Queen Village: The Philly Art Center Offers a Safe Environment to Take Risks and Learn

Children working together for their next art project.

If anybody walked through South Philadelphia, it’s easy to see why Philadelphia seems to be well known as an art scene as of late thanks to mosaic glass walls and building-length murals. Across the street from one particularly bright glass mosaic building stands the Philly Art Center. In a city where schools have been cutting extracurricular classes such as art, the Philly Art Center creates a safe haven for kids (and adults) who are in need for a creative outlet.

We spoke with Jill Markovitz, the founder and creator of the Philly Art Center, who has been a community leader in both the Queen Village and Fairmount neighborhoods thanks to the expansion of her organization. Markovitz has teamed up with the Mural Arts Program to create their first annual Fall Festival on October 19th to reach out to their Queen Village audience.

Do you see yourself as a community leader?

I think we are all doing really important community work and we are a stakeholder in this community. Philadelphia is all about its communities. I hope we’re seen that way and it’s appreciated.

A teacher demonstrating how to do their next project.
A teacher demonstrating how to do their next project.

How did you go about creating the 1st Annual Fall Festival in Queen Village?

A big part of our mission is community and we really cultivate the community that happens here. Each neighborhood is really critical, so we want to be a part of that. Fairmount evolved into having a giant neighborhood Halloween festival in tandem with our Fall Festival there. When we opened [in Queen Village] we thought its own kind of festivals would evolve and so this is our first inaugural of that. We’re partnering with the Mural Arts Program, which is internationally known. We are doing a fall mural arts class, we’re launching a drawing book, this really neat piece, that takes our education on the go in partnership with Mural Arts and us. We’re going to have a huge festival here, make and take art for all ages, food trucks. Mural Arts will be present and they’re going to have mural painting demos and we’re going to run trolley tours to a couple murals from the event.

What’s the difference between the South Philly culture versus what you see in Fairmount?

We pick our locations often to be symbiotic with the schools that are in the area. They are both incredible, tight communities. There’s a lot more art happening here, like the Magic Gardens, so it makes for a more artistic beat.

The Philly Art Center offers creative freedom for children.
The Philly Art Center offers creative freedom for children.

Do you mostly cater to children or is there a variety in ages?

We have a wide range of programs that we offer all year round and we have an extensive range of kids’ classes. But we also have a wide range of adult classes too. We have drawing, painting, mixed media, silkscreen, fashion sewing, a new crafting class … those are all for adults. We have adult classes every night at both locations.

For kids programming, we offer a range of options from babies through ‘tweens. That really ranges from our after school pick-up program, where we pick-up from local school at both locations, and keep them creatively happy and learning all afternoon.

Every project needs to look different at the end. If every kid’s project looks the same, then we missed the boat. They weren’t creatively solving problems for themselves. We think that art not only is fundamental for general learning but we think it’s important for community and peoples’ professional careers. Everyone needs to think outside of the box.

Any advice for adults who what to get back into art?

We provide a really safe, warm, fun environment so they are going to be welcomed and greeted by teachers. They can learn in a comfortable environment and feel safe to take risks to learn something.

– Text and images by Chelsea Finn and Monica Miller.

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