Interviews by Erica Minutella and Emily Hunter

InLiquid’s Art for the Cash Poor 15 celebrates Philadelphia as the City of Makers. This week, we’ll be featuring AFTCP15 participants who ‘build it’ – artists who add a bit of 3D punch to their work, giving us a little something to hold onto.

New this year, we’ve invited some of the top Philadelphia Influencers to curate a group of promising artists and designers. We’ve asked a few influencers to share their advice on how to build it – and yourself: whether literally through community workshop spaces, or figuratively by learning how to connect directly with patrons.

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Darla Jackson, Owner of Philadelphia Sculpture Gym

As the owner of Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, would you say that becoming a member of community workshop spaces is essential to an artist’s success?

I hesitate to say essential, because for some people they can have successful careers making work in their kitchen. However, I do think with something like sculpture it certainly makes it easier on so many levels. When we leave art school, taking time to build your own shop is very expensive and can be limiting if you don’t already know the tools well. At a space like the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, you can walk in and make a mold, weld, turn wood, cast metal, use a forge and more. It takes the start up cost out of being an artist, which allows for the potential of more work to be made from earlier on. Plus working alongside a group of one’s peers allows for a built in network of people to bounce ideas off of, learn from and work with.

Do you have any other membership programs you would recommend to new artists?

The Philadelphia Sculpture Gym has a lecture and demo series that is free to members and $5 for non-members. Its a fast and easy way to learn more about various new processes and tools.

There are other membership based organizations in Philadelphia that are definitely worth checking out in this area, like Inliquid, CFEVA, Philadelphia Sculptors, Second State Press, BYO Print, Indy Hall, Project Basho, Philly Photo Arts Center and more… It all depends on what your focus is, but there are plenty of organizations that can help artists in any medium.

Your space also offers workshops. Would you say it’s important for an artist to continue to brush up on skills through similar programs, even when college is long past?

Yes, its absolutely important for artists to continue to learn new skills, new processes, new materials throughout their career. The majority of things that are now a major influence in my work are things I’ve learned after college. I think continually striving to be better at what you do is one of the best ways to improve your work and widen your audience.

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Gillian Pokalo, Printmaker and InLiquid Member

You have experience as both a teaching artist and art educator… what do you see as the most important thing to teach those who both appreciate art and those who strive to be professional artists?

I firmly believe that there is room in art for everyone; everyone has a creative capacity. I teach people how to really see: how to find and understand the world around us and be able to translate that into art. Once you learn to see, it’s a skill you’ll carry for life. I try to teach how to have the confidence and the belief that your creative voice is worth being expressed. Whether your art-making is for a career or for personal enrichment, once you learn how to see and how to work with your hands, it’s hard not to appreciate the works of artists around you.

You are very involved with art fairs. What advantage do art fairs have over galleries?

Art galleries serve their purposes, and thank goodness they exist as another way for artists to show their work. I prefer to be at art fairs because I enjoy talking directly to my patrons and educating people about my work. I really enjoy the conversations that come up when I’m speaking with people directly, and enjoy knowing that my work is going to a good home. Art is such an intimate thing. I am attached to the things I make. I know what I was thinking when I made each piece. Galleries, by their very nature, can’t know as much about my work as I do, and so it makes that exchange so much more personal and meaningful when someone buys a work of art directly from me – the person who made it.

What advice can you give to first-time artists trying to sell their work at art fairs?

The best advice I can think of for participating in art fairs is to be flexible! Every show is kind of a gamble, in a way, because you never know what to expect. If being an artist is your calling, then keep at it. Keep going to shows. Your art isn’t for everybody, and that’s okay – because with each show you make those connections that may lead to something else. Have a good attitude and be willing to share yourself with others. And be willing to learn from each experience.

Join us for Art for the Cash Poor 15, June 14 – 15, noon – 6 pm at Crane Arts. Or buy tickets to the preview party benefiting AIDS Fund, June 13, 5:30 – 9 pm.

DeMelas / Checchia

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