Every Spring for a week or so, the flowering trees in Philadelphia burst into bloom all over the city.
Everywhere you look, the trees are showing off their blossoms like they’re in a competition to see who can be the showiest.
The party lasts about a week and then it’s over. Enjoy it while you can.
Last week’s post which included a link to a film about the artist Judy Chicago got me thinking. If being an artist is challenging, being a woman artist is even more so. I saw a great exhibit at the Tate Modern a couple of years ago on the Guerilla Girls and one of my favorite parts of the show was their Advantages of Being a Woman Artist Poster. You can get a look at it here. And Jane Dunnewold has produced another excellent video, this one on Women Abstract Expressionists. You can watch that here.
I was not familiar with the work of Mildred Greenberg although I had known her daughter, Susan for many years and at one time we had even worked in the same office. Ancient history. We fell out of touch and the years passed. Then we got reacquainted, this time through my husband. And before the Coronavirus shut everything down, Susan invited us to the opening of a retrospective of her mother’s work presented by InLiquid, a Philadelphia Arts organization, ELECTRICITY: From the Mind of Mildred Greenberg.
Mildred Elfman Greenberg hailed from Philadelphia and much of her early work was produced for the W.P.A.s Federal Art Project during the Depression. Her bio from the British Museum, one of the many museums that have her work in their collection reads as follows. Painter and printmaker. Born as Elfman to Russian immigrant father and American mother in Philadelphia, where lived most of her life. Married Samuel Greenberg. Graduated from Moore Institute of art and Design in 1934; WPA 1940. No work between end WWII and 1974. That’s thirty years without making art. I believe at this time that the family had relocated from Philadelphia to California. It’s my understanding that Greenberg resumed her art career after moving back to Philadelphia in the 1970’s.
You can read more about Mildred Elfman Greenberg here.
I had some time after a visit to the hand doctor today, so I decided to check out the Philadelphia Fashion District.
The Gallery Shopping Mall in downtown Philadelphia has been completely renovated and reopened to the public in September as Philadelphia Fashion District. No one shops at malls anymore, so the developers couldn’t just follow the old model of retailing in a renovated space. So in addition to the standard mall retail therapy establishments, the Fashion District is offering some intriguing opportunities for artists, makers, and entrepreneurs.
The Fashion District has invested one million dollars for art installations geared to “making museum-caliber art more accessible to the city, while also elevating the beauty of The District.” The Bridgette Mayer Gallery has a display there with art for sale.
Conrad Benner, whose blog StreetsDept.com, chronicles street art in Philadelphia, has been charged with curating an exhibit of the work of Philadelphia street artists. These works are currently on display on the lower (concourse) level of the Fashion District through the end of this year.
The Fashion District has provided space for RecPhilly, an organization who provides co-working space, recording studios, visual labs & conference rooms for creatives. RecPhilly membership is financially accessible and has proven to so popular that there is now a waitlist. But new memberships are sure to open up in the future. Read more about RecPhilly on their website here.
The Fashion District is sponsoring more art-related events than I’ve written about here as well as planning to open up movie theaters, restaurants and performance spaces. They are trying to do a lot and we’ll see how it goes. Here are some pictures.
I’ve written about public memorials before on this blog, but I have never seen one quite like the Memorial to the Lost.
Philadelphia lost a lot of people to gun violence last year. Michelle Tamika Washington, Rasul Benson, and Steven Wallace are three names on forty t-shirts hanging outside the Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany on South 13th Street in Philadelphia.
Guns murdered 295 Philadelphia residents last year. There were many more shooting victims who did not die.
The organization behind the memorial is Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence, Their literature describes the point of the memorial: “Each shirt has the name, age, and the date of the victim’s death. Each name represents a whole human being, a child of God. Each one deserves to be remembered. Each death deserves to be noted and mourned.”
The Philadelphia Obituary Project has a similar philosophy,
If you are interested in the movement to end gun violence, you can follow Heeding God’s call on their Facebook page which also contains information on volunteering and donating.
Jeweler’s Row is a Philadelphia treasure the future of which is being threatened by potential unbridled development. Jeweler’s Row, located on the 700 block of Sansom Street, was not always the seat of the Philadelphia jewelry industry, having been home to the printing and engraving trades before morphing into a jewelry district around the 1880’s. Many jewelry store proprietors from the Delaware valley and South Jersey made weekly trips to Jeweler’s Row to drop off and collect repair jobs, replenish their stock and to meet with their fellow jewelers to talk business.
A developer sold a brace of buildings to Toll Brothers Builders in 2017 and Toll Brothers got permission to tear down the buildings to erect a high-rise apartment building. There was plenty of opposition from the neighborhood and community groups but in the end it didn’t matter.
Last week, I got to tour 708 Sansom Street which is one of the buildings slated to be demolished. It is a cavernous four-story building with tin ceilings and ornate hardware. As I walked from floor to floor, I could see that the tenants, the majority of whom were manufacturing jewelers, were in the process of moving their equipment out of the building and finding new space for their businesses and studios.
I imagine that 708 Sansom Street supported many families over the years and that its tenants were a close-knit bunch. Now it is like a ghost town.
Most of the former tenants have found new space but it has not been easy. Many of them have had to relocate away from Sansom Street.
While it’s true that the only constant in life is change, and that the face of the jewelry business is changing, there is still room for places like Jeweler’s Row. These business districts and manufacturing centers still serve a purpose. But then again, you never really miss something until it’s gone.
This is the best old Mummers video I have seen to date. It’s from 1930 but it looks contemporary.
From the website: “Old film of a New Years Day Parade in Philadelphia, USA on January 1, 1930. This is raw footage from the early Movietone sound cameras. This footage is particularly neat because most parades of the time were captured from a far distance. Worked on footage and sound a bit. Amazing!”
And do check out Guy Jones’ channel on YouTube for more incredible videos.
For more Mummers posts from this site, press here.
I wrote last week about Wayne Cambern’s show at the Boston Street Gallery. While I was there, I got a tour of the building that houses the gallery and met the owners, Jeff Harris and his wife Maria who are artists themselves.
Jeff works in wood and steel stock. His massive sculptures fill half the gallery and his studio and workshop are in the rear. The building itself has an interesting history. Built in the 1880’s, it housed a coffee roasting factory that supplied the US armed forces during both world wars. Kensington used to be full of factories Now, many of those former factories are finding new lives as art galleries and artist studios.
Jeff started out as a photographer but soon moved on to other mediums. He told me that his first love was wood and he still works with the material. But he found it too limiting for what he wanted to do, so he started working with steel stock.
When I saw Jeff’s work I assumed that I’d find torches in his workshop. How else could he get those bends and shapes?
The answer? A big vise and some simple tools. No heat except to weld pieces together.
Jeff and Maria also give painting classes on the second floor of the building although they are more for fun that for “serious” art. For more information, go to the web site, to http://www.artwithspirits.com.
I had intended to write this week’s post about Beading Yoda’s lovely beaded flowers. But that will have to wait.
What a week this has been. Boris is almost recovered from the Benjimonster and is much less stressed. I cannot say the same for myself. It all started so innocently. My health insurance company decided to give its customers a discount on their premiums if they enrolled in a program called Active Health to learn about healthy habits, adiet, exercise, and so on. You get points for each module you complete. Collect 100 points and you get your discount. Easy, right? Wrongo Bongo!
I logged onto the program’s website and managed to enroll after numerous calls to customer service to learn how to navigate a website obviously designed by Dr. Mengels.
In the weeks that followed, I duly entered my blood pressure, my cholesterol, completed questionnaires, and studied health topics. As I completed each module, I was awarded a certain number of points. I was on my way to my discount.
Nor so fast.
Yesterday, I foolishly downloaded the Active Health iPad app for the program and completed more tasks. As I tracked my progress, I noted the app was not saving anything. And there was no option for me to save. I tried to contact customer service online. There was a place to write a message but no way to send the message. So, I called customer service.
I was referred to another number. Then a third number. Then I spent almost an hour with a service rep who tried to guide me through the website. But, as I repeatedly reminded her, I was using the app, not the website. Alas, she could neither help me nor refer me to someone who could. “And yet,” as the saying goes, “she persisted.” As I hung up I wondered where she got her stamina.
Later that evening, I decided to try again on the website instead of the app. I ran into the same problem. I called customer service again. As the conversation with a different rep wore on, I realized that he knew that the website did not work,and that tech support was non existant. But the rep was creative-I’ll give him that-he suggested that I abandon the online health education module altogether and opt for phone counseling in order to get my points So I agreed. We scheduled an appointment with a health counselor. Then the rep started to rattle on about the Philadelphia Eagles. Time to say goodbye.
The health counselor called the next day at the appointed time. “What health issues would you like to work on? ” she asked.
“Stress,” I replied, “I really need to work on my stress.”
“What gives you stress? ” she queried.
“I was doing pretty good before I enrolled in the Active Health program,” I admitted, “but broken website coupled with service reps who don’t have the resources they need to do their job has caused me a great deal of stress.”
The counselor suggested that I meditate and gave me a number I to call if the stress became overwhelming. “There are counselors there to help you,” she informed me.
“Is this covered by my insurance?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she responded. “Let’s schedule another session.”
“How’d it go?” my husband asked me later that day. “Not as bad as I thought it would be,” I admitted. “In fact, I’ve decided to start smoking again so at our next session she can give me advice on how to quit.”
Only two more counseling sessions to go.
And now, to keep myself honest, here are pictures of flowers taken on my walks around Philadelphia.
Spring is when the outdoor flea markets spring up in Philadelphia. My favorite Saturday activity is to take long walks through the neighborhoods and hit house sales, sidewalk sales, and flea markets on my way. I usually look for household items I might need at sidewalk sales. Estate sales are especially interesting because they are usually held in affluent neighborhoods and you get to see some pretty impressive homes from the inside as well as antiques and art. You also learn that money does not always equal taste, but we knew that already, didn’t we?
Flea markets are fun because the sellers are generally pretty friendly in my experience and some are eager to talk about their wares even if you don’t buy. They’re a place to learn, meet people, and relax.
John S. Whitney, Jr. has a clever way of attracting buyers to his table filled with antique art and jewelry. He also sells from his store, the Nue Gallery, in Lansdown, PA.
While I don’t collect antiques or vintage items, and rarely buy jewelry, I find plenty of inspiration at flea markets. You will find plenty of shapes and color at flea markets, in the form of old pottery vintage clothing, brightly colored cloth, old appliances, or just plain rusty stuff. I have found some great old tools at flea markets, but I also look for things I can incorporate into my art, like old jewelry, metal objects I can cut up and repurpose, ephemera, or anything that I can fit into a bezel.
Here are some pictures from my last flea market foray
And here’s what I bought: two cheap copper cuff bracelets and two cheap brass ones. Total, $5.00. I plan to reuse the metal to make something new. I also found a vendor selling cabochons and treated myself to some lovely striped jasper for another $10.00.