Queen Village: Artists Draw On Their Talents To Engage, Improve Community

Queen Village: Artists Draw On Their Talents To Engage, Improve Community
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Art is being taught, seen and bought in a plethora of ways in Queen Village.

The Fleisher Art Memorial, which is one of the oldest community art schools in the country, has more than 70 art classes – 20 of which are free – and serves more than 5,000 students each year. Fleisher also has community programs to engage the whole city of Philadelphia, such as the Community Partnerships in the Arts. The trained teaching artists hold 10-week residencies in a Philadelphia public school, one being Queen Village’s William M. Meredith School, and work with the curriculum the students are currently learning.

“Last year in one of the schools, students were reading Harry Potter, so one of our teaching artists built a whole project around that book and lesson,” said Dominic Mercier, Fleisher’s director of communication.

Fleisher recently spread art into the community by creating a wheatpaste mural in the tunnel on Queen Street, right by Interstate 95. Students from their classes, as well as members of the community, brightened the underpass and turned it into an “imagination jungle, imagination growth,” as teaching artist Pat Aulisio described it. This project helped the community see their artwork publicly displayed, and gave residents a new path and positive message in that area.

“It’s ideal that we were able to inspire, color and create imagination in the neighbors who walk by there every day,” said Vita Litvak, adult programs manager at Fleisher. “For me, that’s a great impact.”

Classes at Fleisher range from beginner to expert, and the sessions are for various forms of art, including drawing, three-dimensional design, color theory and art history. It also offers more advanced classes like ceramics, sculpture and illustration.

“The people range from those who are curious about expanding skills within their professional and skill sets, to people who have retired and would really like to do something for themselves every week,” Litvak said. “Then we have people who have come to Fleisher as little kids, and come back as adults.”

Just like the classes vary in terms of technique and medium, there is also an age difference in each class. Fleisher has classes for children, young adults and even retirees – and Aulisio teaches it all.

“For kids, it’s just something for them to do after school in the community along with their other activities, compared to adults who choose to come here with their own money,” Aulisio said. “Adults want to learn about a specific medium and are going out of their way to do it.”

Fleisher reaches other corners of the city by teaching medical students at Jefferson University. They provide drawing classes to those in medical school to increase observational skills, with the ultimate intent of making them better at diagnosing patients.

“Art and partaking in a meditative, quiet and focused activity can often lead to less stress. It might help them to have less burnout,” Litvak said. “That’s the hint of ways in which art can be really powerful.”

Paradigm Gallery + Studio is teaming up with Fleisher to host Handmade for the Holidays, a seasonal craft fair on Dec. 3, just in time for the holiday season. But this isn’t the only time the two art studios, as well as their students and visitors, have crossed paths.

“We have a lot of people that come into Paradigm and feel more comfortable because of the classes and events at Fleisher,” Paradigm co-founder Sara McCorriston said. “It’s great because it broke the arts boundary for them.”

– Text, video, images and graphics by Marissa Giletto

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