Fishtown: Art and Industry on Frankford Avenue

Produced by Michael O’Reilly

At the corner of Girard Ave and Frankford Ave., if Fishtown were a ship, Johnny Brenda’s would be at the prow, cutting through the city. We talk with co-owner Paul Kimport (00:20), an early entrepreneur in Fishtown in 2003, when there was not a lot of art or alternative food on Frankford Avenue. Flash forward a dozen years and Joe Beddia (01:45) has opened a little pizzeria right next door to Johnny Brenda’s. He quickly developed a reputation in the neighborhood for having some of the freshest pizza around. The culinary world took notice in a big way and in June of 2015 Bon Appetit declared Pizzeria Beddia the best in the entire country – not just Fishtown or Philadelphia but the entire USA . We talk to Beddia and discover that people have really strong feelings about pizza. While vinegar is tasty to some, Bill Russell (06:05) uses it in his vinegar painting – a centuries old technique of decorative painting that was used in the 19th century in Philadelphia and Fishtown to make regular wood and stone look uncommon.

Drew Leshko (07:30) has lived in Fishtown for years and makes ultra realistic scaled down re-creations of Fishtown landmarks – some that are no longer there, and some that are just hanging on amid the seemingly daily new construction projects. His work was recently featured in a small show in the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts. HOUSE Gallery (10:00) is exactly what it sounds like – a rowhouse, occupied by an artist couple, that is both their home as well as a small gallery for the visual and performing arts. Just down Frankford Ave from the House Gallery is the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym (11:25). And that is also exactly what it sounds like – a place to make sculpture but organized like a gym where you pay a monthly fee for access to equipment you might not otherwise be able to afford or fit into your house. The Philadelphia Sculpture Gym was a recent recipient of a Knight Foundation Grant.

We visit with the curator of the now defunct Bambi art gallery (13:45), who had exhibited the work of 97 year old Marie Ulmer – a lifelong Fishtown artist, and out of this professional relationship a personal one grew. Candace Karch (sugarbeam on instagram with over 7000 followers) has been featured in the Huffington Post with the pictures she posts of Marie under the project “I can’t stop chasing you”. At the end of Frankford Avenue, in the shadow of a historic structure that started as a brewery (and is in fact a brewery again as Philadelphia Brewing Company) is Rowhouse Spirits (15:45). Much like the one man shop of Pizzeria Beddia at the other end of Frankford, Dean Browne makes some of the finest (and only) “white whiskey” in the country. And like Joe Beddia, got his start brewing beer for PBC. In this segment, we travel up and down Frankford Avenue, the main road around which much happens in Fishtown – both in art and industry – in what is not surprisingly a resurgence in activity for a section of the city that contributed largely to the sense of Philadelphia as the “workshop of the world”. It seems no truer than in Fishtown today, where things and food and art are made, that are by all means useful and innovative in their construction.

Henry Bermudez: Then & Now

Edited by Maryam Elarbi
Philadelphia based artist Henry Bermudez moved from Venezuela to the United States years ago, with no idea what to expect. After spending some time in Miami, he settled permanently in Philadelphia after connecting to the heart of the city.

Pizza Camp Has Just Begun

Edited by Travis Southard
Proprietor of Pizzeria Beddia, Joe Beddia, talks about the story of learning to make pizza through staging (‘stah-zhing), which is like an internship for chefs. He also reveals how he came to use @pizzacamp as his Twitter and Instagram handles.

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