Hunting Park: The Fortress of the Arts

Owner and Photographer Kat Reilly sat at her desk in The Fortress of the Arts.

Looking at the abandoned warehouses in North Philadelphia, one would typically expect them to be filled with nothing more than ugly rubble. But some of these buildings have become the homes of intrepid, young artists in the area as well.

The Fortress of the Arts is one such place. The inside is now a beautiful multi-room art studio for owner and operator Kat Reilly.

“When I first came here our upstairs studio was filled with nothing but rubble,” Reilly said.

With the rubble now gone, the main studio now features a stage made from old ceiling boards and several areas used for photo shoots. It even has an old industrial area photographers use for fashion photo shoots.

Since its founding in 1996, the studio has not only become a place for Reilly to do work, but a place for other local artists to come together and work collectively. Weekly workshops for photography help bring photographers and models together, which lead to connections that help both groups. Events such as open mics, poetry readings, fashion shows and even film screenings help bring the local artist community together.

“It truly is about networking,” Reilly said. “I can’t stress that enough.”

“When I first came here our upstairs studio was filled with nothing but rubble,” Reilly said.

While these efforts are met by some success, Reilly admitted it hasn’t been easy. Some visitors try to become competitors.

“When I show this place to some people they start their own thing and never come back again,” Reilly said. “I have no problem with that happening, but why not work together?”

Even with such problems, Reilly continues on her mission of bringing Hunting Park artists together. In a neighborhood with few outlets for artists, the Fortress of the Arts stands stolidly for them.

“If we all pulled together, the Philadelphia art community would just absolutely knock the ball out of the park.”

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