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Update from Art in City Hall


I got this email from Tu Huynh, who runs the Art in City Hall program in response to my question about the cases looking different. He answered that and more:

I’ve been out sick…caught a virus from my kids, so I apologize for getting back to you sooo late. First off, thank you for the write up on the Artblog. Did you see that Kathryn [Pannepacker] will be on the cover of American Craft magazine?

The display cases were built by Wormwood and Haze, good ole Paul Swenbeck and Joy Feasley. They were done in time for last fall’s show: “The Green Exhibit.” It’s been long overdue to have new cases. We still have the old ones on the fourth floor, however…Hmmm.

As you may know, Art In City Hall has never had a budget from the city. We are made possible by private donations, so it was quite an undertaking to raise money for these cases, as well as keep the program afloat especially without an Office of Arts and Culture for so long (since 6/2004).

The material is MDF with recycled plywood framing, including the backing for the wall. We also use dimmable flourescents to conserve energy. The only thing that’s not environmentally friendly is the plexi-glass. The old cases had homosote over that store-display horizontal plywood backing. The glass was larger, which cost an astronomical amount more, so Paul reduced the size of the glass, and voila. There are obvious differences between the old and new, but overall, we’re all very pleased.

As for those old cases on the fourth floor, I’m a little pissed off about what happened to them the other week. When you were there, I’m sure you may have noticed the footprints on the bases of those cases in addition to the old plexi. A film crew had to remove those cases temporarily for their shoot in City Hall (movie: Law Abiding Citizen). It’s great that there are movies done in Philadelphia. There’s just nothing convenient about it for us; in fact, there’s not much convenience at all in having exhibitions in City Hall; but this place, this building, the “people’s building” deserves the people’s art, as much as we can have it presented that is.

The exhibits are organized by local arts professionals, and I simply help coordinate the shows, so there is a great deal of independence involved, and I’d like to think, some integrity and credibility. Of course, the dark cases often do not support the work that’s shown. Some shows are hits and others misses, which is also the reality/nature of juried shows selected through digitals and/or slides.

The Fifth floor
In addition to the display cases, if you visit the fifth floor north corridor, you’ll find artwork as well. No display cases. Hung right off the walls on hanging rods. This is our community space. Usually nonprofits, grassroots organizations, some not necessarily even art institutions, show their work here. We have student exhibitions, shows for seniors, city employees…You name it. It’s all in the context of community, not necessarily academic although we have professional artists participate some times as well. Currently, the Photographic Society of Philadelphia has an exhibition there. Afterward, Drexel University’s Graduate Interior Design thesis show (amazingly they had no where to show their work). Groups usually send in a proposal for the space, it’s then reviewed, and the exhibition planning begins. In the summer, we’ll host the Health Federation student poster contest; in the fall, Taller Puertorriqueno’s students, Park House Guides art contest with Moore College of Art, and the annual city govt. employees show sponsored by the National Arts Program Foundation. Mural Arts will feature an exhibition on the first floor in October, West corridors, also using the hanging system.

We are hoping to expand with this newly created office. Hopefully in the future, there can be more exhibitions on the first floor to make artwork more accessible to the general public. Perhaps installations in the portals, the courtyard, the incredible stairwells…There are obvious challenges to all that, which we’ll have to figure out, but City Hall has always been this great potential. If we get the right people together and the commitment, we can perhaps better serve emerging local artists and provide more exhibition opportunities. That’s what I’m thinking this Friday morning anyway. The People’s art in the People’s house…not your typical spaces for exhibitions.