Germantown artists display their work in underused buildings
February 5, 2013By Taisje Claiborne and Haley Kmetz of Philadelphia Neighborhoods
"It used to be scary. You still have to be vigilant, but it's obvious that the atmosphere is brightening up."
-- Jim Dragoni, a local musical artist and concert producer, on the neighborhood on and near the 300 block of W. Chelten Ave.
On a recent Friday morning, the office space at 322 W. Chelten Ave. stood empty. Only red, white and blue walls remained from its time as an Obama for America headquarters.
By evening, artwork covered the halls surrounding a crowd of local artists and Germantown residents.
The speedy transformation kicked off Flying Kite's pilot program "On the Ground" that will temporarily occupy underused storefronts to inspire neighborhood transformation.
"Yesterday, one of the gallery owners around here said it's like a nice injection," said Michelle A. Freeman, Flying Kite Media publisher.
Project buildings also provide the community with new gathering locations.
"For me, it's always been great to see another positive community space that brings together people who may not otherwise come together, and I think that is the kind of space art opens up," said Liz Einsig Wise, a Germantown resident. "I hope the community has a chance to meet here and experience something positive."
After 90 days, the exhibit will be deconstructed and Flying Kite will plant its roots in another area of the city.
"I think there is a lot of great work coming from the different areas in Philadelphia and you don't get to see them or there is not as many opportunities to showcase them," said Andrew Ly, Germantown.
W. Chelten Ave. energy
Germantown residents agreed the formerly deserted location had much to offer, like the nearby Wired Beans Café that has become a local hotspot for community meetings.
"It used to be scary," said Jim Dragoni, a local musical artist and concert producer. "You still have to be vigilant, but it's obvious that the atmosphere is brightening up."
Local artist Gaille Hunter, whose work was on display at the art exhibit, admitted the project was bittersweet.
"It's great because it gives a lift to areas that are pretty much neglected," said Hunter, "and it's a shame that they can't stay longer."
Taisje Claiborne and Haley Kmetz are students at Temple University. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a NewsWorks content partner, is an initiative of the Temple Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.