The Arts on South project is a program that loans unrented stores to local artists to help show their artwork. They have a myriad of projects , including a writers workshop, a few galleries and a skill share cycling space called The Bikery, with community service projects, bike art and sometimes music. “ Ideally , Arts on South is not about helping a certain type of art, but wanting to help disenfranchised artists. The gallery scene can be hard to get into,” said Amanda Cameron, Arts on South coordinator. The program is a project of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, started by award winning mural artist Isaiah Zagar.
Art in Philadelphia is exploding on walls and clothes and arms and legs all over the city. Most every place has a group of people who dedicate much of their waking existence to creating works of color and shape. But the difference is if these artists have a place where they go beyond their circles and reach an audience that clamors for it. Like many cities, Philadelphia has a young vibrant collection of artists with full portfolios and time to kill. Depending on their ability to show their work, they will either create in seclusion or be apart of a community that could almost exist alone through sheer will. With Arts on South they don’t have to start from scratch.
The Arts on South program provides spaces for the best bid on how to use the space. The winning bid gets to put their plan in motion, usually culminating in a new space for local artists to not just show, but sell their art. Phantom Hand, a gallery on South Street, shows the art, and because the art there are prints or illustrations, they can be sold at a small price. Not only getting artists exposure, but putting it in people homes. “ The prints are great because they are affordable”, says Phantom Hand artist and gallery hand Anthony Pedro. “Someone can come in and actually leave with something, its surprising who is into it”.
The program caters to a common sense idea: empty space should be filled with art. “ Non-traditional art spaces are important.” Said Cameron. With many schools cutting art budgets and putting more attention in the classroom elsewhere. Arts on South helps provide opportunities for young students. A non-profit organization staffed by volunteers, educators, writers and film makers, called the Mighty Writers. They help kids in workshops, lessons and writing programs, including one-on-one time with instructors.
As much as it is difficult time for some, educators and artists are finding time and support for some of their more important projects. “Philly has a very supportive art scene that I didn’t see in Boston or LA,” said Cameron. “Its a young, working class art scene. Cost of living has a lot to do with it. Here people really get to push their art.” Sadly in many major cities there are empty spaces, and there is no lack of people willing to fill it with their ideas of powerful or informative art. Hopefully in the future people can utilize unrented spaces like Arts on South has and will. Because wherever there are people and paint, wall space is always coveted.