Ongoing Town Hall efforts discussed at latest Germantown Artists Roundtable meeting

 Members of the arts community gathered for Wednesday night's Germantown Artists Roundtable meeting. (Alaina Mabaso/for NewsWorks)

Members of the arts community gathered for Wednesday night's Germantown Artists Roundtable meeting. (Alaina Mabaso/for NewsWorks)

Local arts-and-culture leaders gathered Wednesday night for the Germantown Artists Roundtable’s monthly meeting. There, they discussed several initiatives and opportunities for Northwest Philadelphia’s creative economy.

The group’s first election process established a seven-person governing committee.

Its members, who will serve two-year terms, are poet and spoken word artist Terri Lyons; artist and graphic designer Susan Mangan; photographers Gary Reed and Tieshka Smith; drummer and playwright Karen Smith and Roundtable organizers Paula Paul and Allison Weiss.

The night’s speakers

Paul told attendees about the Philly Jazz Project‘s March 29 performance at the Cliveden Carriage House which will “highlight” Germantown artists with a few slots for local spoken word, poetry or comedy performers, as well a visual-arts slideshow with a selection of works from neighborhood artists.

Interested parties should contact Paul by e-mail at pauladance@aol.com before Feb. 28.

Also speaking was Erica Hawthorne, founder and managing director of the Small But Mighty Arts (SMBA) grant program. SMBA’s idea for micro-grants supporting working creatives received two $30,000 matching Knight Arts Challenge Grants beginning in 2012.

SMBA provides access to $200 to $1,000 grants (either in up-front money, reimbursements, or specific materials and resources) which help connect artists to career resources and paid opportunities in the community and highlights “artrepreneur” skill-building with professional workshops and conferences.

Hawthorne said that small, highly targeted grant can make a big difference to artists who are trying to follow their vision and still get the bills paid.

A Kansas City native who launched her arts career in Minneapolis, she was first inspired by the music she encountered out of Philadelphia.

“What is going on in that city?” she recalled wondering. “What are they drinking in the water?”

She deemed Philadephia “a very accessible city” for aspiring arts professionals who should not be treated as creative-economy “add-ons” (like people invited to perform at events) but rather as members of committees and boards that determine the city’s developmental and economic future.

“Beyond asking artists to participate, you have to sustain that,” said Hawthorne, who praised the Roundtable group as grassroots arts leaders.

Upcoming Town Hall activities

Following its genesis at last summer’s Hidden City Festival, the Germantown Town Hall Collaborative remains active.

Charlie McGloughlin, who helms the group along with Amelia Carter and Germantown United CDC leader Andy Trackman, attended Wednesday’s meeting to update the artists on the latest plans for the Town Hall.

A painter, composer and architect, McGloughlin has proven to be an enthusiastic leader for the initiative, though the unwieldy project has yet to make any real headway toward re-opening the old Town Hall building across the street from the now-vacant Germantown High School.

With a “use it or lose it” community-outreach attitude, he said “misuse and disuse” are mounting problems, as environmental hazards like mess from roosting pigeons sullies the building more and more the longer it stays empty.

To that end, an outdoor clean-up day is planned for Saturday, March 15, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

McGloughlin said he hopes community members will turn out to pick up litter around the building and distribute flyers about potential plans to passersby.

In his “wildest dreams,” he told NewsWorks, he hopes that a re-opened Town Hall could become “a gateway to the whole corridor” of historic Germantown, drawing locals and tourists alike.

Interest in the project has reached Harrisburg in the form of state Rep. Stephen Kinsey attended the group’s February meeting.

Next meetings

The Germantown Town Hall Collaborative  will next meet at 7 p.m. March 10, at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, 6001 Germantown Ave.

It will feature a presentation from Ife Nii Iwoo, a graphic designer, painter, print-maker and collage artist whose career took her from Germantown High School to Syracuse, London and Ghana before returning to Northwest Philadelphia.

The next Germantown Artists Roundtable meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19 at the Build a Bridge headquarters, Tulpehocken and Greene Streets.

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