POST at Bok 1

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.

Another Post on Post (Philadelphia Open Studio Tours)

I posted last year about attending the Philadelphia Open Studio Tour  of 915 Spring Garden Street.  This huge building used to be owned by the Reading Railroad.  For the past thirty years, however, it has housed around 100 artists and their studios.

No more. After a minor fire at 915 Spring Garden in early September of this year, and the City Department of License and Inspections conducted a post-fire examination and found numerous  City code violations-so many that  L&I ordered the artists to evacuate and to stay out of the building until the code violations are corrected.   The building has been closed indefinitely. For more information,  press herehere and here.

Unless the artists have binding contracts with the owners/managers of the building, which I doubt, my guess is that the building will be sold to a developer and turned into condos or apartments leaving most of the artists in an untenable position. Inquirer columnist Inga Saffron wrote an excellent article on the closing of 915 Spring Garden Street and the difficulty artists face finding studio space in a tight real estate market. You can read her article here.

For this year’s open studio tours I headed to 1241 Carpenter Street– a big old factory building right in my neighborhood. When I  walked into Stella Untalan’s studio, (Be sure to click on the links to her incredible art.  There was a reason I was hanging out in her studio! ) she was having a lively discussion with Steven Krupnick who bought the building forty years ago and operates a business there.  It turns out that he is determined to maintain this building as affordable space for artist studios.   This is not how these things usually go. The neighborhood was pretty bad 40 years ago and for someone to buy property in an area like 12th and Carpenter, maintain it (which is what you do when you are not a speculator), pay it off and not sell it  to developers so artists can have studio space is a tremendous contribution to the City. I cannot fault people who buy property and sell it at a profit, but I greatly admire people like Steve Krupnick who give back to the community.   The City of Philadelphia owes him a debt.

1241 C

1241 Carpenter Street is a big old factory building.  Some artists from the Spring Garden Studios were able to find space in 1241 Carpenter, but by no means all of them.  There is now a waiting list.

Hall2

Hall3

TimMcFarlane

Tim McFarlane’s cards outside his tiny studio.  Click the links below to see his work.

PD Packard5

PD Packard is a print maker, watercolorist and book artist from Brooklyn, NY.  She  led a hands-on shibori dying workshop.  Check out this post about her on Seth Apter’s Blog.

PD Packard4

Here’s my shibori-dyed paper.

PD blogs herself and she teaches.  I have one friend I think I could talk into traveling to Brooklyn and trying a class with me.

Stella Untalan Studio

Stella Untalan’s studio

Stella Untalan1

Stella Untalan from 365+1 #drawing a day

Reception

MeganMcManus1Megan McManus and  her whimsically deviant faux fingernail sculptures.  She is also a painter,

1241 C Hall2

Jim Loewer4

Jim Loewer  (I will do an in-depth post on him in the future)

1241 C Hall

1241 C5

I can never resist a self portrait.

Seriously,  I saw a lot of beautiful work on this tour and got to visit and and speak with many incredible artists.  Here are some more:

Tim McFarlane 

Colette Fu

For a full list, press here.

Thank you artists, thank you Steven Krupnick and thank you POST sponsors!