Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls artists open up their gallery doors for Philadelphia Open Studio Tours

From fused glass to woodworking, and hand weaving to encaustic mixed media, a variety of artwork in the Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls region took center stage at the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours last weekend. 


The program, put on by The Center for Emerging Visual Artists, is the largest tour of artist studios and creative workspaces in the region, allowing the public to come and experience works by artists and studios.

“The mission of our organization is to help artists reach their professional goals,” said Ann Peltz, director of the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours. “The open studio tours are just one way we do that. [They are] designed to be able to allow artists identify their own goals and reach that goal.”

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The tours are divided over two weekends. Last weekend featured artists in Northwest Philadelphia, including Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls. The weekend of Oct. 20-21 will feature areas such as Kensington, Fishtown and North Philadelphia.

One of the participating Northwest Philadelphia artists was Leah Macdonald, who combined photography and encaustic painting, has participated in the event for the past four years. Macdonald said events like the open studio tours are important for artists like her.

“It’s just nice to know that people know you’re here,” Macdonald said. “It just helps to participate, to be active in the community and to let people in close to you and to see the work.”

Gaining visibility 

One of the Tour’s newest artists opened his facility in March of this year. Philadelphia Woodworks, a professional grade woodshop, was founded by Michael Vogel, who saw the weekend program as a way to get visibility for the new studio.

“We want people to enjoy seeing what they may never have seen before which is a really professional grade woodshop in action,” Vogel said, “I’m hoping we bring in a crop of people who not only connect with what we’re offering but want to be a part of it.”

A common theme within the artists and studios that participate in the open studio tours is the desire to extend their craft to a wider audience, educating people on different types of art forms in the community.

“It’s really allowed people to experience the art and experience things they wouldn’t normally see,” said James Calamia, operations manager of the Roxborough Development Corporation. “People in the community don’t really know that [the artists] are there and so by having this gallery, we can bring in art that’s already here to people in the neighborhood.”

The open studio tours also give artists the opportunity to extend their work to a wider audience outside Philadelphia. 

“This is a very interesting way to see a wide variety of folks in an afternoon,” said John Burmaster, a resident of Haddonfield, N.J. “[The Philadelphia Open Studio Tours] organize you getting there which is good.”

For Kathy Burmaster, the open studio tours allow visitors to experience art in places you would never think to look.

“Our exposure in the past has been limited more to the galleries that are in Old City,” Burmaster said, “so it’s nice to see that there’s a lot of other areas where art’s thriving.”

Tracking the success 

The Center for Emerging Visual Artists asks the artists to keep detailed records of what happens during the weekend, including the number of studio visitors as well as the amount and kind of artwork sold.

“We like to track the activity of the artists for six months out after the tours are over to see what has come of their weekend,” Peltz said. “Sometimes it doesn’t happen right on the spot so we like to keep track of how that plays out over time.”

Whatever the exact number may be within those six months, the artists and studios have experienced the opportunity to extend their work with a wide audience over the weekend, making deeper connections with the community.

“We have a long list of people that came and people who are really interested in art and talking about art,” said Bernard Guet, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corporation. “It was a good weekend. We are looking forward to the next one next year.”

Artists who participated in the Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls region were Leah Macdonald, Philadelphia Woodworks, Sandra Chierici, Roxborough Development Corporation, Myra Reichel and The Reiki Healing Center and the East Falls Development Corporation. 

Francis Hilario is a Temple University student. He produced this piece for Philadelphia Neighborhoods in collaboration with WHYY/NewsWorks.

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