CITYWIDE: Philadelphia's Art Scene Shows Its Brotherly Love

The City of Brotherly Love’s art scene just got even more affectionate.

CITYWIDE, a collective art exhibition, is playing Cupid this month by partnering over 200 artists and 23 artist-run galleries of different mediums and neighborhoods for an arts celebration. And because opposites attract, the participating galleries are swapping artists and exhibitions to support artistic collaborations that might not have happened otherwise.

The act of trading exhibitions with galleries in other cities is neither new nor uniquely Philadelphian, but this is the first time such a feat will be held in one city on such a wide, sweeping scale. The visual art, print, installation, video, sculpture and other forms of Philadelphia’s contemporary art that will be displayed during the event, often by galleries or artists who don’t normally work with the type of art they are now showing.

“It’s like a laboratory of ideas,” said Lindsay Chandler, CITYWIDE’s marketing and fundraising coordinator and the co-founder of the participating art space Fjord.

This particular laboratory is stretched out across the city. Fjord is located in Kensington, but its partner gallery, Tiger Swaps Asteroid, is located in a Callowhill building with other CITYWIDE participants Vox Populi, Marginal Utility and Grizzly Grizzly. Other locations include Paradigm Gallery in Queen Village, and Mt. Airy Contemporary and InLiquid in Northern Liberties. Not only are the galleries of a different nature, but they’re in a different neighborhood as well.

“The beauty in the project is that it really does highlight the artists in these spaces,” Chandler said.

CITYWIDE’s collaboration extends beyond exhibitions. Artist panel discussions, exhibition openings, performances and other free events will also be held throughout November.

In the spirit of the collaborative nature of the event, CITYWIDE has also worked with different institutions to put on the event. On November 6, the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosted a CITYWIDE “meet and greet” event where artists and collectives set up their work in different museum galleries. The artists of CITYWIDE are also interacting during a November 13 discussion titled “Navigating Citywide" held at Moore College of Art & Design.

The most wide-reaching event will be held on November 16, when free citywide trolleys will drive art-lovers to the different participating galleries that aren’t located in the same neighborhood.

Philadelphia’s art scene received a boost last April when CITYWIDE received a $13,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for fostering the arts community. Last month, the organization launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $5,000 to produce a hand-printed book commemorating all of the art shown during the event.

After months of planning and scheduling,CITYWIDE is now ready to give back to the community that funded the event and supported all of the individual artists and collective exhibitions for years.

To promote the inherent Philadelphia-ness of the project, the artists behind the project even paid homage to its local roots by naming the event after the “Citywide Special” drink order of a shot of Jim Beam and a can of PBR.

“We wanted something unique to the city of Philadelphia,” Chandler said.

Photo courtesy of City Wide Philly.