As a newcomer to the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, I found myself profoundly thankful for the precious POST – Made in Philly booklet I had picked up early on Sunday, October 6. Before arriving to Center City, I had a vague idea of what I was looking for – a gallery here and there on North 2nd Street, some studios in Kensington – but I was woefully aware of my lack of organization. Thankfully, the book equipped me with maps, artist names, and short descriptions that made my first POST weekend infinitely more enjoyable.
I began my tour at Studios at 915 on Spring Garden Street. 32 artists opened their doors to welcome wandering visitors, and the incredible variety amongst the studios made it a notable stop. On the fifth floor, I met Michele C. Kishita, an InLiquid artist whose work instantly became one of my favorites. The effect of the color on bare wood, coupled with the paint drip and the precision of all of the lines, straight and curved, was strongly reminiscent of nature. The fourth floor had even more variety, including Carol Cole’s recycled sculptures, William Kosman’s gorgeous and story-riddled paintings from New York, Philadelphia, and Normandy, and Dora Ficher, another InLiquid artist, whose abstract and colorful pieces utilize the encaustic method to its fullest potential.
I moved down the building to Sandra Hoffman’s studio. Her subtle landscapes were a refreshing take on a classic subject, and her neighbor, Rita Siemienski Smith, served as a polar opposite. There was yet another field of design in Andrea Mihalik’s Wild Chairy studio, featuring antiques with modern touches, such as a cushion with a design printed from a fellow Studio worker.
Even though I could have spent (and very nearly did spend) the rest of my time meandering the halls between studios, I knew that there were other galleries worth exploring, so I made the walk to Old City. I came across James Abbott’s gallery on Third Street, and marveled at the amazing photographs that James has taken, particularly of the Berlin Wall, a surprising commentary on the melding of the historical and the modern. Byron Wolfe’s work hung in the same gallery, inspiring the map-lover in me with works such as Yosemite in Time, where current photographs gave a modern landscape to the old pen-drawn maps.
I checked out prints at Silicon Gallery, investigated the philanthropic motives of AIGA’s design project, and marveled at the variety of projects represented in the 3rd Street Gallery (Rhea Dennis’ handmade paper and gouache projects were among my favorites). As the day progressed, I found more fellow tourists, obvious by their dependence on the POST books, intent on discovering what Philadelphia’s art scene has to offer. Luckily, there is another POST opportunity October 19-20, this time West of Broad Street.