On August 11, Flying Kite announced
the official relaunch of On the Ground
, and we’re already enjoying the hospitality of our home for the next three months, Girard Avenue's A Poet Art Gallery
The gallery, founded in late 2010, was originally located at 4510 Walnut Street before moving to 40th and Girard in Parkside. The three founders, Rachelle Pierre-Louis, Shar Coles and New York-based Tina Albright recently chatted with Flying Kite about their history and mission.
"We just wanted to create a space for artists to basically have a home," explains Pierre-Louis.
Events at the Girard Avenue space include weekly (every Tuesday night) and monthly ("Sounds in the Gallery" every first Saturday) open mic events for poetry and music, plus art exhibitions, African dance classes and, coming soon, painting classes. The gallery is also available to rent for a variety of events, including weddings.
The three women's artistic backgrounds are about as diverse as they come. The Haitian-born Pierre-Louis came to the U.S. when she was 11, first settling with family in Los Angeles for a year, then relocating to Philly where she completed the rest of her education, including a graphic design degree.
"I’ve been drawing since I was six years old," she says; Pierre-Louis now works in acrylics and oils, as well as tattoo art.
Coles, an alum of University City High School, is a Philadelphia native who grew up in South and West Philly. She loves all kinds of art and describes herself as "an inside poet" because she enjoys putting words together, but doesn’t always share them in public.
Albright is an interior designer and art-decal maker, but she also shares carpentry skills with Coles. Her artistic expertise extends into the culinary realm: She creates custom cakes in a variety of shapes including handbags and shoes.
"We pretty much all had a hand in building the gallery," recalls Albright.
The three put even more work into their Girard Avenue space than the Walnut Street one -- they raised the ceiling, laid down new floors, and designed and created the bathrooms. The location even boasts a backyard.
The women admire the better-known gallery corridors of Old City, but saw no reason not to bring the same caliber of art and community-building to West Philly. According to Pierre-Louis, they have a broad client base across the city, but want to connect more closely with their nearest neighbors. When she got wind of On the Ground, it sounded like the perfect "missing piece" of their mission for the gallery.
"We’ve been trying to get in touch and pool a little bit more of the community and we haven’t had that chance," she continues; the Flying Kite
connection was the right thing at the right time. "We want people to come out and appreciate art and see something different…and decide to pick up some paint and write some poetry, and we want to inspire people and be in our home base, which is West Philly."
The address is 4032 Girard Avenue, and Flying Kite
will be in residence there every Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. through October.
"We’re always looking for artists," adds Pierre-Louis. "The door is always open."
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Rachelle Pierre-Louis, Shar Coles, and Tina Albright, APoetArtGallery