In December 2010 an opportunity arose for three artists who studied in New York City. Anthony Ranalli, Andrew McManus and Jeremy Deck were asked by a former instructor at Grand Central Academy of Art to create a workshop in Philadelphia. The men accepted the challenge and founded Cambridge Street Studios in Francisville.
“I dropped what I was doing,” McManus said. “I dropped all my plans for graduate school and we found this place.”
The space the artists discovered was a 4,000-square-foot carriage house on the 1500 block of Cambridge Street. The first nine months that they owned the building was marked by remodeling and construction. Together the three men transformed a vacant house into a business.
“It was basically an abandoned shell when we got here,” Ranalli said. “From graffiti on the inside walls to what you see here is basically the three of us and a lot of hours of construction.”
The artists aimed to create a suitable space to cultivate a very specific type of naturalistic art. It is a traditional academic study of painting, drawing and sculpture that focuses on accurately recreating nature through the study of light on a subject.
Since September 2011 the building has been actively used as an art studio. The first floor contains a sculpture studio, workshop and kitchen. The second floor has a room that displays plaster casts for drawing practice as well as a “life room” where models are hired to pose so students can draw them. Both floors contain private studios for individual work.
McManus said that the studio has taken in about 30 full-time students since its opening. Monthly tuition is affordable at under $1,000 a course. However, the four-year program has no official accreditation.
“We have no accrediting body telling us what we can and can’t do,” McManus said. “If someone is really good at something we can bump them ahead in the program. We don’t have to have a certain amount of hours.”
The school also offers an assortment of part-time classes, workshops and intensive programs. There are open studio sessions with nude models on Monday nights for a fee of $12.
McManus, Ranalli and Deck aim to use this studio to spread affordable training in realist art to Philadelphia. The men have offered the local community a novelty that is not available anywhere else in the city.
“We’re definitely the only school in Philadelphia that offers this level of accuracy in training,” Deck said. “Our system of drawing and painting is very particular. The schools that do exist, although they do produce really nice work and everything, are a different thing entirely. We have this corner of the market pretty much pinned.”
Cambridge Street Studios will be offering four programs this summer. Prospective students can find out how to sign up for the two week long workshops and two intensive programs online at cambridgeststudios.com.