Germantown artists: We could become NoLibs if we market our neighborhood better

Helping a community thrive through its arts offerings was the focus of the latest Germantown Artist Roundtable, a Thursday night event led by Rev. Kevin L. Porter in a cavernous, wood-pillared room of First Presbyterian Church on Chelten Avenue.

“Arts raise the profile of the community and increase the quality of life,” Rev. Porter said, seeing creativity as an important facet of Chelten Avenue corridor revitalization efforts.

The fourth meeting since the group launched in December, the event was sponsored by Germantown Community Connection’s “Classic Town Germantown” Team. It was open to artists of any genre who either live or work in the neighborhood.

Getting word out

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Roundtable volunteer Paula Paul estimated that while 100 artists have been involved in the roundtables so far, there are ten times as many artists in the neighborhood. However, while it’s an “energetic” community, they have not had a viable way to network or a place for face-to-face gatherings.

“A lot of artists live here, but they don’t make their money here,” Paul said. She cited the lack of unified database which could be used by local businesses or individuals in need of artists’ or designers’ services, but do not know there is talent right next door.

Among the 30 attendees on Thursday were musicians, poets, sculptors, filmmakers, educators, illustrators, photographers and those interested in providing political, administrative and financial support for the arts. They filled out a survey Paul that designed to eventually build a searchable online database.

Art talk

They also discussed art via presentations from local husband-and-wife artists John Phillips and Gina Michaels who own and operate an artist-studio rental space at Church Lane and Lena Street.

Phillips is a long-time teacher of foundry and mold-making at the University of the Arts. He presented a slideshow of photographs including his restoration work on several iconic Philadelphia statues including Rocky, and creation of a plaster replica of the original Nittany Lion sculpture.

Michaels detailed her work in bronze sand-casting, describing her process and inspiration.

The group also talked of making artists’ needs visible to local realtors and developers, who might not otherwise know of the viable interest in workspace and studios for artists in the community.

Michaels said if spaces to attract working artists were properly marketed, “Germantown could be more like Fishtown or Northern Liberties.”

What’s next?

Paul urged everyone there to sign up for committees so they could work on fundraising, marketing and establishing a web presence. She said she hopes a more unified community can produce results.

“There has been a lot of talk, talk, talk in the past,” she said. “Our artists are a treasure, and we can’t even describe it.”

The next Germantown artists’ roundtable will take place at the church on Thursday, March 29.

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