The Philadelphia Open Studio Tours show both sides of the easel

Tim McFarlane , an Old City painter, has been participated in the tour for about 10 years. "I like the idea of interacting with the public - out of an institution and outside a gallery," he said.
Tim McFarlane , an Old City painter, has been participated in the tour for about 10 years. "I like the idea of interacting with the public - out of an institution and outside a gallery," he said.
Posted: October 19, 2012

THIS MONTH, Philadelphia Open Studio Tours has opened the doors to 300 studios and art venues in neighborhoods across the city, allowing visitors to go behind the scenes and see where the work gets made and how the tools get used.

In 1999, POST began with a network of 13 artists. It's grown so large it now spans two October weekends (Oct. 6-7 and on Saturday and Sunday). Last year's event attracted 37,000 people.

The tours introduce artists to the community and may result in sales, but that's not the main goal of the event, said Ann Peltz, who heads up POST, which is run by the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. It's more about demystifying the artistic process and underlining the fact that artists are people, too. They have families and jobs and bills. They may root for the Eagles, Phillies or Flyers - just like you.

Any professional artist who is not a full-time student can participate in POST by paying a $100 fee that goes to promoting the event and printing maps and a directory.

Daniel Gerwin is a first-time POST participant. The painter works throughout his South Philadelphia home, not in one studio area. He also has two large dogs and a 3-month-old baby, so opening the house for visits was not an option.

Gerwin, who makes trompe l'oeil and other kinds of paintings on plywood, is a fellow in the emerging artists center's professional-development program, and the center helped arrange a space in West Philadelphia for him to show his works during POST. Two large paintings will be at University City Arts League in West Philadelphia, along with photographic constructions by Jennifer Williams, another fellow. The show is up through October.

Like some other artists in POST, Gerwin won't have price tags on his works. But for Erin Murray, a longtime POST participant, opening her studio is about selling.

"It's a good source of income," she said.

Murray, whose studio is on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown, paints and makes drawings. She is in the current Wind Challenge exhibit at Fleisher Art Memorial and is preparing for a solo show at Nancy Margolis Gallery in New York in December. She likes the comments she gets during open studios. "I'm definitely looking forward to the feedback. Out of school, you don't get a lot of people commenting on your work," she said.

Murray owns the building her studio is in and lives upstairs. The storefront space downstairs was home to the alternative gallery Extra Extra, now closed. For POST, Murray will have some of her work, including a 9-foot-long drawing, in the front space with other drawings and paintings. People can also explore her studio.

"Last time, I had a very small flow, 10 people in total, including my mother and friends," she said. But on the second day, "a guy walks through the door - he's from the neighborhood. I had a 10-foot drawing on the wall. He walked up and said, 'I'll take that.' Anything can happen. That's why I do it every year."

Old City painter Tim McFarlane said he has been participating in POST for about 10 years. "People climb up the three flights of stairs. I get a good amount of traffic: a mix of strangers and people who know my work."

McFarlane is preparing for a show next September at Bridgette Mayer Gallery. For him, POST is about talking with people and sharing ideas about his work. "I don't do a lot of sales, very few sales. Mainly I like participating. I like letting people get an idea of what goes on behind the scenes. I like the idea of interacting with the public - out of an institution and outside a gallery."

The artist used to serve drinks in his studio during POST, until the year "I had a guy come up and get drunk and hang out. . . . He was harmless, but . . . "

If you're wondering how to manage the sprawling studio tours, one good way is to let Center for Emerging Visual Artists take you around on a trolley tour. For $40, they will chaperone you through three studio stops and a fourth stop at an exhibit, where there will be snacks and drinks. Tickets are available at the center's website.

Philadelphia Open Studio Tour: East of Broad Street, Saturday-Sunday, 215-546-7775. Sunday trolley tour departs from the Center for Emerging Visual Artists Gallery at The Barclay, 237 S. 18th St., $40. 215-546-7775, ext. 10, or

Art Attack, a partnership with Drexel University, is supported by a grant from the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge and administered by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

comments powered by Disqus