Germantown: Cooperative Creates an Artistic Oasis

Jonathan Eckel worked on his lastest abstract painting.

The Greene Street Artists Cooperative  has been a community where multifaceted artists can live and work for over two decades. Each artist comes from a diverse background, but as a whole they make up a unified and creative group of individuals.

Jonathan Eckel worked on his latest abstract painting inside one of 17 studios at the Greene Street Artists Cooperative.

Located at 5225 Greene St., GSAC began as a program jump started by the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Corp, as a way to support the expanding art community. These artists live, work and function as a unit under one roof. The building has 17 living/studio units along with a garden. Fine artist and graphic designer Ife Owoo has had a studio at GSAC since 1990. She explained how the space has benefited her career.

“It’s really a blessing to have a space like this because it has allowed so many possibilities for me,” Owoo said. “I can have a show here showcasing my work. I can have clients here as a designer. It’s so flexible for me. I can make it anything I want it to be.”

The space is owned and managed by the artists who live there. It is truly a cooperative effort by every artist. Some of the artists even call it an “experimental experience.” GSAC provides the artists with a sense of security and comfort. Every member is committed to the space and is required to participate on the board.

One of the youngest artists living at GSAC, Jonathan Eckel, expressed his feelings about the structure of the space.

“It’s important to have a community of artists. I have friends who paint and stuff but it’s nice to have people right across the hall who you can chat with you about your paintings,” Eckel said. “Plus the building is sort of set up for us to live affordably, prosper as artists and focus on our work.”

Artist William G. Teodecki read the paper in his studio.

The members of GSAC span across generations. The eldest member,  80-year-old William G. Teodecki, has become a living legend in the art world and continues to thrive in his living/studio space. He is the head of maintenance at GSAC and is devoted to its artistic community.

“People who live in a social setting live a lot longer so it’s been good here,” Tedodecki said. “You can be alone if you want but it’s almost unavoidable to be simpatico with people in the building.”

The artists have hosted events together such as dinner parties and an Earth Day celebration. Every artist works individually but will cooperate with others and set aside personal riffs for the greater good of their community.

“When things work here, it’s because we use everyone’s strengths and don’t get aggravated about the things that they are not able to do,” artist Mindy Flexer said.

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