After a sweltering summer day, the now air-conditioned Imperfect Gallery in Germantown served as a retreat for the more than two dozen friends and neighbors that trickled in for its first ever poetry night.
Five local artists read poems that ranged from the serious to the lighthearted and fluctuacted between memories of breastfeeding children, earthworm sightings and neighborhood inspired pieces.
John Sevcik, who teaches drawing and painting at the Fleisher Art Memorial, is also a playwright and poet. He’s been on stage since the 1970s and once opened for the Sun Ra Arkestra.
In “New Found Land,” Sevcik described how artists travel and seek out spaces where they can live freely, both monetarily and intellectually, around the world.
During her performance, poet Yolanda Wisher described the day a stray horse stumbled across her path. She watched the mare damage a parked car on a street in central Germantown. “Most likely from Hansberry,” she said. And as it turns out, it was.
“I remember that!” shouted Renny Molenaar, co-founder of the Imperfect Gallery, who said that many horses have escaped from that stable and that the one Yolanda had encountered that day was pregnant. The horse safely returned home eventually.
‘ A resurgence going on’
Wisher, a long-time resident of the neighborhood, founded a youth poetry group in 2006 in response to negative media coverage of local youth.
Tensions between Germantown Friends School and Germantown High School had come to a head after a teacher at Germantown High was assaulted by students. That group morphed into the Germantown Poetry Festival that ran for four years. Lack of funding, however, has forced the event into hiatus.
But maybe not for much longer.
“There’s a resurgence going on in Germantown I feel that would be welcoming to that kind of event,” said Wisher. She thinks the Imperfect Gallery is part of that movement.
Lorrin Thomas, a New York City transplant and historian, said the gallery is a launching point.
“We have so little public space in this neighborhood, its the kind of thing we’ve lacked the most, especially a gathering place that’s not about commerce, but the arts,” she said.
Thomas said she admires the organizers for their tenacity to start something new.Her biggest concern is being able to build a neighborhood culture that supports galleries, a structure of sorts to keep them going and activate more places like it.
For Molenaar, this is his fourth art gallery over the past 20 years.
Also a former New Yorker, Molenaar’s first foray was at the South Bronx squat house in 1988. Later, he had a mobile gallery dubbed “La Casita,” which consisted of a collapsable house that traveled with him around the country setting up in vacant lots. Then, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, “before we got priced out,” said Molenaar, there was an unnamed gallery space that he said had more traffic for which most galleries only dream.
And organizers don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
The Imperfect Gallery has quite a line-up over the next few weeks. Molenaar and his partner Rocio Cabello, along with a slew a volunteers, have organized fundraiser dinners, teaming up with G-Town Radio to bring live music performance to Maplewood Mall, and even preparing the gallery’s first solo artist exhibit.
“We want to keep this alive,” said Molenaar.
Editor’s note: Maleka Fruean is a NewsWorks freelance contributer.