Scaled down Art Expo returns to Mt. Airy

October Gallery brought back its International Art Expo to Mount Airy this weekend. The event, now in its 27th season, was considerably smaller than last year’s edition.

Last falll, the festival shut down the 7100 block of Germantown Avenue for three days, a move that drew ire from neighborhood organizations and some nearby retailers. This time around, the festival was held both inside the 7165 Lounge and outside on the large parking lot behind the Sedgwick Theater.

“It’s not just slow, it’s dead.” said vendor Omar Sow of the event on Sunday.

Sow, who also participated in the 2011 Art Expo, said he did much better when the festival was held along the commercial corridor.

For newcomers Monington and Wolfington Misfit of KosherMisfit, though, the event was a good place to gain exposure and network. Monington Misfit noted that in today’s economy “art is not a necessity.” The challenge, he said, is to keep creating and keep showing up.

Some vendors said they did manage to fare well – at least on Sunday, when the warmer temperatures made for perfect festival weather.

Reena Faust, a jewelry maker, said she was pleased to have made a profit, even though the festival turnout was much smaller than it had been the last time she exhibited at the expo back in 1999. Back then, it was held at The Liacourus Center on Temple University’s campus in North Philadelphia.

A need to evolve

October Gallery, located at 6353 Greene St., specializes in what it terms “Black Stream Renaissance” – African-American art created, sold and exhibited on a community level often outside the mainstream.

Founder Mercer Redcross said he developed an annual expo to connect collectors with artists face to face.  Nowadays, collectors form relationshps with artists through social media, making the art expo model less attractive.

Redcross acknowledged that the expo needs to evolve and believes Mount Airy “is the place for us to do the second round.”

One new twist at this year’s Art Expo was a campaign fundraising concert held inside the 7165 Lounge. Jammin’ for Obama featured six performers who played to a packed house, including jazz guitar legend Monnette Sudler, Denise King, Spiritual Thunder and headliner, Sharon Katz and The Peace Train.

Redcross said Katz approached him about hosting the concert in the venue. “If she’s willing to volunteer her time for the cause, I’m willing to volunteer the space,” he said of the partnership.

October Gallery auctioned several works of art as part of the fundraising effort.

Redcross has indicated that he’d like to continue holding the Art Expo in Mount Airy.

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.