Philadelphia Arrivals and Departures
Two pieces by Rachel and Trevor Reese and Gabriela Vainsencher
NYC > PHL > ATL
By Rachel and Trevor Reese
In the last four years we’ve lived in three wholly disparate cities, each with their own versions of thriving arts economies. Our move to Philadelphia in 2010 was strategically accidental. My position ending in NYC timed fairly well with the sentiment that we were ready to leave the city and try Philadelphia, knowing that we could remove ourselves from daily New York while still remaining a short bus ride away. And just two years later, this time with a young son, we found ourselves packing for a move to Atlanta for entirely different motivations.
Having a year or so now to reflect on our time in Philly has only reaffirmed our beliefs in the people, the spaces, and the scene. Two words I continue raise in (constant) discussions about how to improve Atlanta’s art scene: risk and vision. Fortunately, Philadelphia has two great leaders that continually prove themselves as programmatically visionary—the ICA and the PMA—with the ICA spearheading the risk, supported by a solid granting institution in the Pew. Every great arts city needs strong leadership to provide ‘smaller’ spaces—commercial galleries, coop and collaborative project spaces, non-profits, academic galleries, studio programs—with both precedent and authority.
Flow is key. Philadelphia has (finally) seen a steady population increase over the past few years. The frequent question, “Why did you move here?” always struck us as odd. There are many art schools in Philadelphia that attract national and international student bodies in regularly rotating groups. Following this trend, the arts economy functions, and is guided similarly, as sort of a body of water that ebbs and flows in creative production and output.
So to this, spaces come and go. We closed our own space. We saw the closing of Flux Projects, Extra Extra, and Jolie Laide, among others, in a short time period, and remotely learned of Bodega’s recent departure from the city. People move, collaboratives dismantle, opinions change. The city actually can’t support all the artists financially or creatively—limits exist. But positively, this helps regenerate new blood, new motivations, new desires. So tell us, who’s new to town? Who’s still there? We’re already irrelevant, but we miss you all.
In Atlanta since 2012, Rachel Reese is the Communications Manager at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center and Trevor Reese is currently enrolled in the MFA Sculpture program at Georgia State University.
“Oh You Live In Philly? That’s Awesome.”
by Gabriela Vainsencher
I had been living in Brooklyn for five years when, in the summer of 2010, I met a man on OKCupid. He lived in Philadelphia. I wasn’t sure where that was exactly. We met a month later and got married ten months after that. I moved to Philly.
In New Yorkers’ myopic geographic vision, Philadelphia has gotten the rare “oh-you-live-there?-that’s-awesome” status. This started as a source of bewilderment to me but I eventually came up with a little theory regarding the Brooklyn-Philly connection, which I like to call “The MegaLuv:” Brooklyn is supposed to be the affordable borough, where artists live and work, have reasonably-priced studios, and enough free time to hang out with each other. Philadelphia actually is that place.
Moving to Philly from New York meant I was able to be a full-time artist, partly due to the much cheaper rents. Rather than lose grip on my art career, as I feared a move away of New York would cause, both my career and practice developed. I met Daniel Gerwin and he asked me to write for Title Magazine. Although I felt under-qualified as a foreigner to both the English language and the Philadelphia art scene, I accepted, and wrote my first piece of art criticism. It was a review in the form of a script for an imaginary audio tour through Ryan McCartney’s show Breaks To Make at Tiger Strikes Asteroid. It was the most fun I ever had in the art world without getting my hands dirty.
Why I love writing for Title has something to do with what I love about Philadelphia: the art scene here works on the principle that it’s not as much fun to go it alone, and that artists need to talk about, look at, and hang out with other artists as much as possible to make something interesting happen.
We moved back to Brooklyn this year so that I could attend the MFA program at Hunter College. I would say I’m going to miss Philly, but I come back so often, it doesn’t really feel like I ever left. I still haven’t been accepted to any VOX open calls, but they say distance makes the heart grow fonder, so maybe I’ll get in as a Brooklyn-based artist.
Gabriela Vainsencher is an Argentinian-born Israeli artist who just moved back to Brooklyn after living in Philadelphia for two years. The François Vase, Her latest collaboration with composer (and husband) Daniel Fox was recently screened in New York and Philadelphia, accompanied by a live score performance by The Momenta Quartet.