After a fire last week in Philadelphia’s Chinatown North neighborhood put several exhibition galleries and artists out on the street, many of them have found a temporary home nearby.
They are using this as a teachable moment.
The concentration of galleries and artist studio at 319 N. 11th St. — often referred to as the Vox building — made it a hub of the city’s emerging artist community. After the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections forced them out of the building because of fire damage, other galleries, building owners, and artists started coming out of the woodwork.
“It’s a strange moment, and a trying one,” said James Merle Thomas, executive director of Vox Populi. “One thing that seems to define this period is a sense of solidarity and togetherness across the broader community.”
The collection of galleries that had been housed in the building found strength in their proximity to each other, so the owners are seeking a way to relocate without scattering across the city.
Many of them have been offered space in the ground floor of 990 Spring Garden, a nearby building owned by Arts+Crafts Holdings.
Other buildings have offered spaces that will allow the collection of galleries to stick together, while 319 N. 11th St. is repaired. Notably, the building at 990 Spring Garden will give most of its first floor to Vox Populi for its annual juried show next week.
The building on Spring Garden will also host many of the smaller galleries displaced by the fire, along with public events to discuss the value of artist spaces in a quickly evolving city.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to think of the space as a platform, in the sense as a way to facilitate discussions about the role these artistic spaces have played in the city’s development,” said Thomas.
It’s not yet clear when or if the artists will be allowed back into the building on 11th Street.