Winter dumped a load on the East coast this week. I’m glad I didn’t have to be anywhere. Still, it’s fun to go out and explore.
Did you know that Fleisher Art Memorial is the oldest community art school in the US? And that the 121st annual exhibition of student work opened there on February 15th? With offerings that include works on paper, painting, sculpture, ceramics and jewelry, the work seems to get better with every year.
The 121st annual student exhibition closes on March 15, 2019.
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.
This week, I started watching the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I read the book when I was barely into my teens and it made quite an impression on me. Later on, I saw a film adaptation, The Haunting, which is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. Black and white and not a bit of gore or violence in it. I wasn’t as fond of the remake which seemed formulaic, and more funny than scary.
South Philadelphia has some haunted history too, although you won’t find a lot of information on tourist sites. Serial killer H.H. Holmes met his demise at Moyamensing Prison which is now the site of the Acme Market at 10th and Reed Streets. I don’t know whether he wanders the store after it closes for the night, nor do I want to know.
On the brighter side, South Philadelphians take any occasion as an excuse to decorate their front windows and Halloween is no exception. From pumpkin painting festivals to pots of chrysanthemums sprouting up in curbside planters, South Philly is ablaze with the colors of Autumn this time of year- just in time for Halloween. Here are some pictures.
That’s how long the Fleisher Art Memorial has been holding its annual adult student exhibition. At the time of the first show, the US was at war with Spain. The average yearly salary was around $450.00. There was no income tax. Pennsylvania Hospital offered a horse-drawn ambulance service. City Hall and the Broad Street Subway were off in the future and the Fleisher Art Memorial opened and started offering art classes to the people of Philadelphia. The Annual Exhibition closes on March 24. It’s worth a visit.
For more information, press here.
Bob’s Garden has really taken off this year! Three new turtles are swimming in the pond and a new banana tree has taken root in one of the wooden barrels sitting out on the south Philly sidewalk. The cacti have come back to life and are are throwing off scores of yellow blossoms. The water lilies are doing swimingly (pun intended) and Barbra the Macaw is keeping a watchful eye over it all. Here are some pictures.
Amalia Petherbridge (Mali, pronounced “Molly”) is the founder and tireless proprietor of the Butcher’s Sew Shop in the Bella Vista neighborhood of South Philadelphia. While she has been sewing nearly as long as she has been walking, it was not until after college graduation, a stint working in the non-profit sector and taking some sewing classes for fun that she decided to go back to school and study sewing full time.
Mali was not sure what direction her career would take after she completed her course work in design and pattern making. But she discovered that she loved teaching when she started giving her friends sewing lessons sewing in her home. “I loved seeing things click for other people,” she recalled, “and I still love seeing adults learning those skills for the first time. It’s really empowering for them. Even something as simple as being able to hem your own pants. It’s a life skill and it’s a great creative outlet, too.”
So she decided to open a business and teach sewing. This is hardly surprising; many of the women from Mali’s childhood combined creativity and entrepreneurship in their careers. An Aunt had a line of children’s clothing. Mali’s mother built pipe organs in a home studio. Mali’s step mother was a seamstress and quilt maker.
Mali located her shop in Bella Vista because she knew and loved the neighborhood. “I think it has a great vibe and when I saw the for rent sign in the window I just instinctively felt that it would be a good place.” And that turned out to be true. “The neighbors are so supportive; it feels like a little community and we do have a lot of students who are from the neighborhood, although we get most of our students from Internet traffic.”
When Mali signed the lease, she did not know the space 8th and Catharine Streets had been a butcher shop. The shop had been a bodega after the butcher shop closed, and looked completely different when Mali first saw it.
Mali tackled the renovations herself with the help of many friends. She found gleaming white tiles behind the peeling dry wall. The drop ceiling hid an old fashioned punched tin ceiling. As the renovations progressed, she uncovered more relics and artifacts.
Transforming the shop was an intensely personal process for her; she felt a deep connection to the space. At some point in the process she learned the store had been a butcher shop. But one day, purely by serendipity, she found out that one family had operated the butcher shop for eighty years. That’s when she started to research the history of the shop and the family behind it. “Because here I am opening my first business,” she explained,” and I’m just trying to make it through the first month and to think that family kept a business alive here for generations!”
She located the family and asked them if they would allow her to name her business Butcher’s Sew Shop in their honor. “Butchers work with their hands, too. It’s a craft and I felt that energy in the space and loved the idea of being able to honor that.” The family was delighted and sent her copies of old pictures and other information about the butcher shop which you can see on the web site here.
“Our core adult student is a young professional who wants some kind of creative release outside of work. Some of the people who come in have some kind of vision. They want to learn how to make something for themselves or to mend their clothes or we have young mothers who want to sew for their kids. But a lot of people just come in to try it and they end up taking more and more classes.”
“Half of our business is a sister program where we teach kids. They are so creative and they soak up things like sponges! We have kids who have been here for a few years and they can sit down at the machine and do pretty much anything at this point. We start at age 5 and go to 14. And we have the five year olds on the machines too.”
The Butcher’s Sew Shop is stocked with heavy duty Singer Sewing machines and plenty of sewing tools and equipment. Students also have access to two sergers. They are also welcome to bring in their own machines; Mali and her staff will help them learn how to operate them.
In June, the Butcher’s Sew Shop is opening a second location at 1912 South Street which it will share with Loop Yarn who will offer knitting classes in the rear. Programs are planned to start in July or August. Mali is excited about this expansion which will give her more room for children’s classes.
For the full schedule of classes and activities at the Butcher’s Sew Shop, go to the web site here. For information on the exciting summer, afternoon and weekend programs for kids offered through Sew Philly, click here.
BUTCHER’S SEW SHOP 800 S. 8th St PHILADELPHIA, PA 19147
The East Passyunk Community Recreation Center is sponsoring a craft fair this Saturday, April 16 from 9 am to 2 pm at 1025 Mifflin Street in Philadelphia. I will be selling some of my past work including Happy Bracelets which were featured in Polymer Cafe and Festive Pens which were featured on HGTV.
I will also have some fused glass items, mixed media necklaces and other cool stuff for sale including felted bracelets and polymer barrettes.
This is the first craft fair that the new Community Center Advisory Council is holding, so I don’t know how it will go. Still, I am happy to be able to lend my support to this wonderful organization. You can too even if you just stop by to hang out and enjoy the day.
I recently taught a class on making friendship bracelets at the East Passyunk Community Recreation Center on the corner of 11th and Mifflin Streets in South Philadelphia. The building that houses the recreation center site has occupied the site for more than 25 years, but when the City did not renew the lease with its long-term tenant, the East Passyunk community came together to make the center more accessible to the community and to offer more varied programs and activities. Read more about this transition here.
Friendship bracelets are one type of handmade friendship token that people have been exchanging since time immemorial. (I first learned to make friendship bracelets in summer camp. But I was not a camper I was a counselor and the kids taught me!)
I thought that sitting around a table and learning how to make bracelets would be a good way for people to get to know one another. And I think I was right.
The East Passyunk Community Recreation Center is committed to involving the community in its activities and in offering them a space to come together. Friendship bracelet workshops are only one way to do this. To see what else the CRC has to offer, go to their Facebook page.