Lively artworks looking for a place to shine …
Empty storefronts looking for a way to catch the eye …
It was a match made in …
In Chestnut Hill, to be exact.
In a recent initiative encouraged by the City of Philadelphia, vacant store display areas along Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill have been converted into temporary gallery spaces featuring the work of local artists.
And in an added twist, artworks also dot the Wissahickon Valley section of Fairmount Park, creating an arts trail that embraces both the commercial and natural hearts of the neighborhood.
The program, dubbed “ReStore Corridors Through Art,” is a joint venture by the Philadelphia Department of Commerce and the city’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy. Its aim is to increase traffic in areas which in this economy have seen some economic struggles despite being surrounded by a strong neighborhood.
Similar programs in New York, San Francisco, and New York have proved successful in influencing economic growth in commercial districts where art exhibits were installed in vacant storefronts.
The program in Philadelphia is looking to affiliate itself with local community organizations, businesses, and artists in targeted areas of the city.
The project in Chestnut Hill, entitled “New Trails,” is the first installment in a series which will establish similar art walks throughout the city.
The main gallery for “New Trails” consists of storefonts along Germantown Avenue, where the works of 15 different artists using a variety of different art mediums are on display.
A second route highlights installations in the Wissahickon Valley section of the park.
In the case of Chestnut Hill, the program is a case of building upon something local artists were already trying.
Brookes Britcher is a local artist who helped bring the project to life in Chestnut Hill.
“Essentially, the idea grew out of some work that we had been doing here in Chestnut Hill for about a year,” says Britcher. “This area is pretty proactive and I had been involved in doing similar window installations for a year before the project got to the city.”
When he found out about the city’s program to bring art installations to struggling commercial corridorscity, Britcher coordinated an effort with local collaborators to broaden the scope.
“Basically, we started talking about how to make this bigger and really bring more people up the avenue,” he said. “We came up with the idea of uniting the two corridors of the area, one natural in Wissahickon Valley and one commercial, along Germantown Avenue.”
As chief of staff to the Deputy Director for Economic Development, Brian Flanagan helped to initiate the larger program in the City of Philadelphia.
“There have been other installations of art in store windows either done by the city or by local businesses, but this was one of the first attempts were we systematized it,” says Flanagan. “The idea was that we would pick an area where we could create a concentration of attractions as opposed to a single storefront or two.”
He says that the Chestnut Hill area is showing an increase in the amount of seasonal foot traffic, as well as interest in the vacant storefronts, which are owned by Bowman Properties.
Britcher credits local property owners for helping make the art installations happen.
“They’ve been really integral in this whole process,” says Britcher. “Prior to this effort with the Department of Commerce, we had been doing this on our own on a much smaller scale, but it’s good to see property owners and other businesses in the area interested in this kind of thing.”
The project has one main gallery at 8517 Germantown Ave. Its is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The works will be on display through Oct. 11.