Last month I visited the Bok Makerspace which was on the South Philly list of participants in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST).
Bok Technical High School was a vocational school that opened in South Philadelphia in 1938. Thousands of students passed through Bok’s doors learning trades like brick laying, plastering, plumbing, machine building, tailoring, and hairdressing until the school closed its doors in 2013.
The Bok building is massive. That’s a cardboard model in the above picture. It takes up an entire city block and the interior is 340,000 square feet. The surrounding neighborhood is made up of mostly residential row houses. The residents were understandably concerned about what would happen to the building.
They need not have worried. In 2014, a developer named Lindsey Scannapieco proposed converting the former high school into a space for creative entrepreneurs. The neighborhood liked her ideas and her efforts were lauded by Inge Saffron, the Architectural Critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Read more articles about the transformation of Bok here and here.
While Bok is thought of as a space for artists, it is really so much more as I learned on my visit for the POST tours. All of the artists I talked to came from the surrounding neighborhood and almost all of them were business people in creative fields.
I hope to profile some of the artists I met during the tour and show you some pictures of their spaces.