Roxborough: Development Corporation Uses Art to Bring Community Together

Bernard Guet, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corp., stood in the main office, which doubles as an art gallery.

When you look inside the Roxborough Development Corp., located at 6111 Ridge Ave., you won’t just find an office filled with people sitting in front of computers. Instead, you’ll find the space has come to life with paintings, sculptures and other forms of art as well. This is because the corporation has transformed its office to double as a permanent art exhibit, with the idea that art brings a community together.

Bernard Guet, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corp., stood in the main office, which doubles as an art gallery.

“It’s the glue for the neighborhood, for the residents [and] for the businesses,” said Bernard Guet, executive director of the corporation.

The corporation gives people in the community the opportunity to experience art in their own backyard. By partnering with the Manayunk Roxborough Art Center, located at 419 Green Lane, the corporation also exhibits local artists through shows and the permanent gallery in its offices.

Guet said people won’t know if they like art until they try it. The open houses the corporation holds provide that opportunity. Guet said the corporation can’t force people into appreciating art but can only hope their curiosity brings them in.

“When we do our open house, a lot of people will come and maybe discover that, ‘Hey, I like that,’” Guet said. “It happens all the time.”

Bernard Guet spoke about how the Roxborough Development Corp. uses art to bring the community together.

Guet said grand openings at the corporation are a great way for local and developing artists to show their work to a wide range of people. The grand openings also bring the community together in large numbers. “When we do a grand opening, we have between 200 and 450 people coming in and out,” Guet said.

The corporation recently participated in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, which allowed the public to come into artists’ spaces. The corporation featured work by the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers, Simba Kanyangarara and local artist John Whereat.

Guet said that art also helps the community’s economy by exposing people not only to the corporation’s art galleries but to the surrounding stores as well.

“I’m convinced that people don’t come here just to look at the art,” Guet said, “they also do something else so it helps.”

One of the ways the corporation is trying to make art an important part of the community is by promoting it in local schools. “We go to the art teachers,” Guet said. “They organize it.”

Bernard Guet stood with one of his favorite pieces in the gallery, “My Spirit & I,” by Simba Kanyangarara.

For the upcoming exhibit, which is planned to take place in spring 2013, art teachers from the local schools will choose pieces from students to exhibit to the public.

Guet also said paintings and sculptures are not the only types of art the corporation is interested in promoting. Music is another avenue Guet would like to explore.

“It’s a question of opportunity,” Guet said. “If there is an organization that we can do something with, I’d be very happy to do something with music, whatever it is.”

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