On Friday morning, the office space at 322 W. Chelten Ave. stood empty; only red, white and blue walls remained from its time as an Obama for America headquarters. By Friday evening, artwork covered the halls surrounding a crowd of local artists and Germantown residents.
The speedy transformation kicked off Flying Kite’s pilot program On the Ground that temporarily occupies underused storefronts to inspire neighborhood transformation.
“Yesterday, one of the gallery owners around here said it’s like a nice injection,” said Michelle A. Freeman, Flying Kite Media publisher.
Project buildings also provide the community with new gathering locations.
“For me, it’s always been great to see another positive community space that brings together people who may not otherwise come together, and I think that is the kind of space art opens up,” said Liz Einsig Wise, a Germantown resident. “I hope the community has a chance to meet here and experience something positive.” After 90 days, the exhibit will be deconstructed and Flying Kite will plant its roots in another area of the city.
“I think there is a lot of great work coming from the different areas in Philadelphia and you don’t get to see them or there is not as many opportunities to showcase them,” said Andrew Ly, Germantown.
Germantown residents agreed the formerly deserted location had much to offer, like the nearby Wired Beans Café that has become a local hot spot for community meetings.
“It used to be scary,” said Jim Dragoni, a local musical artist and concert producer. “You still have to be vigilant, but it’s obvious that the atmosphere is brightening up.”
Local artist Gaille Hunter, whose work was on display at the art exhibit, admitted the project was bittersweet. “It’s great because it gives a lift to areas that are pretty much neglected, and it’s a shame that they can’t stay longer,” said Hunter.
Flying Kite’s On the Ground is part of Issue Media Group, a Detroit-based media company.