Artists collectives joining forces in Philly for City Wide initiative

Nearly a dozen of Philadelphia’s artist groups are banding to together to form a collective of collectives.

To be called City Wide (after the Philly-centric code words for a shot and a Yuengling) the art exhibition scheduled for November will showcase organizations on the fringes of contemporary art, swapping spaces with each other.

Philadelphia’s contemporary art landscape is distinctive for its culture of collectives: groups of artists who share energy and resources to pay rent, curate exhibitions, and inspire each other.

They range from relatively large nonprofits, such as Vox Populi with its bylaws and board members, to ad hoc groups of art school friends, including Fjord, with just a verbal understanding to share space.

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“There’s a lot of energy coming together,” said Cindy Stockton-Moore of the curatorial collective Grizzly Grizzly. “It feels like a critical mass right now.”

Coordination a challenge

They can be in a white-cube gallery in North Chinatown, or the back room of a motorcycle repair shop in Fishtown. Coordinating them can be a challenge.

“It’s like the proverbial herding of cats,” said Stockton-Moore. “A space like Vox is a nonprofit, with all the benefits and detriments of moving in that direction.

“It gives insight into why different groups function differently. Being more grassroots allows for nimbleness in terms of planning and getting things done. Whereas larger organizations have different time lines and administrative structures behind them.”

The City Wide exhibition festival, still in a preliminary planning stage, is designed to both showcase artists on the fringes of contemporary art and allow those artists to learn from each other how to best organize themselves.

Right now, there are 11 collectives on board to participate (Vox Populi, Space 1026, Little Berlin, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Grizzly Grizzly, Marginal Utility, NAPOLEON, Fjord, Practice, Rebekah Templeton gallery, and Mount Airy Contemporary Artists Space) with more expected to sign on.

Stockton-Moore is dangling promises of a robust publicity campaign and networking opportunities with other struggling collectives. The festival is short-listed for a $12,000 Knight Arts Challenge matching grant.

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