Art galleries usually aren’t that cozy.
They cater to people with high incomes, are full of insular groups of artists and rarely have homemade cupcakes. They never have a friendly, tail-wagging dog roaming around, let alone kitchens, bedrooms or backyards. Fortunately, there are people in Philly who are working to shift this paradigm.
Three groups of people in Center City have adapted their houses to accommodate both occupants and art shows. Although the artists involved have done this for vastly different reasons, their top priority is the same: elbow out a room for the little guy.
Take the Compound, for instance. It’s a warehouse full of adults who enjoy art (and the art of Wii bowling), located at the edge of an alley on 319 N. 11th St. With a junkyard full of unused wheelchairs and uninstalled basement bar fronts, the Compound is a fringe artist’s paradise.
The space began just like most housing situations do – with friends who wanted to live and grow together. Bill Sands, Adam Pietras and Temple alum Erin Broadhurst reside in the house and many more come there to work.
Many artists have lived in the Compound for the past four years, but its first exhibit took place last month.
The theme was “The Space We’re In,” which focused on destroying and rebuilding streets and abandoned homes. The Compound’s second show, which featured T-shirt design, took place last week.
“It’s, you know, a place where we can produce and hang out, and have a good time,” Sands said. “The art gallery is a focus because we all produce. [The fact] that it also produced a community is fine by us.”
The Parlor, a new space on 29th and Reed streets, takes a similar approach. The hippie artists who occupy the house said they care about the environment, animals and fostering a community among urban cliques.
“We are legitimately such varied people. A lot of collective houses are like radical queers, radical anarchists or a bunch of Penn students who are in a collective. Here you get a bunch of very broad, different social groups,” resident Lorenzo Buffa said.
When Buffa purchased the space in April, he demolished unwanted cabinets and carpeted floors for two months. Now, the deconstruction’s aftermath looks appropriate in an art house. Black wooden floors make the art on the walls pop. The rounded archway leading to the dining and bike area is painted black and bares white, cardboard teeth and eyes. There’s even an outdoor shower.
“I wanted to create a space where I could be constantly inspired,” Buffa said. “It’s possible to have an entire household that’s fully creative.”
Buffa and his roommates, some of whom are Temple alumni, want to help the neighborhood. They want to hold “art hours” for children and schedule shows for traveling bands. Anyone with a creative spirit will be allowed to hang art on their walls.
The housemates held their first exhibit of art made from cardboard on Aug. 8. Buffa doesn’t want to limit the group “to just having art on the walls.” He wants to put a silk-screening studio in the basement and house continually innovative mixed media shows. Their second show, “Black & White,” started on Sept. 19.
Before the Parlor or the Compound existed, there was the Padlock Gallery. In 2004, the art home began like others – a few friends needed some sweet digs. Residents Ted Passon and Mark Price now curate shows in their home.
Because its residents have studios at Space 1026, the Padlock Gallery is different than the other art homes. There is a living room with two couches, a kitchen with dishes and food, three bedrooms and a backyard where Passon plants flowers with his mother.
Most importantly, there is the vestibule: a small room with three-and-a-half walls, where they hold exhibits. When asked if the Padlock Gallery hopes to create a community, Passon said that they don’t need to foster a community – they just need to keep it from being lost.
“[It’s about] being more comfortable, less institutionalized,” he said. “Not having to rely on other places to do what you want to do.”
Courtney Davison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.