A Sterling experience

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Post by Michael Demers and Andrew Stalder, SterlingKraft Gallery and Studios

[Ed. note: This post by refers back to a previous post on the LINC symposium at Fleisher Art Memorial in which there was much talk about affordable artists’live/work spaces in Philadelphia — or the lack thereof.]

Dear Libby and Roberta,

As loyal readers of the Artblog, we were surprised to see the name of our upcoming gallery/studios mentioned in your Monday post about the LINC project. We are in the midst of planning and building the SterlingKraft Gallery and Studios on East Passyunk. I have to say we found it rather dismaying that Zoe Strauss mentioned that she thought our studio prices were “too high.” We hope such a statement on Zoe’s part will not scare any of your readers away from the studios or the area.

[Ed. note: Strauss talked at the LINC meeting about the Sterling Project, something in her neighborhood that she is enthusiastic about. Her comment about the rental price being high came in response to a question by the discussion leader.]

We were hoping to explain to you what the studio situation is — The studios will range from 150 to 215 square feet. Each studio will be completely individual and secure with high speed internet connections, central air and proper ventilation. We will also run a contemporary art gallery on the first floor that will host both local and national shows (and in which the studio artists will have an annual group show).

The impetus for this project came about while looking for studio space in South Philadelphia. As artists, we had a very hard time finding suitable space in our immediate area. We also felt that while there was a need for studios in South Philly, there wasn’t much of art “vibe” happening in our neighborhood either. We thought that the best way to satisfy the artists needs in our part of town plus create some sort of gathering place for artists from around the city, was to build a sort of “hub” in South Philly. We are hoping that the draw of SterlingKraft Gallery and Studios will be a start (although a small one) in that direction.

I suppose the reason for this note is that we hope our project starts off on a good note with the art community in Philadelphia. We are excited about what this could mean for the arts in Philadelphia on both neighborhood- and city-wide levels, and hope that you will be as well. Sincerely,
–Andrew and Michael, SterlingKraft Gallery and Studios


PS. From Michael

I do hope that everyone knows that we did not aim to call into question Zoe or her comments – we really admire her photography and appreciate what she has done for the arts in our area through that work – we just do not want people to be turned off of the studios before they are even built! (image is the floorplan for the studio spaces. you can see it bigger at the gallery’s website.)

Regarding the facilities, the SterlingKraft Gallery and Studios are a project created by Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods through its subsidiary, Passyunk Avenue Revitalization, Inc. as part of its overall efforts to revitalize the East Passyunk Avenue commercial district. And the architect firm is local, Vitetta.

Citizens Alliance was looking for a strong anchor for the Avenue, and at the same time wanted to bring a vibrant artistic dimension to that part of town. We were looking for studio space and an artistic dimension to our neighborhood as well – working with Citizens seemed like a perfect match. We all agreed to use the name SterlingKraft as homage to the building that stood on the same spot – the SterlingKraft Photo Lab – and all understood that to make the Gallery and Studios not only a reality but also a viable part of our artistic community we would have to pull out all the stops.

That’s where the amenities come in – the private, secure studios; central heating and air conditioning; high-speed Internet access in every studio (for digital artists and those who like to check their email while working!); as much natural light as possible (yet easily converted to dark space for photographers); sturdy hanging walls (for the painters); access to water and plumbing; a gallery show for the studio artists every year (because the studio artists are absolutely a part of the community, so their work should be shown to that community) – we sat down and made a
list of what we and other artists really wanted and needed in a studio space and figured out how to make that kind of space happen. We did the same thing with the gallery, and of course putting the two together made perfect sense to everyone.

We think that there are artists in the Philadelphia arts-community who want that kind of studio space and who want to see the arts thrive in all parts of the city. We have a website with some preliminary blueprints and info for both the gallery and studios (see link above) There is not much info on the site yet, but as the building gets underway and the architects give us some better images we will be sure to have them put online and let artblog know of them.

(image at top is a new architectural rendering for the SterlingKraft Gallery and Studios. The gallery on the first floor with the separate studio entrance on the right. The second and third floors are the studios.)

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