Kensington: Five Places Helping to Create an Art Community

Slowly but surely, the art community in Old Kensington is pushing forward. It’s hidden among the abandoned factories and vacant lots of the area, but the artists aren’t complaining.

“There are five studios within blocks of here, but you would never know,” said Charles Cerrone, a photographer working out of Sharktown Studios on Mascher Street, near Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

“People want to think this area is dangerous and it really isn’t,” Cerrone said. “We all live in the area and we are here for a reason: to create.”



Matt Deifer, owner and creator of Kensington-based, doesn’t just paint bodies for entertainment – that’s only a part of it.

“I want my body painting to be a catalyst for empowering people and shifting opinions about the body acceptance movement,” said Deifer. “I’m always curious to see how people embrace this core, organic natural expression.”

Working in Old Kensington’s Sharktown Studios for four years, Deifer likes the low-key atmosphere of the area.

“There’s a lot going on around here, but it’s much different from other parts of the city,” he said. “Everything I need is here, and I like the privacy.”

Always on the move with body painting and hosting events with Funtown Productions, Deifer just wants to keep creating, keep doing more.

“Pushing the concepts of performance and interactive art is important to me,” he said. “It causes this ripple effect and forces people to have an opinion, and that is something powerful.”


The Resource Exchange

For this nonprofit organization, it’s all about reversing people’s habits of waste. The Resource Exchange is more than willing to take your unused, unwanted and discarded objects and turn them into recyclable art materials. Located at 1701 N. Second St., the Exchange provides an invaluable resource to Old Kensington’s burgeoning art community, striving to connect art and sustainability. 


Paper Box Studios

Paper Box Studios is just one of the many essential hubs of creativity in the Kensington area. Founded by local entrepreneurs and designers Amy and Leo Voloshin in 2011, Paper Box provides artists and creative professionals an authentic and raw surrounding to create. Exposed brick, original chimneys and restored beams preserve the charm of this old tobacco factory.


Buzz Cafe

Just down the street from Paper Box Studios and Sharktown Studios, Buzz Cafe is in the center of a blossoming Kensington art community. Located at the corner of Howard and Montgomery streets, Buzz Cafe offers coffee, food, art and music. It has fully embraced the local art scene by featuring works by locals artists, as well as rotating exhibitions.


American Street Showroom

Capitalizing on the area’s overabundance of abandoned factories, the founders of the American Street Showroom set up shop in a former electric company substation. Created by three Philadelphia-based designers – Amuneal, Groundwork and Robert True Ogden – the space is dedicated to showcasing art, furniture, original products and artifacts to the design world and potential customers. Hosting a rotating line-up of exhibitions, the showroom serves as Kensington’s gallery for design.

– Text and images by James Kirn and Coleen O’ Hara.


  1. This neighborhood is called SOUTH Kensington or Old Kensington. West Kensington refers more to the Norris Square area and the area colloquially known as The Badlands.

  2. What this article fails to mention is the dozens of individuals and organizations who, for the last number of decades, have worked tirelessly to promote the arts and more importantly the creative resilience of a neighborhood that has struggled with economic inequality. Sure the individuals and organizations the author mentions are great; however, where is the recognition for artists and visionaries like Betsy Casañas. Since the 1980s, individuals like Iris Brown and Tomasita Romero have been creating spaces that celebrate creativity while preserving the Latin@ culture. It’s time for articles such as this to pay homage to the neighborhood residents who have been practicing creative placemaking before it become a household term and not just those who might claim themselves as “pioneers”.

  3. I do agree with Justin, one of the commentators of this article- Although it is nice to highlight some of the newcomers in the neighborhood, it would have been great to also mention the artists and grassroots arts organizations that has been around for years. They may not fit in the category of “trendy” or “hip” but these real pioneers have been helping the community at large, not by their mere presence but by getting their hands dirty, working and advocating for decades…

  4. Article mentions the new business’ for South Kensington which is a worthy mention , however each of those mentioned came about the last few years, when the rowhomes have a price tag of $300-$400k, why is there no mentions of the business’ or art community that have been in south Kensington for decades, when you could NOT give a rowhome away for free! No mentions of the artists who were here when South Kensington was a long forgotten about community who definitely made an impact in South Kensington – like Jesse Gardner, Crane Arts building, Mark Borkiwski, Little Berlin, and the legendary Berks Warehouse located at Howard and Montgomery to Howard and Berks, which has been home to 100’s if not 1000’s of phenomenal artists for over 30
    years!! All of the above and so many more that are not mentioned were the ones who were there before South Kensington became “trendy” or “cool” – the article is good, I personally just would have liked if the author mentioned some of the Original Contributors, those who persevered, and were the ones who believed in South Kensington and the residents way back when……. Because if it wasn’t for the original contributors, I’m not sure if the others would have seen the potential in South Kensington!

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