The Fleisher Art Memorial resides in the Bella Vista section of South Philly on a quaint, tree-dotted street filled by row homes.
The Fleisher resembles a church more than an art gallery, but its old-fashioned appearance does not detract from its significant role in the community of contemporary artists in the area.
With its provision of free classes for both children and adults, programs with the School District of Philadelphia and community art festivals, the Fleisher Art Memorial has strived to make art accessible since it was started as a nonprofit organization in 1898.
Its ongoing exhibit also coincides with Fleisher’s mission statement: the Annual Wind Challenge Exhibition, the second portion of which will last until Feb. 7, serves primarily to promote aspiring artists in the Philadelphia area. Each year, local painters, sculptors, ceramicists and woodcutters apply to showcase their work in the three-part exhibit which will conclude in May, and a small handful of lucky, talented applicants are selected.
“[The Wind Challenge Exhibition] is one of those Philadelphia things that if you get it, it’s sort of like, ‘You’re on your way,’” Alexis Nutini, a local artist, said, who participated in an event on Jan. 22 that complemented the exhibition.
Nutini used his fluency in Spanish to describe the artwork of Theresa Rose, a Temple alumna, in an entirely new light and language. In between periodical performances, Rose stated a line in English regarding her artwork, whether it was a personal anecdote or a Philadelphia-related fact, which Nutini translated to Spanish.
Nutini, native of Mexico and a Fulbright scholarship recipient, first began dabbling in art during his years as an undergraduate student at the St. Mary’s College of Maryland. After he received a fellowship at the Tyler School of Art, Nutini earned an M.F.A. in printmaking.
For Nutini, attending graduate school at Temple taught him about the importance of creating solid and meaningful relationships in the art community – something he teaches his students now as an adjunct professor at Tyler.
“The kind of advice I give them is to be mindful of the community – probably something I repeat a lot,” Nutini said.
He suggests to his students that they view the artistic world not as a rigid and hostile competition, but as a supportive coalition. Much of Nutini’s work focuses upon the identity of his materials – usually wooden panels with prints on them – as well as his own identity.
Nutini said Philadelphia is a supportive place for artists, due to its relatively affordable housing and copious assortment of artists’ coalitions.
Artist Cynthia Back, who will also be featured in the exhibition, saw a similarly supportive artistic space in Philadelphia when she moved here from Brooklyn more than 10 years ago.
“There’s a huge community of artists – I think that’s exciting,” Back said.
Growing up in the Midwest, Back said she remembers witnessing a tornado as a young child. Although this remarkable experience is not what influenced Back’s artwork, much of her artistic subject matter does coincidentally involve the frighteningly dangerous power of nature.
“I have an environmental focus,” Back said. “It’s also in a way personal; it’s about how one’s life can change at any second.”
She will be providing a new set of prints involving nature’s impact for the Fleisher Art Memorial.
Rose will be showcasing her artwork alongside Back and others. Much of Rose’s work involves local sights in the city with an abstract twist – the objects she paints often fade into a wash of blended, lucid colors.
“I just like that open-ended element when she might start with something that’s easily recognizable and then it sort of shifts into something else,” Nutini said of Rose’s art.
Angela Gervasi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org