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PAFA students launch their own gallery collective

AUTOMAT founders

Six Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) were frustrated by the lack of opportunities for young and emerging artists to exhibit their work. They decided not to wait around for the local scene to give them their chance.

"Though many amazing spaces and programs exist, it remains difficult to exhibit, especially coming right out of graduate school," explains recent MFA grad Tiffany Tate. "We want to be part of the solution," and make a new space where Philly’s emerging artists can "take chances."

Tate and fellow students Morgan Hobbs, Jillian Schley, Rebecca Sedehi, Shane Allen Smith and Zach Zecha have formed AUTOMAT, a gallery collective with a new 750-square-foot home on the second floor of a former sewing factory at 319 N. 11th Street.

Chatting with Flying Kite about the new collective and its space, Tate explains that 319 -- as it’s called by the artists -- is full of galleries, independent artist collectives and studio space.

Tate, a photographer, now works for PAFA; the other AUTOMAT partners will graduate this year.

"We’re always talking about ways to stay connected and stay inspired," she says. "And as emerging artists outside of school looking for show opportunities, we know how difficult it is to find spaces to show when you don’t have gallery representation."

Funding AUTOMAT is a three-pronged process. There are monthly dues from the six collective members, plus over $6,000 from a successful Indiegogo campaign (ending March 4) that will help cover renovation of the space, including new paint, a projector, fixtures to hang the artwork, furniture and marketing dollars. AUTOMAT also secured a grant of about $3,000 from PAFA’s Venture Fund, which helps students take the next step in their careers.

According to Tate, space at 319 was the collective’s first choice. The founders liked how dedicated the building's tenants are to new media and the contemporary arts scene. This is the attitude the AUTOMAT crew needs: Schley makes sculptures out of poured paint. Hobbs, Sedehi and Zecha are painters, and Smith does a bit of everything, from videos and printmaking to sculpture.

They’re still working on prepping the walls and floors, and installing new lighting, but they’re on track for an official opening show on Friday, April 3. The first exhibition will feature work by the founders.
"It’s not primarily about showing our own work," Tate says of the collective’s future curatorial goals. "But our first show is like, 'Hi, we’re AUTOMAT. Come meet us!'"
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tiffany Tate, AUTOMAT
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