Showcasing up-and-coming talent

Nearly every month, a crowd of about 200 people gather at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia, located at 4014 Walnut St., for the Big Art Show. On Sunday, Nov. 4, the event hosted 40 to

Nearly every month, a crowd of about 200 people gather at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia, located at 4014 Walnut St., for the Big Art Show. On Sunday, Nov. 4, the event hosted 40 to 50 artists displaying their work along with four to five bands and performers.

Any genre is welcome at the Big Art Show. There are painters and sculptors, photographers and mixed-media artists, even some pastry chefs. The Big Art Show can also accommodate video artists, dancers and actors.

Paul Yavarone, the man behind the Big Art Show, is a 26-year-old art enthusiast who is concerned about the spread of commercial art and corporate media. Paul and others who help to organize the monthly event are passionate about what they do.Their goal is to promote independent art by giving young, talented people a chance to display their work to the public. It is a unique opportunity for artists – professionals and amateurs alike – to get some exposure, discuss their work and share ideas with peers in a friendly, informal atmosphere.

“What we do is nonprofit,” Yavarone said. “If we happen to make a couple of extra bucks, we spend it on racks that hold paintings or something of that kind.”

Unlike many other art exhibits, there are no entry fees involved. The Big Art Show is free for the artists to participate and there is no complicated judging process. Artists can sign up online at They will receive an e-mail with instructions to show up a few hours before the event to display their work.

The crowd at the Big Art Show is very diverse. There are art students, art school drop-outs and self-taught individuals who feel the need for self-expression. While some are truly serious about their art, others consider it to be merely a hobby.

This month, some were returning artists while others were new to the scene.

“I really like this spot,” said Amy Groark, a 22-year-old photographer who returned to the Rotunda for the third time. “The people are friendly, and the music is good.”

Groark has several dozen mounted black-and-white and color photographs on display that she sells for $12. Artists are allowed to sell their work and it’s up to them to price their pieces, and unlike most exhibits there is no commission involved. Groark’s prices ranged from a couple dollars for small, postcard-size pieces to over $50 for larger, framed ones, and often times are negotiable. Meanwhile, Sarah Bean had a stand with colorful fake-fur hats – or “fuzzy heads.”

“They are really warm and amazing!” Bean said, who is also part of a punk band.

The atmosphere at the Rotunda is informal
and friendly. Artists socialize with the audience and each other while band members tune for their sets.

George Cordero, a self-taught photographer
who has been working in wedding and portrait photography for seven years, said while handing out business cards that he prefers film over digital cameras and still uses film whenever possible

“Teachers give you a lot of subjective opinions about your work, and it can be discouraging sometimes,” said Moore College of Art graduate Nicole DelRossi, who likes to show her paintings at the Big Art Show. As the band Silence Kit started playing, DelRossi said it gets too loud for conversations, which she doesn’t like.

However, many others like the music.

The Big Art Show started around 7 p.m. and went on until 1 a.m. Alternating strolls through the artists’ stands and watching the bands play can easily occupy vistors for a few hours.

As the last band, Beast Infection, finished its last set, artists packed their artwork and prepared to leave.

“See you guys next month,” Groark said to the artists she met tonight, and she plans to take part in the December Big Art Show.

The organizer Paul Yavarone says that the Big Art Show was held in several other places, besides Philadelphia. Some of the locations he mentioned were Brooklyn, N.Y., and Akron and Asbury Park, both in Ohio. But he wants to spread the event further. At the end of the show, Yavarone revealed his plans for the winter and early spring.

“I want to rent a van,” Yavarone said. “And take a bunch of music and art enthusiasts and go on a tour to Texas. We’ll make stops in several places on the way and have a Big Art Show in every city we go. And maybe we can even get to California.”

Inna Spivakova can be reached at

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