Plans take shape for Germantown’s 330th anniversary event

After a two-month hiatus from their monthly meetings, the Germantown Artists Roundtable got a gracious new home on Wednesday night at the late-19th century house on Tulpehocken and Greene streets, thanks to BuildaBridge.

BuildaBridge, dedicated to serving children through arts-based mentorship, was founded in 1997 and arrived at the building at 205 W. Tulpehocken St. about 10 years ago. Co-founders Dr. Vivian Nix-Early and Dr. J. Nathan Corbitt welcomed a crowd of about 25 artists to a first-floor room with restored hardwood floors, an ornate chandelier and beautiful plaster-cast molding.

Greetings were enthusiastic between long-time members and new attendees alike. Artists and performers shared their upcoming events in a blizzard of flyers. Among the new members were a tile and stained glass artist, two architects and an aspiring fashion designer who specializes in knitting and crocheting.

Kicking off another year 

Organizer Paula Paul welcomed everyone to the Roundtable’s 2013 kick-off, noting the many friendships, collaborations and events the group achieved last year.

“We’re going to need a lot of input, because we’re an artist-led artist network,” Paul said, urging members to keep up their active participation.

Local real estate developer Stan Smith (owner of PhillyOfficeRetail.com with Ken Weinstein) also spoke to the group about his upcoming initiative to rehab, with the help of local painters, the grim 60 to 200-square-foot security grates that dot Germantown’s commercial corridors.

Germantown Avenue’s Acclaim Academy, a daycare center founded by Joe Martin, is first in line for the project, which aims to decorate the unsightly grates with murals, improving the after-hours look of the streets. Smith explained that the proposed images could be in line with the different business’s offerings, or “tell a story about our history.”

Smith also announced his intention to open his mixed-use banquet facility, the Flying Horse Center at Chelten and Pulaski avenues, as a no-cost exhibition space for local artists’ shows.

“I love art. I want to sponsor the artists,” said Smith, a 5th-generation resident of Germantown.

Celebrating Germantown and its history 

Other upcoming events include April’s “Celebrating Germantown” Day, which Friends of Vernon Park representative YahNe Ndgo Baker described as the 329 and a half- anniversary of Germantown.

“A lot of anniversaries come and go,” but they rarely get the attention they deserve, Baker said of the historic neighborhood, but she hopes to change that.

Oct. 6, 2013 will mark the 330th anniversary of Germantown, which was officially founded in 1683. To build interest in this fall’s coming milestone, Baker is helping to spearhead the “Celebrating Germantown” event, taking place on April 6 from 1 to 5 p.m. in Vernon Park.

“Vernon Park will be a mini-Germantown,” Baker said, explaining that tent displays will represent a scaled-down version of the whole neighborhood that includes Johnson House, Wyck and Grumblethorpe, with lots of family-friendly activities and live performances.

“It’ll be a celebration of the past and present and future of Germantown, and we want it to be as collaborative as possible,” Baker said, inviting the participation of any local artisan or organization for the event, whose partners already include the Artists Roundtable.

Another anniversary countdown event is planned for June 6, and though the Oct. 6 event still lacks a large umbrella organization to spearhead the festivities, Baker is hopeful that local momentum through the spring and summer will make a worthy 330th “Germantown Day” celebration a reality.

Artists share their work  

Presentations by two Roundtable members wrapped up the meeting. Documentary filmmaker Bianca Swift showed an excerpt of her new film, “Germantown Boys,” which plumbs the memories of three local brothers who grew up here in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

Finally, Nathalie Bolrozny, a Germantown resident of six years, explained the painstaking 2,000-year-old art of papermaking. One attendee added that since Germantown is the site of RittenhouseTown, America’s first papermill, a papermaking activity would be perfect for the April 6 party in Vernon Park, and the brainstorms flew.

“Germantown is happenin’!” remarked another attendee.

This year, the Artists Roundtable will be meeting on the evening of the third Wednesday of every month. The next meeting will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 20 at 205 W. Tulpehocken Street.

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.