NOW CURATING: YOMI
s t r e e t a r t i s t
W: Art as an Engine
NOW CURATING: YOMI
s t r e e t a r t i s t
W: Art as an Engine
Looking to graduate from the First Friday crowd and blossom into something a bit more contemporary? Maybe even, occasionally, abstract? LOOK. NO. FURTHER. Below you’ll find our top ten local gallery picks. The work in these galleries may be hot but the crowds are cool—who knew aesthetes were so attractive. Branch out and get in with the hip kids at these local galleries:
1. Little Berlin
Open Saturday 12:00PM – 6:00PM & by Appointment
2430 CORAL STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19125
Little Berlin has been a long time Curate This favorite. We have even collaborated with some of the cooperative gallery’s members. Little Berlin’s structure alone lends itself to some fantastic out of the box showings and installations. The name Little Berlin derived from a comparison once made to the founders, Kristen Neville and Martha Savery. Artists rehabbing buildings in Kensington felt like postwar Berlin.
2. Gravy Studio and Gallery
Open by Appointment
910 N. 2ND STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19123
Gravy Studio and Gallery hosts some incredible local photographers like Katie Tackman and Julianna Foster, many of which double as members. The collaborative workplace and gallery focuses on promoting the work of local photographers. The studio and gallery makes our list for its fearlessness; Gravy Studio is not afraid to show challenging work. Just check out their facebook page and muse through some of their past exhibitions.
3. Vox Populi
Open Wednesday – Sunday, 12:00PM – 6:00PM
319 N. 11TH STREET, PHILADELPHIA 19107
Vox Populi, Latin for “voice of the people,” has been bringing the people contemporary and experimental art since 1988. Vox Populi is all about fostering a supportive environment for artists. The gallery’s rotating membership policy leaves room for a diverse array of work.
4. Paradigm Gallery and Studio
Open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 12:00PM – 6:00PM
746 SOUTH 4th STREET, PHILADELPHIA 19147
Paradigm Gallery and Studio is always doing something, and let’s face it, we always want to be there when they are doing something! The Gallery is owned and curated by artists powerhouses, Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston. When founding the gallery in 2010, Chen and McCorriston did so with the intention of showing their friends’ work, and they’ve succeeded. Today you’ll find some of the coolest local artists in town on the walls of Paradigm.
5. James Oliver Gallery
Open Wednesday – Friday, 5:00PM – 8:00PM, Saturday, 1:00PM – 6:00PM, Sunday – Tuesday, Open by Appointment
732 CHESTNUT STREET, PHILADELPHIA 19106
James Oliver has to be one of the coolest gallery owners around and his gallery certainly reflects it. The space requires some exercise—a four story hike to be specific, but it’s worth it to reach an artistic paradise. The gallery transforms with nearly every new exhibit and welcomes local, national, and international artists.
6. Kitchen Table Gallery
1853 NORTH HOWARD STREET, PHILADELPHIA 19122
You might think Kitchen Table Gallery is a funny name for a gallery but the story behind it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy. “Louise ORourke was inspired to start KTG by an excerpt of David Reed’s in ‘The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists.’ When David Reed asked Felix Gonzalez-Torres about his art studio he responded by saying, ‘I do not have a studio space. I am a kitchen-table artist.’ In that reading, KTG was born.”
7. Crux Space
Open by Appointment
700 MASTER STREET, PHILADELPHIA 19122
Crux Space is Philadelphia’s only gallery 100% dedicated to new media art. We have been a fan of the gallery since its genesis and it never fails to disappoint. The gallery’s director Andrew Cameron Zahn has dedicated the space to experimental projects and works influenced by technology.
8. The Galleries at Moore
Monday – Saturday, 11:00AM – 5:00PM
20TH STREET AND THE PARKWAY, PHILADELPHIA 19103
The Galleries at Moore are a MORE traditional space—see what we did there, but that doesn’t keep it from fostering incredible collaborations with local artists. Local artists are their main cup of tea. In fact the Levy Gallery was originally “created in response to a mayoral report revealing a “serious lack of support” for local talent.”
9. High Tide
1850 NORTH HOPE STREET, APT 14A, PHILADELPHIA 19122
High Tide gets experimental, and that’s exactly why we love them. The gallery doubles as an artist-run project space in the heart of Kensington. In addition to holding exhibitions, High Tide hosts performances, workshops, and experimental programming.
10. Fjord Gallery
Open Saturdays 12:00PM – 4:00PM, Open by Appointment
1400 NORTH AMERICAN STREET, STE 105, PHILADELPHIA 19122
Fjord, pronounced (fee-your-d), focuses on bringing Philadelphia exciting work from emerging artists and curators. Founded in 2012 the gallery has helped cement Kensington’s reputation as the one of the city’s strongest arts districts.
Last week’s curator, Jane Golden, says, “Art ignites change.” When it comes to segregation can art conquer social exclusion and isolation?
Philadelphia is the fourth most segregated city in the nation. Living in Philadelphia this is an un-ignorable fact. We, as Philadelphians, create personal boundaries, restrictions for our living, working, and playing that keeps us from interacting with other groups of people. Whether class or race divides that group, segregation is a present part of Philadelphia. As an unfortunate adage to our city’s standing definitions, we are a city of neighborhoods, but you stay on your side of the neighborhood and I’ll stay on mine. But how do we collectively combat segregation? Beyond personal belief, organizational value, and political siding, how do we exercise integration?
Besides the Eagles and cheesesteaks, there are certain spaces that bridge racial tension and class divide. That which we dub “public” surpasses the proverbial cool kid stoop, and invites all to share the space. In Philadelphia most of our public spaces are neighborhood specific or geared towards tourists. We have our parks and recreation centers that serve a certain community, and monuments that draw outside visitors.
The recently renovated Dilworth Plaza is an excellent example of good public space in Philadelphia, but it is one of a kind. At the heart of Center City, Dilworth Plaza is a comfortable and useful space, and a space that attracts both residents and visitors alike. The plaza maintains its historic reputation, allowing itself to be a place of protest and demonstration, but it also hosts farmers markets and art exhibitions.
Public spaces could be the key to reducing segregation in Philadelphia. Public parks and plazas become spaces of debate and conversation. In his piece, The Sociology of Public Space, Stephane Tonnelat lays down the foundation for an argument that has been accepted both by urban planners and sociologists, stating, “The general opinion is that public spaces are an essential ingredient to the sustainability of cities for political, social, economic, public health and biodiversity reasons. However, the dominating trend observed by many is one of shrinkage rather than expansion of the public realm.” As public spaces become less available, segregation in urban spaces become more prevalent. Tonnelat adds, “according to global indicators of segregation (class, race and ethnicity, gender) seem to show a worldwide growing separateness of the different categories of populations. Today, for a number of planners public space thus appears as an important means to alleviate these ills while at the same time addressing emerging issues such as the imperative of sustainable development and social justice.”
Public spaces often fall victim to condominiums and shopping spaces, however we have been seeing a reestablishing of the public space in Philadelphia. Earlier this year a new design was announced for LOVE Park. The park has always had its architectural challenges. Inga Saffron, architect critic for the Inquirer, wrote in May, “There are many ways that the new design for LOVE Park could have gone wrong. The square at the gateway to the Parkway is an engineering nightmare, perched above a parking garage and a train tunnel. The $15 million budget is barely adequate.”
Saffron, like many Philadelphians, was happy with the news of a redesign that kept the integrity of the park’s vista views intact along with the iconic spaceship building. However, there was backlash from other communities, like Philadelphia’s skate scene. Despite the controversy, the new design brings aesthetic coherence to an otherwise awkward location, and mirrors the intentions of Dilworth Plaza. The park is meant to be a place that encourages spending quality time with friends and family, which the park does not do at the moment.
The area that houses Dilworth Plaza, LOVE Park, and Thomas Paine Plaza could be repurposed and perhaps become the first step in reprioritizing public space in Philadelphia. Currently the area is the most confused and clumsy survey of indecisive Percent for Art Program decisions, and metaphors that have gone terribly awry. Architectural wonders stand side by side next to what I can only assume someone’s whimsical rulings about awkward public art pieces. It’s a shame, but the area has all the potential. If the heart of Center City prioritized public space, it would be making a statement about integration, and hopefully the rest of the city would follow.
Fall is a time for art. Whether you associate the season with going back to school, or are just too upset that the cool weather doesn’t linger like it used to, there is always something to do and see in fall. After pope mania dies down and you’ve returned to (what’s left of) the city, check out my top five art events to participate in this fall.
The exhibition focuses on still lifes as a genre, and the variety of approaches taken from the genre’s beginnings in the late 1700s up to the 1960s. “The exhibition will be divided into four chronological sections that mirror still life’s periodic resurgence in the United States.” The exhibition’s title, which received half an eye roll from me—we get it, people will come to see Warhol and purchase tote bags with his work printed on them—hints at long list of featured work, including still lifes from Raphaelle Peale, William Michael Harnett, and Arthur B. Carles.
The ICA is currently featuring the first work of Pryde to be shown in a US museum exhibition. The exhibition has everything: close-up photos of hands, a miniature train—okay, perhaps not everything, but the photographs assert a contemporary feel that we have grown to expect from the ICA’s shows.
The FWM has long been one of my favorite art establishments in the City and has attracted phenomenal talents. This season composer, musician, and theater artists, Cynthia Hopkins, celebrates prior musical theater performances through “the materials collected from the detritus of Hopkins’ performance pieces.” The objects (hand-written notes, fragments of her costumes and props woven into quilts) flirt with concepts of mourning experience, but could potentially resonate as an unfinished product. The FWM opens the exhibition doors for a public reception on October 2, 2015.
If you have never participated in POST or visited a local artist’s studio, you should absolutely partake. The tour will introduce you to new local art and artists. I highly encourage you to find work that you like and BUY it! #supportlocalart
Next Stop: Democracy and Streets Department partner with 60 local artists and ask, “Can 60 of Philly’s most inspired artists help to increase voter turnout this coming Election Day, November 3rd, 2015?” The show displays a collection of “Vote Here” signs from NoseGo, Isaiah Zagar, Joe Boruchow, Kid Hazo, Old Broads, Dominic Episcopo, Gaia, Anthony (Seper) Torcasio, Harlequinade, Darla Jackson, Kelly Kozma, Hawk Krall, Brendan (Peopledelphia) Lowry, Amber Lynn, Ryan Beck, Jessie Mademann, Sean Martorana, Dennis Murphy, Mike L. Perry, Sophie Roach, Miriam Singer, Jason Andrew Turner, Mac Whalen, Aubree Eisenwinter, Sean Brown and many more. This is an event you will not want to miss.
Photo by Ahd Photography
For the most part, the conversation about Le Bok Fin has been exhausted. The 8,000 square-foot pop-up bar, which closed its doors to the public this past Sunday, has served as both a primary target and centerpiece in conversations about gentrification. Yet the overall commentary falls flat, providing a binary summary of the situation, occasionally sprinkling in a few fundamental facts about Philadelphia’s public school funding, inconsistent building appraisals, and overpriced booze.
Philly Mag’s Holly Otterbein summed up the discussion well, writing, “On one side of the debate are people who argue that the project is tone-deaf, that the school never should have closed, and that it should be repurposed with long-term residents — not craft beer-drinking hipsters — in mind. On the other side are those who say that the revitalization of a blighted building is something to be celebrated, and that the larger issues of poverty, affordable housing and education funding should be addressed by the public sector, not individual developers.”
One of the most jarring aspects of the debate is the sudden reverence we (collectively) have for a building that the majority of those sounding off have no actual connection to. Whether you have been to Le Bok Fin, protested going, or just forgot to make plans, you have an opinion. It’s those of us who generate the conversation, who use the power of discourse, and in our free time attend pop-ups in up-and-coming neighborhoods, who echo the loudest objection while seated pretty on a throne (granted, a much smaller throne) next to the developers. What’s different about Le Bok Fin? We can’t ignore the major problems of our city when we are literally sitting on them.
Philadelphia has over 40,000 vacant/abandoned properties. The Philadelphia School District faces a deficit of $80 million this year. Schools cannot maintain current facilities. Teachers are not being paid just wages. According to the center for literacy, “In Philadelphia, over half of the adult population—an estimated 550,000 individuals—are considered low illiterate.” Most alarming is our glaring poverty statistic, which is among the top ten highest in the nation with an overall poverty rate of 26.3 percent.
Le Bok Fin may have been executed in poor taste, but a similar criticism could have been applied to the inaugural Hidden City Festival in 2009. Hidden City—who has remained oddly silent during the debate—is known for bringing attention to abandon and lesser-known spaces in the city through discourse and events. Hidden City’s festivals have attracted thousands of visitors to heritage sites where local and national artists performed and created site-specific work. The early concept brought art and bodies into these “hidden” sites, but has since branched out to encourage long-lasting usage. After the first festival South Philly’s Shiloh Baptist Church was used as a practice space for local dance companies. The Drop Forge building at Disston Saw Works acquired a tenant. The difference between Le Bok Fin and Hidden City is stark, but a parallel remains: the two bring attention to properties that would have gone unnoticed otherwise.
Hidden City has explored more neighborhoods that live outside of the expanding gentrification bubble. “There hasn’t been much ‘gentrification pressure’ on most Philadelphia neighborhoods, which has left old buildings to age naturally,” Editorial and Research Director at Hidden City Nathaniel Popkin told philly.com last March. There are plenty of buildings that could use some love, but what affects us the most about this building is that it hits close to home. It is a part of a neighborhood that you could live comfortably in, it’s not too far from the places you already occupy, and most importantly it is a place you want to be at. Do you feel uncomfortable sitting on chairs that students once sat on, and chairs that student could theoretically still sit on? YES, but debating the ethical nature of a single standing pop-up is not an act of activism.
Image by Dawn McDougall
Writers and those who are forced to take a writing course at some point have heard similar tips for success. Tips like, “Don’t use clichés and trite language,” when any magazine you open abuses overused idioms and god-awful puns. As a writer, I’ve composed my own list of rules that have guided me through my career. Coupled with my habit of compulsive doodling here are my writing tips.
1. Be a Writer Even When Someone Tells You Not To Be
Someone will undoubtedly tell you not to be a writer. That person can be your mom, your cousin, your bartender, or whoever. For me, my boss (in a publishing department mind you) told me not to pursue a career in writing. As a person just starting her career, this was a message that re-focused my romantic views. Yes, having a career as a writer is difficult, but fuck it. EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO DO IS DIFFICULT.
2. Read a Lot!
Read on the train, during work hours when you are bored, before bed (even if it’s not great for your eyes), and when you wake up. Read when you are high, when you are drunk, and when you are high and drunk. Read when you hate your parents, when your partner broke up with you, and when you having a one-night stand. Just read!
3. Defend a Logical Argument; Not Just Your Opinion
Very few people care about your opinion. Opinions are unreliable, and are informed by perspective and experience. Constructing a logical argument based on facts and surveyed opinions is key. Communicating a message efficiently, and defending a thesis, involves posing a well-rounded argument.
4. Some Edits Deserve Push Back
Your name is in the byline. Do not let anyone strip something you think is integral to a piece out of it. There are times where you have to let your darlings die, but there are also occasions where you have to come to your own defence. Again, this is your piece if there is an edit that you wholeheartedly believe adds irreplaceable value to your piece, fight for it. BUT (and this is a big but) knowing your limits, and fully understanding what is and isn’t pertinent to your work, takes a ton of time and a few heartbreaks.
5. It’s Okay to Read the Comment Section, but Always Overlook Trolls!
I cannot tell you how many times I have been verbally attacked in comments on online articles. I’ve been accused and abused, but after your first cry you realize that it is a choice. I know writers who avoid the comment section all together, however mining for questions and constructive commentary is important. Go ahead and interact with your audience. Just know that if a comment starts with name-calling, you should roll your eyes and scroll down.
6. Don’t Mimic Your Heroes (doodle misspell) For too Long. Find. Your. Own. Voice.
It’s okay to go through a Hemingway phase and write in brief direct and unembellished sentences, but please get over it. You are not going to be Hemingway, thankfully. Find your own voice.
7. It Is Okay to Befriend the People You Interview After Publishing Them.
After an interview I would feel conflicted. The interaction seemed short and artificial. We were there for a purpose. I wanted my questions answered, and they wanted me not to misrepresent them. My approach, to bring comfort to both parties, was to befriend my interviewee. Often this method resulted in actual friendships. I felt overwhelmingly guilty about befriending those I interviewed. “As a journalist you are supposed to be calculative and exact, not friendly and approachable,” I thought to myself. In time I understood that it was beneficial to forge friendships.
8. Avoid Using the Word “Unique”
Just don’t. Urgh.
One of my first experiences with art in Philadelphia was at Magic Gardens. For the most part, Isaiah Zagar’s work is likeable. Yelp gives Magic Gardens a solid 4.5 star rating. More than 200 mouse potatoes support Yelp’s assessment, voicing abridged versions of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” in the comment section.
Beyond aesthetics, what we like about Magic Gardens, and Zagar’s work as whole, is its transformative nature. Isaiah took a deteriorating neighborhood, heaved ceramic shards all over it in a borrowed folk tradition, and revitalized South Street. In essence, this is why we find Magic Gardens likable. It is the inspirational story behind the artwork that—like the fragmented chips of mirror in Isaiah’s work—reflect a disjointed sense of self that Philadelphians harbor.
We rejoice in our city’s successes, but only as a reaction to struggle. Whether the struggle is against urban elements, as is the case of Magic Gardens, or the struggle is against our own reputation as a city. Philadelphians have a tendency to position our city in a place that requires a “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” mentality.
The trash to treasure story parallels another Philly classic, (for the purpose of this article we will refer to it as…) the Balboa. The underdog trope follows Philadelphians with the tenacity of Apollo Creed. Positioning ourselves against the critics that dismissively named Philadelphia NYC’s “sixth borough,” we feel the need to rise above someone else’s national perception of us.
The Balboa is not limited to a gross generalization of all Philadelphians, and often rears its head in subsets of local culture. As an artist, and an active participant in Philadelphia’s art scene, I come face to face with the Balboa on a regular basis.
“Why Philly?” New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz asked at a lecture at the Barnes Foundation. He was referring to Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), and though rhetorically asked (fully aware of his audience), there lay some truth in jest. Once something, anything, happens in the art scene in Philadelphia, outside critics scowl. Yet, our city’s CV is impressive. Philadelphia has the only Rodin Museum outside of Paris, is home to countless masterpieces, and has globally recognized art institutions, but there remains a need to fight to show up on the national radar.
The fight is magnified in Philadelphia’s contemporary art scene, and it brings us back to the idea of struggle. If we have the resources, the institutions, the history, etc., then why do we have to fight to be recognized within the contemporary art scene? AND is this a product of an inferiority complex we have accepted as both a city and a people?
A few years ago I wrote an article for Philly.com begging young artists not to move to New York City. The argument was simple: artists can’t afford New York. I interviewed Jason Musson, an artist who began his career in Philadelphia and eventually moved to NYC, in part, to expand his career. Musson described his work in Philadelphia as a necessary, and important, step in his career. The idea has been recycled in one of Curate This’ prompts, “Crossing the Border.” We ask people why they felt they could not pursue their art career in Philadelphia.
Co-founder Julius and I created this prompt out of necessity. So many of our collaborators wanted to include creator friends who had once lived in Philadelphia, but left for greener, or at least other, pastures. The narratives of this prompt tend to follow Musson’s outlook. When opportunities to show your work, or reach new audiences have dissipated, there is an overwhelming feeling that your resources have been exhausted. Philadelphia becomes a tethered backdrop that hosted rehearsals, but never quite made it to an opening night.
The problem with the arts in Philadelphia cannot be summarized in an all-encompassing statement or observation. We are faced with problems that have everything to do with the city, like the Balboa, and nothing to do with the city. An idea of what is obstructing us from receiving international attention, stymieing us from feeding our creative class, or prohibiting local funding sources, is the first step in finding a solution. At the foundation of Curate This is the belief that words possess a transformative authority, and those who command discourse are those who shape the popular imagination. Whether or not you’ve posited yourself as the underdog, your experience as a creator in this city is valid through experience. You are the critic.
First Friday in Old City is reappearing on the radar. There has been a staple group of visitors for First Fridays, yet the event has a reputation for discouraging local artists from participating. “In art school, we used to go to Old City for examples of what not to do,” a friend told me as we shoved through the crowd this past Friday.
When you have a chance to actually look at the work you see that the majority is skill focused, not informed by contemporary interests, says very little about the art community in Philadelphia, and (perhaps the biggest complaint) it is overly commercial. Why go to First Friday in Old City when you can go to Frankford Ave Arts’ First Friday, or to a show at Vox Populi, and be a part of something that reflects the art community and displays relevant work?
The First Friday tradition in Philadelphia has branched out, in part because Old City was only representing a small portion of the contemporary art scene in Philadelphia. Granted, a good portion of the art showing in the 40+ galleries at Old City’s First Friday is created by local artists, and the same can be said about the street vendors—who scale from pandering flea-market-esque venders to actual artists trying to support themselves through their work.
There is a distinct difference in the crowd at Old City and Frankford Ave Arts. In Old City you are confronted by people who are traveling from outside of the city, where Frankford Ave Arts caters to and supports their North Philly community. Community (and competition) seems scarce in Old City, but there are exceptions.
Surprisingly, some non-gallery spaces in Old City are drawing on their clientele to support local talent. This past Friday Indy Hall opened its doors to the public and invited people to KIN: “a collaborative exhibition featuring the creative endeavors of an evolving artistic community.” Indy Hall is not a gallery but a member based cooperative working space. All showing artists were Indy Hall members. A wider Indy Hall community was in attendance, supporting them, and as a result, purchasing local work and advocating for our creative economy.
Art in the Age, a store that sells an array of artisanal products, featured the work of Eric Kenney. His T-shirts, flags, paintings, and prints straddle the line between commercial and art, which sits well with a shop that does the same. Art in the Age is not stepping outside of their wheelhouse when they show and sell work like Kenney’s, but what they are doing is encouraging their customers to buy from a local artist.
Support for Philadelphia’s larger art community is why people like me are returning to Old City for First Friday. There are only so many Facebook invites from friends that you can ignore, but there is still a lot of room for First Friday to become more relevant. It will never be a noncommercial experience, but it has the ear of communities outside of the arts, so it is vital for those of us involved in the art scene to look at it critically.