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Participate, activate, engage – programming is in the air!


Years after 1969’s Summer of Love, it’s the fall of power to the people. More than just looking, this season galleries, museums and alternative venues all over town want you to come in, hang out, eat, discuss, make, share, and generally become an active participant in what they’re doing. There’s no city-wide manifesto, and nobody organized this fall programming juggernaut.  Call it the influence of online social networking or the influence of foundations eager to fund socially-engaged programming. For whatever reason, the Philly art world wants You!


Temple Gallery leads the charge.  The new Director of exhibitions and programs, Rob Blackson and his 28-person Advisory Council brainstormed a number of socially-themed issues, and Blackson developed the programs and commissioned some new art. On tap — sustainability, shale-oil drilling; toxic waste, AIDS and more.  There will be 2 programs a week, Blackson says, everything from Monday morning coffee hours (in the gallery with lectures and free coffee and snacks, coFREE Mondays, beginning Sept. 12) to dinners in the gallery with foraged greens from the neighborhood (are they kidding? No.  Feast of Forage, Sept. 21).  Other programs: True Bloodmobile and discussion of historic buildings as haunted houses (think Eastern State Penitentiary) Oct. 28; The Big Shale Teach-In, Nov. 3 and 4.

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A piece lurking at Temple Gallery. Is it art or is it not? (hint, it is art) Tyler Held, “Repair” Photo courtesy Temple Gallery

This month, British artist Sara MacKillop takes charge of the gallery’s welcome desk, a white desk with an abnormally-high and unwelcoming wall on the front end (Blackson calls it “The Iceberg”).  Turning the chilly desk into something interactive, the artist will fill the desk drawers with subversive art created with post-it notes, pens, clips and other standard office supplies.  Viewers are encouraged to riffle through the drawers and interact – move stuff around, reorganize, add some, take some.

An on-the-job training project, Project Shift, also begins this month in the gallery and runs to Feb, 2012. Workers from the Village Workshop will learn building skills and create a series of temporary wood shed-cum-corral structures — designed by artists, architecture students and others.  The corrals will be used for programs and activities.

Alex Klein, ICA’s new program director. Photo courtesy ICA

ICA launched its Whenever Wednesday programs in 2006, a series that includes everything from lectures to parties, to workshops.  What’s new is that the Institute just created the position of Program Director and hired West Coaster, Alex Klein for the job.

Excursus logo, courtesy of ICA

Klein launches a programming discussion nook called Excursus in ICA’s mezzanine on Sept. 14.  With tables, chairs and book carts, Excursus will allow people to come, sit, browse written materials and chat.  The first Excursus program is a talk by Penn Rare Books Curator Lynne Farrington, about Centaur, a Philadelphia radical bookstore/hangout from the 1920s. Reception to follow. Andy Beach, designer and blogger, guest-curated this first round of Excursus.

The Sept. 21 “Free For All” event has everything in one package – a lecture on contemporary art by Senior Curator Ingrid Schaffner, a screen-printing workshop, and a party with music and snacks.

Bill Walton’s Studio, Photo by Aaron Igler, courtesy of ICA

Don’t miss “Bill Walton’s Studio” — the late artist’s actual studio, brought into the ICA’s Project Space and re-created even down to the weathered floor boards. Programming involves a “sharing” day, Dec. 4, in which artists who knew Walton will share stories about the artist; and everyone will receive an ephemeral giveaway object.  Check out ICA’s blog, Miranda, for behind the scenes tidbits and pictures, and give them some feedback—you know you’re dying to.

Open call for juried show

On the alternative front, things are often interactive, if not programmed.  Grizzly Grizzly, one of the very best of the new spaces, will have its first open call juried exhibit Nov. 4-26, and viewers will be asked to vote on their favorite work.  The artist receiving the most votes will be awarded a solo exhibit at the gallery.

Image from PPAC’s current exhibit, The Greater Area

Philadelphia Photo Arts Center has its second Philly Photo Day Oct. 28.  All snapshot-shooters are invited to take a picture within the city limits and upload it to the PPAC website for this non-juried, come-one-come-all event with an exhibit of all submitted works opening November 10.  Last year almost 350 people participated and they hope to double that number this year. (Reality check:  artblog was a sponsor last time and we are a sponsor this year because we really believe in this community-spirited event and exhibit)

Jenny Sabin’s Greenhouse, the finished pavillion. Photo by Brent Wahl, courtesy of APS Museum

The APS Museum commissioned art, design, music, a play, and a lot of programming for its Greenhouse Project, in conjunction with its exhibit “Of Elephants and Roses.”  “Greenhouse and the Cabinet of Future Fossils” by architecture and design guru Jenny Sabin (Cornell prof with a design studio at Crane Old School) sits in the APS Museum’s Jefferson Garden, an ancient and futuristic-looking edifice resembling the bleached bones of Moby Dick washed up at 4th and Chestnut and bedazzled.  More than 100 colorful green, orange and blue cold frames with plants and vines pepper the piece, and all objects in the project (except a few ceramic pieces) were made using the latest design and fabrication tools (3D printers; laser cutters). Don’t miss the science talk on the chili pepper by molecular researcher Joseph Rucker (Sept. 12 at National Mechanics); and the talk and greenhouse walkthrough with Jenny Sabin (Oct. 20).  The free programs require an RSVP.

Jordan Griska’s Grumman Greenhouse, model. Photo courtesy PAFA

Speaking of greenhouses, Jordan Griska’s Grumman Greenhouse in PAFA’s new Lenfest Plaza (with the Oldenburg Paint Brush) will be an eyeful.  A complete cold-war era airplane, installed nose down and tail up with plants in the nose cone, the piece will be nice counterbalance to the slick Oldenburg piece.  Meanwhile, inside PAFA, “here.” a group show about the regions outside the big art centers promises lots of programming about this pithy current issue.

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Jennie Thwing. Buried but Breathing, screen shots from Buried but Breathing installation and “Woodshop” video, 3.2 minutes, 2011. Photo courtesy Fleisher Art Memorial

Other great-sounding art events include Tim Belknap’s solo exhibit at Rebekah Templeton opening Sept. 8 (to Oct. 22); September’s group show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid with a robotic piece by Belknap (to Oct. 2); and the Fleisher Wind Challenge exhibit with Jennie Thwing, Alana Bograd and Sarah Steinwachs.

>> Sara MacKillop, coFREE Mondays and other programming, Ongoing to Feb. 2012.  Temple Gallery, 12th and Norris Sts.
>>Tim Belknap: Ordnance, Sept 8-Oct 22. Rebekah Templeton, 173 W. Girard Ave.
>>Bill Walton’s Studio, Sept. 7-Dec.4.  Institute of Contemporary Art, 36th and Sansom St.
>>Excursus, Institute of Contemporary Art, 36th and Sansom St.
>>Jenny Sabin: Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils, Sept. 9-Dec. 14.   American Philosophical Society, Jefferson Garden, 4th and Chestnut. Free reservations are required for events. To register, contact or 215.701.4421
>>”Other Possible Titles, juried group exhibit, Nov. 4-26.  Reception, Fri. Nov. 4, Grizzly Grizzly, 319 N. 11th St., 2nd floor.
>>Philly Photo Day, Oct. 28. Exhibition Nov. 10-__. Reception Thurs. Nov. 10, 6-9pm.  PPAC Crane Arts, 1400 N. American St.
>>Tim Belknap, William Blackhurst and Carolee Schneeman, Sept 2-Oct 2.  Tiger Strikes Asteroid.  319 N. 11th.
>>Wind Fleisher Challenge, Sept 16 – Oct. 30.  Reception Fri, Sept. 16, 6-8pm.  Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St.
>>Jordan Griska, Grumman Greenhouse, temporary installation.  Opens Sat. Oct 1, noon-7pm. PAFA Lenfest Plaza, Broad and Cherry Sts.
>>here, Oct. 22-Dec. 31.  Hamilton Building, PAFA, Broad and Cherry