Tuesday, May 25, 2010

June 2010 - Community Month

Back in 2009, when I was introduced to City Year – Greater Philadelphia http://www.cityyear.org/philadelphia.aspx, it became remarkably clear The Knapp Gallery was being called to redefine status quo; our actions must overtake the spoken and written word. True commitment requires we ultimately ante up, invest and pay into the machines that define our existence. At street level, the local gallery’s growth and continuance is reliant upon the availability of quality marketable art.

City Year is an International Organization whose initiatives are tailored to meet community and school district needs. City Year corps members as tutors, mentors and role models, help children stay in school and on track, and transform schools and communities across the United States, as well as through international affiliates in Johannesburg, South Africa and London, England. So what's that got to do with art?

Approached by City Year about giving some Philadelphia high school students an art exhibition, I quickly saw the tremendous value and potential return on an inexpensive investment. Unbelievable as it may sound, many urban students have never been afforded the opportunity to investigate their latent artistic gifts. Believing an auspicious exhibition venue like The Knapp Gallery would bolster the artistic dreams of our next urban artistic generation, I Committed our walls to a two week show of “not for Sale” Teen-Age art. Sure, I have to worry about the rent, but I also have to concern myself with posterity as well.

I have to be honest; currently the largest part of my job is lobbying for the developing of Philadelphia based career opportunities for our City’s MFA graduates. With limited opportunities to develop and grow their craft, we lose the majority our MFA graduates to attrition. Consequently, I am keenly sensitive and aware of the need to contribute to Philadelphia Art Community growth, participating in significant results-oriented activities to create exhibition opportunities. And while our task is a daunting attempt to turn a huge cumbersome and foundering ship with a remarkably small rudder, it is clear that every effort to promote growth in Philadelphia Arts is a worthwhile endeavor and investment of time and resources. A deterrent for many is the intangibility of long term investments. Short term goals of "paying the rent" usually interfere with long term goal planning.

Setting realistic “city-wide collective long term goals” requires resolve and commitment that most local street level galleries are not in a position to concentrate on. Fortunately, Knapp Gallery owners Barclay and Rebecca Knapp have a proactive vision for Philadelphia that is more about the long term than the quick immediate returns form simply “selling” art and meeting the bills. Believing in the Parisian Salon economy, made infamous by the likes of Gertrude Stein and Cohn sisters (Claribel and Etta), Barclay and Rebecca have, by way of collecting Philadelphia Art and issuing living stipends to Philadelphia painters, invested considerable resources into the Philadelphia Art Community. Using the Knapp Gallery to promote Philadelphia Art, the Knapp’s have used the Gallery as a vehicle to build and promote their personal collection. Their investment into Philadelphia Artists is unrivaled.

Knapp concerns for the growth of Philadelphia Arts undergirds my "charge for service" as Director here. “Get it done. Take risks. When things work, fine, continue with them. When things don’t, no harm - no foul, try something else. Be aggressive.” were Barclay’s words when he turned me loose in Philadelphia. As such, my willingness to partner with City Year was met with applause by the bosses. Every little bit helps. Besides, without a divine crystal ball, we never know the impact of our decisions. My hope is that Our High School Art exhibition will demonstrate the Knapp Gallery’s commitment to the advancement of the Philadelphia Art Community. Beyond this, a desired by-product of this effort is to also engender confidence in prospective patrons of our altruistic-based missionary vision. We will do whatever it takes to exhibit a standard of world class art, even if that requires our paying into the machine long before it creates product fit for our walls.


The remainder of June, we are offering our walls to a few unknowns; two local talents, one not having yet made it into the exhibition ring the other excluded from mainstream exhibitions by negating circumstances.

Ikru Salmon, near Homeless, peanut butter a dietary staple, carves, paints, writes and performs poetry. Preferring the abstract, drawn to the convex and concave nature of shapes, Ikru survives through his art. Committed to his craft, determined to overcome the confines of his poverty, identifying his art with the homeless, believing his creativity a gift direct from God the Creator, Ikru sells his art on the street for his daily bread. Unseen Beauty, a relief wood carving (35” x 19”), made from a gifted block of wood, evidences the beauty Ikru sees often missed by others. “I see the beauty that others don’t. Many of the homeless do.”

Bonnie Shanas - “As a student of psychology and enthusiast of human nature, I have always been intrigued by underlying allusions and the universal body language. The genuine truth expressed through the subtlety of the unspoken gesture is my inspiration for sculpture of the human form.

Through these images emerging from a cloth of wire, I strive to capture and share these intimate yet universal expressions. The unimposing transparency of the material is intended to offer a moment or a memory, which each observer can make his/her own.” Lucid Dreams 28” x 33 ½”

My next blog entry will give the full stories of Ikru and Bonnie.