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Behind the scenes of art making – This is the last weekend for 2012 Philadelphia Open Studio Tours


THIS MONTH, Philadelphia Open Studio Tours has opened the doors to 300 studios and art venues in neighborhoods across the city, allowing visitors to go behind the scenes and see where the work gets made and how the tools get used.

In 1999, POST began with a network of 13 artists. It’s grown so large it now spans two October weekends (Oct. 6-7 and Saturday, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct. 21). Last year’s event attracted 37,000 people.

Celestine Wilson Hughes, detail, of birds, of feathers, i do declare, glass, metal, solder

The tours introduce artists to the community and may result in sales, but that’s not the main goal of the event, said Ann Peltz, who heads up POST, which is run by the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. It’s more about demystifying the artistic process and underlining the fact that artists are people, too. They have families and jobs and bills. They may root for the Eagles, Phillies or Flyers – just like you.

Any professional artist who is not a full-time student can participate in POST by paying a $100 fee that goes to promoting the event and printing maps and a directory.

West Philadelphia stained glass artist Celestine Wilson Hughes works out of her basement studio, which she doesn’t open up because of the dark basement stairs people would have to go down to see her workplace. This year, however, Wilson Hughes is a resident artist at the 40th St. Artist in Residency (AIR) program, and she opened her first floor space there to the general public last weekend. One piece the artist showed was more than nine ft. tall, a work she can’t even stand upright in her basement.

Daniel Gerwin Left: Things I’ll Never Know, 2012, Acrylic on shaped panel, 84 x 48 in Right: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (RA), 2012, Acrylic and hidden object on shaped panel, 81 x 48 in

Daniel Gerwin is a first-time POST participant. The painter works throughout his South Philadelphia home, not in one studio area. He also has two large dogs and a 3-month-old baby, so opening the house for visits was not an option.

Gerwin, who makes trompe l’oeil and other kinds of paintings on plywood, is a fellow in the emerging artists center’s professional-development program, and the center helped arrange a space in West Philadelphia for him to show his works during POST. Two large paintings will be at University City Arts League in West Philadelphia, along with photographic constructions by Jennifer Williams, another fellow. The show is up through October.

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Erin Murray, painting, Us and Them

Like some other artists in POST, Gerwin won’t have price tags on his works. But for Erin Murray, a longtime POST participant, opening her studio is about selling.
“It’s a good source of income,” she said.

Murray, whose studio is on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown, paints and makes drawings. She is in the current Wind Challenge exhibit at Fleisher Art Memorial and is preparing for a solo show at Nancy Margolis Gallery in New York in December. She likes the comments she gets during open studios. “I’m definitely looking forward to the feedback. Out of school, you don’t get a lot of people commenting on your work,” she said.

Murray owns the building her studio is in and lives upstairs. The storefront space downstairs was home to the alternative gallery Extra Extra, now closed. For POST, Murray will have some of her work, including a 9-foot-long drawing, in the front space with other drawings and paintings. People can also explore her studio.
“Last time, I had a very small flow, 10 people in total, including my mother and friends,” she said. But on the second day, “a guy walks through the door – he’s from the neighborhood. I had a 10-foot drawing on the wall. He walked up and said, ‘I’ll take that.’ Anything can happen. That’s why I do it every year.”

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Tim McFarlane, “Imposition(indeterminate passage)”, 2012, acrylic on panel, 36 x 36 inches

Old City painter Tim McFarlane said he has been participating in POST for about 10 years. “People climb up the three flights of stairs. I get a good amount of traffic: a mix of strangers and people who know my work.”

McFarlane is preparing for a show next September at Bridgette Mayer Gallery. For him, POST is about talking with people and sharing ideas about his work. “I don’t do a lot of sales, very few sales. Mainly I like participating. I like letting people get an idea of what goes on behind the scenes. I like the idea of interacting with the public – out of an institution and outside a gallery.”

The artist used to serve drinks in his studio during POST, until the year “I had a guy come up and get drunk and hang out. . . . He was harmless, but . . . ”
If you’re wondering how to manage the sprawling studio tours, one good way is to let Center for Emerging Visual Artists take you around on a trolley tour. For $40, they will chaperone you through three studio stops and a fourth stop at an exhibit, where there will be snacks and drinks. Tickets are available at the center’s website.

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Lewis Colburn in the studio. Photo by Bernadette Dye

Lewis Colburn, a newbie to Philadelphia, moved here with his wife in May, 2009, after both got MFA degrees from Syracuse University.  “We didn’t have jobs lined up post grad, and we had friends here,” he said. In Frankford, they bought a house and also rent a large 1830 square ft. (20×30 ft.) studio with 12 ft. ceilings in the Viking Mills building a block away from their home.

Colburn, a CFEVA fellow, will be showing three large finished sculptures in the Viking Mills studio. For him, POST gives him needed time to sit with his work and think about it and talk with people about it.  “Being obliged to be there and clean the space up is good.  And if there’s not a lot of traffic, it’s quiet time to reflect on the work. It’s hard to carve out time to do that.”  Colburn’s works mimic urban space; for example, a mockup of the Market-Frankford El he created for last year’s show “here” at Pennsylvania Academy.

Philadelphia Open Studio Tour: East of Broad Street, Saturday-Sunday, 215-546-7775. Sunday trolley tour departs from the Center for Emerging Visual Artists Gallery at The Barclay, 237 S. 18th St., $40. 215-546-7775, ext. 10, or

Artists mentioned in this article:
Daniel Gerwin
See his work: University City Arts League, 4226 Spruce St. Philadelphia 19104

Tim McFarlane
Studio: 16 A. N. 3rd St., 4th floor Philadelphia 19106

Erin Murray
Studio: 1524 Frankford Ave. Philadelphia 19125

Lewis Colburn
Studio: Viking Mills, 2026 E. Hagert St. Philadelphia 19125

Celestine Wilson Hughes
Studio – (was open Oct. 6-7): 40th St. AIR – 4007 Chestnut St., 1st floor Philadelphia 19104

This is an expanded version of the story that appeared Friday, Oct. 19 in the Philadelphia Daily News as part of Art Attack, a partnership with Drexel University, supported by a grant from the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge and administered by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.