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POST: Go See Five Artistic Community Collaborators Create

At Meei Ling's Outdoor Art Installation

Michelle Angela Ortiz

Termite TV

From farm stand to soapbox to digital media to city walls, POST is taking the artist studio out of the warehouse and into the community with innovative social art practice. Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, a program of The Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA) is the largest tour of artist studios and creative workspaces in the region, and one of the premier open studio tour events in the country. Celebrating its 13th anniversary, the 2012 Tour will take place October 6-7 for venues West of Broad Street and Oct. 20-21 for venues East of Broad Street. The Open Studio Tours was founded and managed for many years by a group of volunteers until 2005 when The Center for Emerging Visual Artists formally adopted the Open Studio Tours.
Since POST’s inception, there has been substantial growth in artist participation.  Director Ann Pelz explains the growth patterns for 2012, “For the third consecutive year, the largest number of participating artists is concentrated in Kensington and Fishtown; though we have noticed surges of working artists in other neighborhoods such as South Philadelphia, Germantown, East Falls, and North Philadelphia.

"There are strong and longstanding artist bases in neighborhoods like West Philadelphia, Center City, and Queen Village, where we have had consistently high participation for nearly 10 years now. It’s interesting to look at the movement of artists and studio spaces in comparison to real estate trends and community revitalization efforts.  We find that everything is very closely connected.”

Pelz explains the necessity for cooperative artwork, “As the stakes continue to get higher and the ability to capture audience’s attention gets more difficult, collaborative and community-based work offer great solutions for working artist to present their work in ever more engaging and noteworthy ways. We find this to be particularly true in Philadelphia, where creative communities intersect at many points and there is an overall tendency to work together for shared success.”
And post POST 2012, the Center for Emerging Visual Artists will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 2013 and the program’s 15th anniversary in 2014.  Recipients of a Knight Arts Challenge grant, CFEVA will launch a major public initiative, entitled “Made In Philly.”
Fairmount and Francisville
Benjamin Volta
608 North 22nd Street
+1 (267) 252 9521
WEST October 6-7

Benjamin Volta works with public school teachers and community leaders to create collaborative artworks, linking art to specific areas of learning.  He is a current artist-in-residence of the Asian Art Initiative’s Social Practice Lab. “Together, we initiate student participants to recognize the importance of their own ideas, and set out to express a mergence of difference within a collective focus. My studio initiatives combine academic learning and life skill development with an audacious aspiration to create great art within an unexpected context.”

Since 2004, the Church Studios in Fairmount has been his home base, working alongside a group of artists in a 19th Century Sunday school on the 2nd and 3rd floor of Olivet Covenant Church. All 15 studios will be open for POST and there will be a craft fair and studio auction on Saturday Oct 6th.

Ben’s open house invites the visitor to peer into a collective cartography plotted in dialogue,  “My studio initiatives map directions – student participants have an active role in shaping the process and development of each initiative. Together we focus on asking questions, questioning the questions, and mapping out ways to collectively engage art and a creative process. Studio Initiatives often stretch over many years and include many different student groups.”

CFEVA’s Ann Petz observes his impact, “Ben is an artist who seamlessly blends concept and community to yield top-notch contemporary art projects. His ability to meaningfully integrate contributions from so many different sources into a synthesized and beautiful artistic product is paving the way for a new kind of social art practice.”

In November Ben will open the Volta Studio School at the Church Studios in Fairmount, a workshop and workspace for youth and adults with a mission to provide a dynamic space to develop skills as artists, designers, creative thinkers and problem solvers.

“I often meet parents that do not know where to send their teenagers to develop their skills as artists, and there are many adult artists that want a place to work alongside other artists. My hope is that through POST I will be able to connect with new people that may be interested in starting a dialogue, signing up, and working together, ” Ben explains.

Meei-Ling Ng
Deep Roots ll: Days and Nights on the Farm
Weaver Way’s Brooks Farm at Awbury Arboretum
1011 E Washington Lane
WEST Oct. 6-7

A former organic farmer, Meei-Ling Ng transforms Mort Brooks Memorial Farm (Awbury Arboretum) in Germantown, Philadelphia, PA.  Her installation relays a narrative on urban farming and sustainability though the integration of emerging technology and sculpture.

“There's a necessity for urban farms to be multi-use spaces. Implicit in this is that food needs to be grown where people live-not out beyond where the subdivisions stop. In urban areas open space is scarce so society has a responsibility to use the land efficiently. In our minds, that means layering in the uses-farming, education, recreation, storm water runoff control, art and performance space. The community adds the value-its their farm.”

Ng creates a wearable multimedia piece based on one migratory issue, “Bee colonies are mysteriously vanishing. My beekeeper sculpture, placed adjacent to the farm's beehives, will have a video screen built into its headgear running a trailer from the documentary film, "Vanishing of the Bees."  The sculpture also includes messages on how the community can care for bee populations.” The educational "chicken tractor", a movable enclosure fashioned from recycled objects and materials from the farm, teaches the visitor how to raise happy chickens that help the farmer control weeds and insect pests. This functional sculpture, which like most of my sculptures for this installation, uses recycled objects and materials from the farm. Ng is donating the chicken tractor to the farm's Childrens' Garden after the event.

Just as every farm is a collaborative production, Ng has partnered with Weavers Way Farm/Co-op, farm managers Rick Rigutto and Nina Berryman, photographer Sang Cun, and lighting designer, Jackson Kay.  “He has literally and figuratively turned on many lights for me. Jackson took the time to teach me the basics of light design then went beyond by using lights to seemingly animate farm crops for the event.”

“By collaborating with the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST) we hope to bring in a different community beyond foodies. Here's hoping that some of the art lovers who visit the farm will come back and help pull weeds,” Ng smiles.

West Philadelphia
The Soapbox: Independent Publishing Center
741South 51st Street
WEST October 6-7

The West Philadelphia Soapbox: Independent Publishing Center opened its doors as a collaboration between Mary Tasillo and Charlene Kwon to create a shared space for zine readings, exhibitions, and print makers and book artists to share access to equipment. Their POST show is equally collaborative, featuring work from Tailor and Kwon as well as studio members Scott Ziegler, Kerri (of the zine Deafula), Katie Haegele, Caroline Ziegler (Okay Hooray!), and Johanna Marshall.

“Mary and I met in 2009, and we both had the idea of starting a cooperative studio space with printmaking equipment in West Philly since there is no place to use a letterpress outside a university in Philadelphia. The Zine Library had been Mary’s dream for a long time, too. So in 2010 we bought a space, moved in, and went from there. We opened the space to the public with a zine reading and open house in March 2011, and have been expanding our community, studios, and event offerings ever since.”

Kwon describes the Soapbox, “Our membership is small but with diverse interests; members are printmakers, bookmakers, zinemakers, writers, and roboticists. The display at POST will reflect those diverse interests that span topics from yard sales to list making to deafness to the nature of time. It will include artist-made publications from the photocopied zine to the hand-printed book utilizing handmade, and work in printmaking. Some of the materials featured have been printed at The Soapbox.”

The Soapbox which houses a library collection of zines made nationally and internationally and  also participates in regional and national Zine Fests, independent book fairs from tiny publishers, including the upcoming Philadelphia Zinefest fair at the Rotunda on October 7.  

Kwon “We just got screenprinting equipment from a recent Kickstarter (where we raised funds from individuals as far away as Australia) so hopefully screenprinters will start showing up as well. Everyone is invited to visit the Zine Library, see our studio, and to join the studio. We are also very open to hosting events initiated and planned by members of the community.”

Kensington and Fishtown
Termite TV Collective
1400 N. American Street
Studio 412, 4th Floor
EAST October 20-21

At POST, the Termite TV collective presents a media “extravaganza” celebrating their twenty year anniversary as a forum for experimental and activist media making through DUTV Channel 54. Termite artists’ work has been broadcast nationally on PBS, Free Speech TV and Public access stations and screened at festivals and museums worldwide.  The collective was showcased twice at MOMA. 

Anula Shetty, Co-Director, Termite TV Collective says, “At our studio on the 4th floor of the Crane Arts Building we will have video installations, projections and video sculptures showing excerpts from the different projects Termite TV has facilitated over the last two decades. We will show excerpts from our theme based video collage shows to the "Life Stories" project, where people across the country are asked to tell their life story in 5 minutes.”

“We will also be showcasing some of our recent projects include the locative media project 'Walk Philly' where a series of video walks can be downloaded onto smartphones.  Users then follow along in the actual location and experience both the past and the present, the virtual and real worlds all at the same time.”

South Philadelphia
Michelle Angela Ortiz
1241 Carpenter Street
Studio 33
EAST October 20-21

Scaling walls on several continents, Michelle Angela Ortiz is a skilled muralist and community arts educator who has designed and created over 30 large-scale public works in countries including Fiji, Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica & Argentina. She’s represented her country as a United States Embassy Cultural Envoy and has won awards from NALAC Fund for the Arts the Leeway.  For POST, Michelle opens her studio in conjunction with projects at Mural Arts, Asian Arts Initiative, the Painted Bride, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, including her work with visiting street artists and youth in Chihuahua and Juarez, Mexico.

Her “Aqui y Alla” (“Here and There”) project provides an interactive experience, “Visitors to my studio will be able to see and hear stories of how young immigrant teens in our city have been impacted by immigration. They will be able to see how through this project the youth (here and there) are creating awareness of the social conditions that exist in their communities.  And how this project empowered the youth through this exchange and creative process so they can find a common bond and have their voices resonate in the artwork we created together.”
Ortiz describes her own narrative, “As a child of immigrants, I grew up with feelings of being 'other, of belonging and not belonging. I struggled with issues of class and race. I come from a tradition with strong oral histories that were not written down or visually represented, and risk being lost. For these reasons, my work as an artist takes place in communities that share these common experiences. My creative practice involves finding value in the stories and histories of marginalized people; creating powerful images and messages as a vehicle to share these stories; claiming and transforming space in ways that affirm or challenge people's experiences in that space; and providing the opportunity to create a dialogue through art around the most profound personal or community issues.”

 BONNIE MACALLISTER is a multi-media artist, grant writer and journalist residing in West Philly. Her work has appeared in Tom Tom Magazine, Toronto Quarterly, Nth Position (U.K.) and Grasp (Czech Republic). Send feedback here.
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