembles structured according to light, line, color, and space—principles that Dr. Barnes called “the universal language of art.” The Foundation’s programs include First Fridays, young professionals nights, tours, tastings, and family programs, as well as Barnes–de Mazia Education Program courses and workshops. These programs advance the Foundation’s mission through progressive, experimental, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. The Barnes Foundation is open Wednesday–Monday, and tickets can be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215.278.7200. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website. 

The Barnes Arboretum in Merion contains more than 2,500 varieties of trees and woody plants, many of them rare. Founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and expanded under the direction of Laura Leggett Barnes, the living collections include 40 state champion trees, a Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), a dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other important plant collections include lilacs, peonies, Stewartias, ferns, medicinal plants, hostas, and magnolias. The Horticulture Education Program has offered a comprehensive three-year certificate course in the botanical sciences, horticulture, garden aesthetics, and design since its establishment in 1940 by Mrs. Barnes. The arboretum also offers horticulture workshops and lectures and is open to the public Saturday–Sunday during the summer months. Tickets can be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215.278.7200. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website. 



Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications

Adriana Elgarresta, Resnicow and Associates

Chelsea Beroza, Resnicow and Associates