Cresheim Village Neighbors spotlights extraordinary locals

by Chris Doyle
Posted 6/4/24

The Cresheim Village Neighbors met May 2 via Zoom to learn about three residents with extraordinary careers.

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Cresheim Village Neighbors spotlights extraordinary locals


Sometimes, nationally renowned achievements in arts and sciences can be found right next door. The Cresheim Village Neighbors met May 2 via Zoom to learn about three residents with extraordinary careers, spanning from film festivals to Broadway and the cutting-edge future of recycling.

Steve Stroiman, the group's coordinator, said he wanted the event to celebrate local accomplishments in a way that would draw the neighborhood together.

"One thing I'd really like us to do is become more acquainted with one another," Stroiman said. "They're human-interest meetings for us to become more aware of who our neighbors are."

The first presenter, Robert Mathis, is a graphic designer who creates posters and promotional materials for Broadway shows as an art director for AKA Agency. He has worked on hit productions including the debuts of "Water for Elephants" and "Illinoise" and the 2024 run of "An Enemy of the People."

Mathis described his winding career path that eventually brought his work to one of the biggest stages in the world. "Just by virtue of I guess dumb luck I managed to land a job working in Broadway, which has been really the highlight, I would say, of my working life," he said.

Mathis' presentation guided listeners through his creative process, showing how early designs evolve into finished products adorning Playbills, posters and Broadway sidewalks. He discussed communicating a show's atmosphere through art, such as synthesizing the rustic dynamism of an old circus and the tenderness of romance for "Music for Elephants."

After a show premieres, Mathis incorporates positive reviews into new promotions. "Once the art is made, then you have to take it and you have to start building it into an entire, real brand around the show," he said.

Five of his shows collectively received 28 nominations for the upcoming 77th Tony Awards. "All of my shows kind of got nominated for Tonys this year, so that ends up being a whole other beast of other work," Mathis said. "That's one of those moments where I'm like, 'Oh, it's been so busy,' and then I look back and I'm like, 'That's pretty cool.'"

The second presenter, Andrew Trump, is the director of program development for AMP, a recycling-sortation technology company. AMP's robotic sorting systems use machine vision and deep learning to sift recyclable materials from waste streams, artificial intelligence innovations that can help dramatically boost recycling rates. This increase in recycling shrinks landfills and cuts their greenhouse gas emissions.

"The ability to capture more value in our waste stream is huge," Trump said. He said his job at AMP offers fascinating work at "the intersection of climate change, artificial intelligence and robotics."

AMP recently installed a zero-manual sortation system in Greenville, North Carolina, preserving local recycling that would have otherwise been lost. "We, along with a commercial partner, were able to put a highly automated system in place that preserves local recycling in a community that would have otherwise lost its recycling," Trump said.

The final presenter, Mike Attie, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who grew up in Bala Cynwyd. His diverse filmography includes topics like Vietnam War reenactments and abortion-access hotlines in Philadelphia.

"I've really enjoyed this as a career because it's never the same, it's always changing," Attie said. "Every film has a new set of challenges."

Attie, also a professor at the University of the Arts, said turning to academia for steady income is common among his peers. "The reality of documentary filmmaking is that it's very difficult for somebody to actually make a living doing it," he said.

Attie screened a trailer for a documentary he's developing about Pennhurst Asylum, a defunct institution notorious for abuse that's now a haunted-house attraction. The film voices the perspective of the attraction's staff, many of whom are disabled.

Attie's 2020 film "Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa" won the Grand Jury Award at the AFI Docs festival and made the Oscar shortlist for best documentary short. "I really like the medium of film, because of its reach and universality," he said. "That's what I like the most, is just hearing the conversations that unfold around it."

During the hour-and-a-half event, each presentation was followed by a Q&A session during which residents discussed the incredible talent found just down the block.

"If somebody has something that really stands out in a creative way, that's worth highlighting," Stroiman said. "And it makes us feel good about the community we live in."