Photo Walk and abandoned-building project focus of Germantown Artists Roundtable meeting

Attendance at the Germantown Artists Roundtable — held on the third Thursday of every month at the First Presbyterian Church on Chelten Avenue — holds relatively steady, but that doesn’t mean artists are punctual.

Attendees arrived even later than usual on Thursday, perhaps weighed down by the day’s heat, but the two-hour meeting was as full as ever of local art initiatives.

Rev. Kevin Porter of First Presbyterian, a Roundtable leader, welcomed about 30 attendees.

Prepping to make Germantown a model

Photographer Gary Reed spoke to the group about the inaugural Germantown Photo Walk coming up on Saturday.

Since last month, “interest in the Photo Walk has exploded,” said Reed, who has been inundated with e-mails from photographers who want to participate.

The interest is not just local; Reed recounted a message from a Delaware man who plans to join Germantown residents for the event, in honor of his grandparents who lived in the neighborhood.

“If all those people show up, we’re going to need a permit” to meet in Vernon Park, he said.

Anyone is welcome to join the Photo Walk, which will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday. Participants will meet on the Greene Street side of Vernon Park.

Reed has yet to find event sponsors. He said he hopes a large turnout at the inaugural event will help attract sponsors next time who could aid in printing and displaying photos, and making an after-party possible.

A few local venues, including the Germantown Historical Society and the new Imperfect Gallery, have expressed interest in hosting exhibitions of images from Germantown Photo Walks.

Abandoned-building artistry

Sculptor Andy Walker spoke about a project slated for this summer at 313 S. Broad St.

Funded last winter through an appeal on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, the Renewed Urban Studio Tent (RUST) will be a meditation on the city’s myriad abandoned properties, and an art-making venue itself.

RUST will be a domed 10-by-15 foot structure built on a skeleton of chicken wire, recycled wood and insulating newspapers. Its skin will be an application of recycled slag cement.

Community members are welcomed to participate by bringing “small recyclables” and usable bits of refuse to be pressed into the cement skin of the structure August 1-3.

Walker, who is working with Andy Heisey on the project, explained that the city of Philadelphia has about 40,000 abandoned buildings – not to mention empty buildings whose absentee owners simply let them decay. Raising awareness for these city blights has been a passion of Walker’s for the last few years, examined in a recent art project that projected “ghostly” images on the visages of abandoned Broad Street buildings.

He said he hopes that RUST will help visitors question the city’s epidemic of abandoned properties.

New artist contribution

The meeting concluded with a contribution from recent Germantown transplant Tieshka Smith of Mom of Three Photography. She showcased an array of strikingly candid street photography from Germantown’s grittiest corners.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t at the table to talk about how the community is changing,” she said. “I want to give them a voice.”

Instead of snapping photos for aesthetic value and departing the scene, Smith said she enjoys interacting with her subjects whenever she can.

In a fluid presentation that paired her recollections of her subjects’ names and stories with a variety of color and black-and-white photos, Smith illuminated some of the neighborhood’s best characters.

The next Artists Roundtable will start at 7 p.m. (or thereabouts) on Thursday, July 19.

For more information, or to join the Roundtable mailing list, email gtartistrt@gmail.com or visit the Roundtable on Facebook.

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