Manayunk: Philadelphia Open Studio Tours Come to Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls

A guided trolley tour visited Leah Macdonald’s studio on Sunday during the open studio tours.

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A guided trolley tour visited artist Leah Macdonald’s studio, located at 498 Ripka St., on Sunday during the open studio tours.

From fused glass to woodworking, and hand weaving to encaustic mixed media, artists in the Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls region participated in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, putting art at the forefront over the weekend.

The Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, a program by The Center for Emerging Visual Artists, is the largest tour of artist studios and creative workspaces in the region, allowing the public to come and experience works by artists and studios.

“The mission of our organization is to help artists reach their professional goals,” said Ann Peltz, director of the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours. “The open studio tours are just one way we do that. [They are] designed to be able to allow artists identify their own goals and reach that goal.”

The open studio tours are divided over two weekends. The weekend featured areas in Northwest Philadelphia, including Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls. The weekend of Oct. 20 and 21 will feature areas such as Northern Liberties and Old City.

One of the participating artists in Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls, Leah Macdonald, who combines photography and encaustic painting, has participated in the open studio tours for the past four years. Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added.

Macdonald, whose studio is located at 498 Ripka St., said events like the tours are important for artists.

“It’s just nice to know that people know you’re here,” Macdonald said. “It just helps to participate, to be active in the community and to let people in close to you and to see the work.”

One of the open studio tour’s newest participants opened in March of this year. Philadelphia Woodworks, a professional grade wood shop, was founded by Michael Vogel, who saw the open studio tours as a way to get visibility for the new studio.

Fredi Brown traveled more than an hour over the weekend to attend  Essentials: A Beautiful Box, a class at Philadelphia Woodworks, located at 4901 Umbria St.

“We want people to enjoy seeing what they may never have seen before which is a really professional grade woodshop in action,” said Vogel, whose studio is located at 4901 Umbria St. “I’m hoping we bring in a crop of people who not only connect with what we’re offering but want to be a part of it.”

A common theme between the artists and studios that participate in the open studio tours is the desire to share their craft in order to educate people on different types of art forms in the community.

“It’s really allowed people to experience the art and experience things they wouldn’t normally see,” said James Calamia, operations manager of the Roxborough Development Corp. “People in the community don’t really know that [the artists] are there and so by having this gallery, we can bring in art that’s already here to people in the neighborhood.”

The open studio tours also give artists the opportunity to extend their work to a wider audience outside Philadelphia, giving them the opportunity to experience art in the city.

“This is a very interesting way to see a wide variety of folks in an afternoon,” said John Burmaster, a resident of Haddonfield, N.J. “[The Philadelphia Open Studio Tours] organize you getting there which is good.”

For Kathy Burmaster, the open studio tours allow visitors to experience art in places they would never think to look.

“Our exposure in the past has been limited more to the galleries that are in Old City,” Burmaster said, “so it’s nice to see that there’s a lot of other areas where art’s thriving.”

The Center for Emerging Visual Artists asks the artists to keep detailed records of what happens during the weekend, including the number of studio visitors as well as the amount and kind of artwork sold.

The results of the weekend are tabulated over a period of a few months in order to give the relationships between the artists and community members time to grow.

The Roxborough Development Corp. featured hand weaving demonstrations from members of the Philadelphia Guild of Handweaving during the open studio tours.

“We like to track the activity of the artists for six months out after the tours are over to see what has come of their weekend,” Peltz said. “Sometimes it doesn’t happen right on the spot so we like to keep track of how that plays out over time.”

Whatever the exact number may be within those six months, the artists and studios have experienced the opportunity to extend their work with a wide audience over the weekend, making deeper connections with the community.

“We have a long list of people that came and people who are really interested in art and talking about art,” said Bernard Guet, executive director at the Roxborough Development Corp. “It was a good weekend. We are looking forward to the next one next year.”

Artists who participated in the Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls region were Leah Macdonald, Philadelphia Woodworks, Sandra Chierici, Myra Reichel and The Reiki Healing Center.

1 Comment

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