Pop-up studios rise to the artistic occasion

A former bicycle shop in Mount Airy has been transformed into a temporary art gallery as ephemeral as a paper moon.

Edward Maeder makes paper dresses. The textile artist and retired museum curator creates fabric by layering ribbons, napkins, paper towels and doilies into long, wide patterns. He brushes them with diluted glue, then cuts and tailors those paper sheets into formal wear, reminiscent of 18th century costumes.

With a twirl of his moustache, he proclaims that he is on this earth to make other’s people lives more interesting, and this corner storefront space is perfect.

“I can’t imagine a space that could be better,” said Maeder, gesturing to the walls of the corner store. “There are these two huge windows. I can see everything that’s going around, and everyone around can see what’s going on in here.”

Maeder’s paper dresses are not designed to last, and neither is this gallery. As a two-week artist-in-residence, he keeps the space lively until a permanent tenant can be found.

Last December, landlord Pam Rogow started giving Internet store owners a chance to have a brick-and-mortar experience for a few days. The etsy.com entrepreneurs used their online social networking tools to turn those days into a retail performance.

“I thought, why don’t I continue while I anticipate what I’m going to have as a permanent resident — because I’m pretty picky here,” said Rogow. “Let’s have some fun and match up young enterprisers and creatives with this space.”

A similar effort started on South Street a couple years ago, when local merchants noticed the disturbing number of empty storefronts on the retail corridor. The South Street Headhouse District launched a program to give storefronts to artists temporarily, with the requirement that the spaces will be open to the public five days a week.

Ellen Owen, who administers the program, says artist collectives apply for four-month residencies.

“It’s really as a protection for the artists so they can have a space to showcase their best efforts, and they don’t have to feel pressure to continue a space over the course of time,” she said.

So far, Rogow has offered her Mount Airy space to experimental retailers and artists for just days at a time. She plans to expand the model to other neighborhoods in Philadelphia.

For a schedule of featured workshops and artists at the Mount Airy pop-up studio space call 215-842-1040 or visit www.maedermade.blogspot.com.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.