Philadelphia Sculpture Gym – A community in Fishtown for artists and viewers, too

Hard work and dedication in equal strength are the prevailing under-current at Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, a building transformed into a sculpture community by a group of amazing volunteers.

Philadelphia Sculpture Gym in Fishtown at their latest exhibition opening
Philadelphia Sculpture Gym in Fishtown at their latest exhibition opening. Photo by Roman Blazic

The Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, located on the border of Fishtown at 1834 E Frankford Avenue (next to the car wash at Norris Street), is a membership-based community workshop and gallery formed by founder and owner Darla Jackson. PSG is made possible in part by a $20,000 matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge.

Philadelphia Sculpture Gym opening
Philadelphia Sculpture Gym opening. Photo by Roman Blazic

More than an exhibition space, the 7,500 square foot facility used to be an auto mechanic shop. It’s a work in progress, and will include a wood shop, a metal shop, a mold making and casting area, a classroom, storage space and member lounge with kitchenette. The target date for completion is sometime in early Spring, 2013.

Darla Jackson lives in Fishtown and wanted to keep the business in the community. She was keenly aware that there were a ton of artists here so it seemed that there was a need for a space like this. The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. PSG offers various reasonably priced monthly workshops in welding, casting, molds and other things. PSG has a full complement of staff to manage the shop area and a volunteer coordinator.

Jenny Welsh, PSG manager, expressed their flexibility to suit the skill level of the experienced sculptor and the novice. Welsh, responsible for curatorial duty at PSG, showcases the art for ease of viewing and with room for viewers to gather without obstruction.
The best part is that PSG adds much needed depth and dimension to the Fishtown art scene.

PSG gallery’s first exhibition, in May, 2012, coincided with the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival and Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby. Since then, PSG has had eight exhibitions and a has full schedule for 2013. The current exhibit, “Process Show: Metal” runs through February 28.

The biggest challenge to some of the artists here is not the skill or technique, the intense labor of the medium, the inspiration and drive, but to work in a way that uniquely sets their work apart from the others.

Barry Parker's Etruscan. Photo by Roman Blazic
Peter Franz “Down The River Babylon” Photo by Roman Blazic

Peter Franz’s work “Down The River Babylon” captures the eye in a room full of other works. The striking work asks you to grapple with what it is, and the title gives you a hint.  [Ed note:  The work pictured above  by Peter Franz was previously mis-labeled as a work by Barry Parker.  Below is the Barry Parker work. We regret the error. — the editor]

Barry Parker,
Barry Parker,  Etruscan Places #1. Photo by Roman Blazic.

“Etruscan Places” by Barry Parker (above) is a welded bronze with a tree-like form breaking through a form like a tomb lid, with a greenish disc form on top of it.

Hayley Tomlinson's Over 100 Failed Ideas. Photo by Roman Blazic
Hayley Tomlinson’s Over 100 Failed Ideas. Photo by Roman Blazic

Finding that elusive, seldom-effective humor in art, Hayley Tomlinson’s “Over 100 Failed Ideas” was such a joy — even before meeting the artist! Hayley is a spirited one to talk too and be with. It’s no wonder that she created such a piece of art. Not many can. It is important to note the successful interplay of the title to the art itself.

Salvatore Cerceo's Warhead. Photo by Roman Blazic
Salvatore Cerceo’s Warhead. Photo by Roman Blazic

“Firelines,” an impressive presentation of eight cast globes by Bevan Weissman has a pleasing design.
Salvatore Cerceo’s 2010 “Warhead” — similar in design and theme to other sculptures and drawings that he has done — conveys youthfulness that is both obvious and subtle.

Salvatore Curceo Warhead. Photo by Roman Blazic
Salvatore Curceo Warhead. Photo by Roman Blazic

Expanding on the “nest” concept from earlier work and incorporating more material elements, various fibers and latex, Jenifer Stern‘s theme of “identity” is wide open. I would like to see how far the artist takes this theme in the future.

Food Truck. Photo by Roman Blazic
Food Truck. Photo by Roman Blazic

There is much that validates the purpose of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym for the artist. And there’s much to see and explore for the viewer.

The next scheduled event, March 14, 7:00 to 10:00PM, is “Food Truck”. This is going to be a blast of a fundraiser with the full support of Lucky Ant with a variety of gourmet food, produce, dessert and beer vendors and yes, there will be music. Visit their blog for up to date information, and for a schedule of workshops on welding, aluminum casting and more, visit the PSG website.  Philadelphia Sculpture Gym is located at 1834 E. Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125. 215-901-1933

Roman Blazic is the second of three generations to participate in the arts: photography, songwriting, musical performance and alligator wrestler. Roman is a Board Member of the Friends of Penn Treaty Park and an active supporter of the Fishtown art scene. He also contributes photographs to the local community groups and newspaper.