If you get excited about the news of a new indoor play space in the city (and how can you not, really? We could open a play space in every ‘hood, and the city still wouldn’t be near saturation point), then just wait until you see PlayArts: The Fishtown newcomer isn’t just bright and light and airy — really, absolutely stunning — but it’s big enough to offer space for parents (in the form of a gleaming little cafe), for babies (in the form of a soft, colorful crawl-around area), and for toddlers and kiddos (in the form of a massive classroom, two smaller private rooms, and a giant main room with multiple play areas, a custom play house, a reading nook … and so much more).
But beyond the square footage and the visuals, there’s a bunch more to this place that seems pretty special. Here’s everything you want to know.
Who (and Why): The founder is Krista Yutzy-Burkey, Fishtown native, music educator and mom to four-and-a-half-year-old Milo. Krista has taught music to kids for the past 16 years (the last 14 of which were at Russell Byers Charter School in Center City). Her original idea was to open a permanent space wherein she could teach music, but the business plan changed once she realized how many music lessons (how many pricey music lessons, at that) she’d have to teach to justify the overhead of the space. So she started talking to local parents about what sorts of resources they’d like to have in the neighborhood, and her idea for a business expanded. She enrolled in a program for entrepreneurs at Wharton and found the space, and thus began PlayArts: A multi-purpose center for group music lessons, yes, but also for art and dance classes, for private lessons, and for free play. If one were to synopsize the PlayArts philosophy, it’s basically about the meshing of creativity and education with developmentally appropriate play … but you should go ahead and read PlayArts own explanation of their credo for yourself, because it’s much more nuanced and thoughtful than my summary.
What: The space is pretty phenomenal, located inside the old Thompson Public Bath building on Front Street. It’s all high warehouse ceilings and exposed brick. Krista’s husband, Steve, is a carpenter, and he has done much of the substantial woodwork inside, including a custom “rowhome” playhouse, kids’ furniture, a bi-level reading nook, a low-ceilinged play space designed just for littles, and the beautiful counter-top at the mezzanine-level cafe for the parents. (Yes! There is a coffee-and-snack cafe that allows parents to chill while also watching the play-space action right below.)
The play space has several toy stations and areas for kids to explore, including a baby zone with a soft carpet and couch. The classroom in the back of the facility is massive, so there’s plenty of room for the dance, art, music and yoga group classes — all of which are focused on development through play. You’ll be able to register for the group classes as entire sessions or as drop-ins. (This will at least initially be the case — as the classes grow, the long-term plan will likely see the bulk of them become pre-registered eight-week sessions.) There will also be private music lessons available, as well as a brunch-time drop-off playtime, after-school drop-off playtime and birthday party rental options. Long-term, Krista says, there will be additional elements, like cooking classes (the classroom is equipped with a kitchen); parents’ meeting space and groups; gardening classes; and more.
Where: PlayArts is located at Front and West Thompson, right off the Girard stop for the Market-Frankford Line (and the trolley). Convenient!
When: The grand opening is September 1. But you can attend the open house August 28, from 10 to 2 p.m. (Just visit the site to sign up for a time to show on the 28th to make sure there will be space!)
What’s It Gonna Cost: The full pricing schedule is on the site, but the gist is this: You can join as a member for a full year, and it will cost you about $32 a month, which buys you unlimited access to the play space, plus 20 percent off classes and services, and priority enrollment in classes. (There are other membership options, as well, for shorter spans of time.) You can also just drop in for a class or for play: Drop-in for free play starts at $12, and classes at a drop-in rate are $18.75. There’s also an “art and sensory drop-in”, which is basically an organized but independent art project (with instructions so parents and kids can do them together, sans teacher) — those are priced per session. You can see more details about the pricing here!