From PAFA to Stanek Gallery and Cerulean Arts: Innovation is the Key
Back in 1991 when Old City Arts Association began First Friday, a once-a-month, coordinated opening of art galleries, art spaces, and restaurants to visitors, the public was unaware of the happenings in this part of the City of Philadelphia. Innovation induced people to come to a part of the city they would visit only for historic landmark trips to Independence and Carpenter’s Halls, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, Elferth’s Alley, and Christ Church, to name a few. Now it is taken for granted that this part of the city is abuzz with activity as visitors flock in and out of the galleries, specialty shops, and restaurants that have flourished as they stay open late every first Friday of the month.
In 2000 Center for Emerging Visual Artists took up a mantle to connect artists with art
lovers for the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST). Now, what began as one special week end has grown to two week ends of tours in four separate sections of the city where the public can visit artists’ studios, galleries, and reserved spaces to look at and speak to the creative individuals about the work they do to enhance life in the city and beyond.
In 2007 Little Berlin was founded in the Berks Warehouse. What started as raw space that artists were rehabilitating, has grown into studio spaces and galleries with a collaborative team who curates or chooses guest curators to exhibit in the Kensington space.
And yes, I know that there are numerous other artist-run and co-op spaces in Philadelphia, some newer and offering cross-discipl
Instead, for today’s post I am going to start briefly with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and then focus on two present-day galleries started by alumni from the Academy—Stanek Gallery and Cerulean Arts—and their innovations for art presentation to the Philadelphia market. But to begin, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is both this country’s oldest museum and art school founded in the early 19th century by Charles Wilson Peale and William Rush. (See this article for exact details.
http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-19D) In its many years the Academy has had its controversies, but has continued to train artists, sometimes a little slow to change, but always with a look to the future. You have only to look at the Annual Student Exhibition (which is always in May) to see how the students of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts maintain their hold on to its history and the newest advances into making art.
Katherine Stanek, owner and founder, Deborah Fine, co-founder and gallery consultant, and
Vanessa Werring, gallery manager, are all graduates of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Certificate Program. Stanek Gallery is located on 3rd Street in Old City, Philadelphia— the area known for its art galleries. There are several differences of Stanek from most commercial art spaces. First, Stanek founders who are working artists, maintain studios in the same building. Second, within the gallery is a “living room”, a space set up with home furnishings that allows a prospective buyer to more than envision but to “see” what an art work would look like in their home. Third, rather than presenting art work that they have chosen for the public to consume, Stanek maintains a schedule of visiting curators who present a themed exhibition of contemporary works. Attached to these exhibitions are programming from artist’s talks to coffee house chats and dinners with the art to drawing and painting demonstrations. Stanek Gallery is also media savvy and finance savvy—something that is not usual among artists. Even from their web site one can connect to find out how to become a member of their “Family of Collectors Program”. In short, after purchasing an art work from the gallery you will be enrolled to preview new work coming into the gallery, notified of events at the gallery, given art consultation and discounts. Moreover, through “Art Money”, a company that makes interest-free loans of $1,000 to $30,000 on the purchase of art work. A 10% deposit and 9 monthly payments of equal amount will allow a buyer to purchase and take home an object from the gallery. Art Money is now in use at over 600 galleries in the United States (including the aforementioned Paradigm Gallery).
Cerulean Arts has made its home on Ridge Avenue, just down the street from the historic
Divine Lorraine Hotel, since 2006. Owned and operated by Michael Kowbuz, a painter and art administrator at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Tina Rocha, an architect, it has been presenting fine art in its gallery space, selling hand-made artisan works in an adjoining space, and offering art classes. Recently, Cerulean expanded to the building next-door and opened a 6-galleried showcase with a large classroom studio. With this acquisition they started the Cerulean Collective. Each month, in addition to their gallery exhibition, five of the Collective’s members are exhibited. Additionally, a sixth space as well as the front windows display the work – one per artists—of all of the Collective. And once- a- year Cerulean also offers a juried art exhibition where a noted curator, artist, or critic chooses the art work to be shown at Cerulean Arts. What is even more gratifying—especially for the artists— is that folks who have seen the
art work, or are even interested in viewing and buying art works from Cerulean’s vast holdings can shop from the web site either by searching from “Shop” or “Exhibitions/Artists”. (They are also on Artsy, but shopping from the Cerulean web site is much easier.) Cerulean also interfaces with InLiquid (www.inliquid.org) a vital information web site on art and artists based in the Philadelphia area.
The cliché is “when one door closes another door opens”. I like to think that Philadelphia is better than that. When stuck in a room where the doors have been closed and bolted, Philadelphians are smart enough to open and climb out the windows OR just punch a hole in the wall. It is that can-do AND will-do spirit that gives Philly its specialness.
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