Anatomy of an art exposition

Cooperation and persistence made a Phila. festival possible despite tough times.
By Robert J. Brand.

The opening of Philagrafika 2010 put Philadelphia at the center of the art world. With more than 300 artists, exhibits at five major regional cultural institutions, and presentations and demonstrations at 88 area sites, Philagrafika explores the role of the printed image in modern society. It will continue to showcase Philadelphia’s cultural community and creative economy through next month.

In addition to drawing praise from critics and the arts community, the festival has raised the question, “How did they do that?”

This feat of collaboration and community is happening in a time of scarce funding and retrenchment for cultural organizations. Many in the national arts community have been amazed that this region’s major institutions cooperated with fringe arts collectives, galleries, and artists to bring it about.

Ten years ago, Teresa Jaynes (now Philagrafika’s executive director) and I wrote a short paper on how to create an economy friendly to printmaking and artists. My company hired Teresa, and we invited more than 15 museums, art schools, artists, galleries, and fine-arts print shops to a meeting. Nearly all of them showed up and never left.

We created the Philadelphia Print Collaborative on the spot, without a budget but with a clear sense that we could do more by working together. Within a few months, we had launched more than 50 exhibits to complement the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s groundbreaking 2001-02 exhibit “Dox Thrash: An African American Master Printmaker Rediscovered.”

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