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For Philly art, an energy boost

Graffiti artist Cosbe attributed his recent success to participating in Red Bull Curate’s competition two years ago. Andrew Thayer | TTN
Graffiti artist Cosbe attributed his recent success to participating in Red Bull Curate’s competition two years ago. Andrew Thayer | TTN

Music permeated the almost vacant room littered with paint supplies and cracked Red Bull cans.

A small collection of artists were calmly painting, detailing, gluing, dying and transforming their once blank canvas coolers into pieces of art.

Red Bull Curates hand picked 20 local developing artists throughout Philadelphia for its third Canvas Cooler Project, which was held on Sept. 25 at Arch Enemy Arts. Philly is the eighth city on Red Bull’s exhibition tour.

Arts Fund partnered with Red Bull to produce the event, aiming to establish an environment where patrons learned about local artists who have limited exposure.

Billy Franchey, a producer from Arts Fund, was involved with the process of choosing the artists and cities featured in the project.

“Something like this can open up an artist in their mid-career to a new audience and they’re at that inflection point where they can really pop,” Franchey said. “But the other side of this is truly emerging – raw talent.”

“All styles are represented and all levels of where you are in your career,” Franchey said. “It’s an interesting juxtaposition.”

The featured artists have produced a wide variety of work displayed throughout the city, including murals and group exhibits. Franchey and his organization’s aim was to expand the concentrated, individual crowd by using Red Bull as an outlet.

Artists work on their Red Bull cooler art at the Arch Enemy Arts gallery in Old City on Monday, Sept. 22.  Andrew Thayer | TTN
Artists work on their Red Bull cooler art at the Arch Enemy Arts gallery in Old City on Monday, Sept. 22. Andrew Thayer | TTN

Franchey credited the success of the program to the artists’ lack of recognition.

“The museums are characterized for having historical and classic art,” Franchey said. “But you still have this vibrant community of artists that are up on what’s current. You have an edginess and contemporary art passion here … more so than any other city we’ve been to.”

For the artists, this was more than an opportunity to bump shoulders with the cultured crowd of those in attendance – it was a chance to present their talent using limited space and time.

Gabe Tiberino, who is involved with the Tiberino Museum that honors his late mother’s artistry, was asked by Red Bull to judge the designs. Tiberino has a handful of murals and portraits displayed throughout the city and said he is excited to see other artists take advantage of the opportunity.

“This is a really big moment to put artists up on a bigger platform,” Tiberino said. “[They] may or may not have been on that level of showing in art shows before, so this is awesome.”

One of the two winners, known as AirRat, will have the opportunity to fly to Miami to compete in the Scope Art Fair during Art Basel Week in December. The artist said being from Philadelphia gives him an advantage against bigger markets because of the character associated with the city.

“When you go to New York or Los Angeles, you see that guy tagged here or that guy’s art over there … They are all established and everyone wants to imitate that,” he said. “It’s easier to make a name here and be on that higher level because it’s just starting to emerge.”

One 2012 contestant, who goes by the moniker Cosbe, said he is also aware of the importance a recognizable style can have.

Originally from Chicago, the graffiti artist moved to New York hoping to put his individual style of small street stickers against a long history of captivating and original art. His abstract designs landed him a spot as Red Bull’s sponsored artist at the Scope Art Show in Miami.

Cosbe, an emerging artist, attributed some of his recent success to his participation in the contest two years ago.

“There is this pull to get more established artists into the program,” Cosbe said. “Honestly they have fought to always have artists that are up and coming into the program. I think it is a really admirable quality.”

Cosbe finds everything from the natural architect of the high rising buildings to the stencils of pigeons on the ground exclusive to Philadelphia. He believes it shows that artists are willing to create art with pure intentions.

“There’s something about going [to a city] and experiencing it for yourself,” Cosbe said. “Philadelphia has a really great and honest art scene here. I like it a lot.”

Patrick McCarthy can be reached at  patrick.mccarthy@temple.edu

*Editor’s note: Changes to this article were made on Oct. 2. This is the third annual event for Red Bull Curates, not the fourth annual event. Also, winners of the event have the opportunity to compete in the Scope Art Fair during Art Basel Week in December. The artists are not competing in Basel Art Week.

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