At the heart of Philadelphia’s Chinatown lies a semi-secret art gallery and studio known as Space 1026.
From organizing events and parties to producing top-notch art from its dozens of participants, Space 1026 has built a world-class art community in Philly that's hidden from plain view. In return, Philadelphia has nurtured the space with a hands-off approach that continues to foster a solid creative backbone.
?One of the major reasons for this give-and-take is Philadelphia’s ability to keep rent low for downtown studio spaces, a necessity considering the city’s small art market. “Art is one of the things that you don’t really make a living off of in Philadelphia,” says 1026 founder Andrew Jeffrey Wright. “It’s a good bike city, it’s a small city, and the rent is cheap. Philly has the same feel as Brooklyn, where there are lots of small, fun things going on, but Philly was cool before Brooklyn, because we were always inexpensive.”
Bill McRight, a soft-spoken 1026 artist who creates jarringly dark portraits via linoleum cuts and screenprinting, agrees with Wright's sentiments. A traveler since birth, he lived all over the southeastern States before relocating to Philadelphia five years ago. “I’m so used to moving around a lot, but I’m definitely content,” he explains. “The affordability of the city makes it good because you can spend some time working and some time going to the studio or openings.”
?The relative smallness of the city’s art scene manifests itself in a more personal sense of community. “Everyone is interested in what [everyone else is] doing and paying attention to what’s going on around them, which is definitely important,” McRight explains. When it does come time to make some money from their work, the 1026 artists benefit from a $20, two-hour bus ride to New York City on a bus that can take them virtually anywhere on the east coast.
Thanks to its efficient infrastructure, proximity to larger cities, and its consistently affordable rent, Philadelphia is a venerable utopia for havens like Space 1026. As more people begin to realize its uniqueness, more spaces seem to open up. “There are a lot of smaller-run DIY galleries and communal spaces springing up all over the city,” observes McRight. “I haven’t seen that going on to the same degree in other cities. I think that’s pretty rad about Philly.”
As a result, the city’s artistic output is unified in tone. “A lot of people are figuring out how to make things on a shoestring, so the grittiness and hustle of Philly comes through,” McRight says. “Being around the attitude in Philly is really strong and influences what I draw. There’s a weird element to this city. There’s a very gritty, gully attitude to Philly.”
Click here to watch our exclusive interview with Andrew Jeffrey Wright.