Monday news flash: Gilbert Building update

Part 1, It’s hit-the-road time.

If you’ve been wondering about the soon-to-be-homeless art organizations of the Gilbert Building, which is slated for demolition to make way for the convention center expansion, here’s some breaking news–and two things you can do to help out:

Vox Populi got its relocation letter on Friday. They must be out by Jan. 11, 2007. Yikes! That’s like tomorrow. Vox is having a fundraiser on Sunday, Oct. 22, 5 pm with music and multi-media and video screenings:



I spoke with Amy Adams, Executive Director of Vox, and she said their organization is still unclear on where they will be moving. What’s clear is that they will be moving sooner than they thought.

“We’re looking at other spaces,” she said, noting that they have less than 90 days to get out. “We were shocked at that Jan. 11 date.”

The whole 15-month saga has been tiresome story, said Adams. And the need for fundraising is greater than ever, for Vox Populi and for the rest of the Gilbert Building groups (Asian Arts Initiative, Highwire. The Fabric Workshop and Museum has separate plans which have not yet been announced.)


So come on out on Sunday night to the Vox fundraiser, and bring all your friends. If you’ve every shown at Vox, ever wanted to show at Vox, are scheduled for an upcoming show at Vox, have curated or aspired to curate a show there or just plain love the art you see there month after month… this fundraiser is for you–bring all your friends and turn out.

Gilbert Building, Part 2: State drops money in the pot, lots more is needed

It was announced today that the State of Pennsylvania, which is tearing down the Gilbert Building for its state convention center, will contribute $500,000 to help Asian Arts Initiative and the other organizations with their quest to fund a new shared space in the Chinatown neighborhood. Read more in a story by Joseph A. Slobodzian at Philly.)


From the story:

State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) this morning announced a $500,000 grant to Asian Arts Initiative to help the Chinatown community arts center and several other arts groups destined to be evicted because of the expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center….

Evans is minority chair of the state House Appropriations Committee. Here’s more from the press release I got:

“There is simply no debate that arts and culture organizations like the Asian Arts Initiative contribute significantly to both quality of life and economic growth in Philadelphia and the region,” stated Representative Evans. “I am proud to invest these resources in the Initiative and other arts organizations that will benefit from a shared arts facility; I am confident that the return on this investment will far exceed our expectations in benefiting countless artists and Philadelphians for years to come.”

Dubbed the Gilbert Arts Project, the new shared arts facility will offer opportunities for creating and viewing art as well as exchanging ideas and dialogue between and among individual artists, arts organizations, local neighborhood residents, and the broader Philadelphia community. The facility will serve as a “lab” exploring the intersections of contemporary art-making and community building. The facility will include individual artists’ studios, gallery and exhibition areas, a black box performance space, and offices for non-profit arts organizations.

Initial occupants are intended to be arts tenants from the Gilbert Building who are seeking a new home due to the expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, including:

* Asian Arts Initiative, recipient of the 2005 Governor’s Awards for the Arts, works with youth and community members to highlight the diverse stories of Asian Americans through performance, video, mural-making, and visual arts.
* Highwire Gallery, an artist cooperative, focuses on artistic variety and interactive shows that enable artists to share their creative process with public audiences.
* Institute for Arts in Education connects professional artists with teachers and students, infusing an appreciation for the arts in classrooms throughout greater Philadelphia.
* Vox Populi, voted Best Gallery in Philadelphia in 2005, is an artist cooperative that supports the work of emerging artists and brings cutting edge contemporary exhibitions to Philadelphia.

I spoke with Gayle Isa, head of Asian Arts, whose excitement about the $500,000 grant was tempered. “It’s probably one-tenth of what we need for the (building) project,” she said.

Isa will speak before City Council tomorrow at hearings on a $150 million Cultural and Commercial Corridor Bond issue that was initiated by Mayor Street last Spring and is just now coming up for a vote. Hearing is set for 1 pm in Room 400, City Hall, in front of the Finance Committee (chaired by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell).

Isa said that roughly half of the $150 million is targeted for arts organizations, and that of that $65 million for arts organizations, much is already earmarked for big institutions like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the African American Museum. The $65 million is for capital funding which means bricks and mortar projects. “I will be testifying on behalf of the Gilbert Arts Project. I hope our project will be looked at favorably,” she said.

What they hope to achieve with their building initiative is to create “a non-profit-controlled building instead of one “driven by market-rate rents,” she said. “This feels like a crisis but we can leverage it as a positive thing,” she said, putting an upbeat spin on the story.

Asian Arts has not yet received its eviction letter.

When I asked what people could do to help Isa mentioned the Gilbert Building Celebration on Friday night, Oct. 20 (Center city Gallery Night) when the galleries in the building will be open. “It’s a building-wide celebration and we’ll have a DJ outside from 5-8 pm. Afterwards, from 8 – 10 p.m. there’s a performance at Asian Arts.” (Asians Misbehavin’ will be performed at the Asian Arts Initiative, 2nd Floor. Admission: $5 for Asian Arts Initiative members, $10 for general public.)

“We are hoping to launch a letter-writing campaign that night for people to advocate the mayor and the governor to make the shared art facility happen,” Isa said.