Two locals from West Philly, Sarah Thielke and Stephanie Slate, have plans to open up a new community workspace and gallery in the neighborhood. At the moment, Gush Gallery is little more than a dream floating in the Indiegogo clouds, but the founders talk to us about how they hope to go from concept to concrete reality.

Left to right: Stephanie Slate and Sarah Thielke of Gush Gallery.

Left to right: Stephanie Slate and Sarah Thielke of Gush Gallery.

Can you start out by giving me a bit of background on Gush Gallery and how you came up with the idea?

We met at Pratt. After graduating we moved to Philly and reconnected. We started talking about how we had a hard time in our neighborhood of West Philly finding a space. I do analog photography and there were no dark rooms out there. At the time I was renting so I couldn’t make my own dark room. I had a bike and I was biking all the way out to Project Basho, and by the time I’d get there I didn’t want to print anymore. So we decided we needed to make a place in West Philly.

We briefly discussed opening a gallery one morning at breakfast, and said let’s just do it.

We’ve met so many awesome people and new artists, even though we’re just starting out, so it’s already been a rewarding experience.

How did you come up with the name for Gush Gallery?

It was one of our first choices. We went on thesaurus.com and said, ‘What is something that relates to emerging and being new?’

Plus I really get the excitement for your project from the name. On your website, you focus specifically on West Philly. Do you feel like you’re addressing an under-served need for that community?

I think so. From what we could find, we didn’t have many resources out there. We were having to come to this neighborhood [Northern Liberties] to get what we needed. Of course everyone would be welcome. We’d be more than happy to see Northern Libertians. But it just seems that neighborhood is lacking what you guys have over here.

You both come from photography backgrounds. Will this be the focus of your workshops, or will you try to pull more people in?

At first, because it is just the two of us, and our expertise is within photography, that’s all that we could comfortably offer. We’d love to bring other artists in who could teach different workshops.

Does the same apply for your eventual gallery space?

We want to make it very eclectic. From the minute we open the doors we are going to be showing all types of artists’ work. But until we get our name out there we’ll only be able to offer photography-based workshops and classes. But we do have some people in mind. We’ve got a great friend who’s an iron worker, and I was talking to him about maybe doing some beginning classes on how to forge some iron. So we have people we’re in contact with that we’re working to broaden the spectrum a little.

Would you say you’ve generated a lot of buzz for the project?

A small one. I’m pretty happy with what we have so far. It’s definitely beginning stages.

We’ve also gone the old school route. I have a six-month-old daughter and we take her and pound the pavement, handing out flyers and postcards, stopping people in the street.

You’re looking to eventually get members for the gallery. Can you tell me what that will entail?

We’re going to have three different stages. One that’s pretty affordable, $25 for the year. That would give discounts on printing facilities, the darkroom etc. When I first moved here and was printing at Project Basho, it was a way for me to save a bunch of money. Getting 10% off the hourly time was the best decision financially. That’s what we’re hoping to offer people.

You have an indiegogo campaign. Can you give me an idea of what the funds will be going towards?

It’s all going towards computers and darkroom equipment, and minor repairs to the spot we get. It’s amazing how expensive the equipment is, it all adds up so fast.

Do you have a space you’re looking at?

We have two spaces we’re really excited about. One spot is our dream spot. The layout and size is better for us, but the location and price isn’t ideal. The one space is a barber shop, and the other was a hair salon, but they work perfectly for what we need.

Are you looking to get the local universities involved at all?

We’d love to be a place where students can get their homework done. Or even if they have work they want to display, we’d love to help students get started out. As soon as you have those few exhibitions on paper, then other people look at you. We want to be that place for people. We want to be their cheerleaders, be there for them and promote them.

Do you have any next steps planned?

We want to open up and get started right away, and figure out what we can work on. This is all a learning experience. We’re taking it day by day for now.

What sort of atmosphere are you hoping to create once you open up the space?

Warm and inviting. A lot of galleries are cold, we want Gush to be home. We want people to feel like they can come in and talk to us, if they have questions, concerns, ideas. We want it to be engaging on a personal level. Be inspired by them and have them be inspired by us.

To support their campaign, visit the Indeigogo page here.

Joseph Opshinsky

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