Philadelphia and New York are separated by just 68 minutes by train, making Philadelphia less of a commute for some New Yorkers than traveling between certain points within New York City boroughs. The question is why are so many more Philadelphians making day trips to see art in New York City than the other way around? Below, CATALYST gives five reasons more traffic should be heading in the other direction.
1. The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Philadelphia is a city most famous for its murals. The murals add color, beauty, and life to an old, industrial city and act as an outward manifestation of the city’s inner vibrancy. The Mural Arts Program’s mission explains that “through beautiful collaborative art, we provide people with the inspiration and tools to seize their own future”. As an example of this, The Mural Arts Program also provides as an outlet for graffiti artists to work in condoned spaces, where their work will be protected. This is a significant given the recent destruction of 5 Pointz in Long Island City which was one of the only sanctioned outlets for graffiti artists in New York City. Helping graffiti artists is the origin of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program as it started when Mayor Ed Rendell hired Jane Golden to reach out to graffiti writers to redirect their energies into mural painting.
2. The Oldest Art Museum and School in the United States
Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is the oldest art museum and school in the United States. It showcases some of the most significant historical pieces of American art available. PAFA’s website states the “museum is internationally known for its collections of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Its archives house important materials for the study of American art history, museums, and art training.” Furthermore, The Historic Landmark building is also a stunning example of innovative early American architecture with unique colorful exhibition spaces, very much unlike today’s contemporary whitewall galleries. PAFA’s unique upcoming exhibitions include David Lynch: The Unified Field on view September 13, 2014 through January 11, 2015.
3. Philadelphia Soul
Philadelphia musicians of the 1970’s were the originators of Soul, which laid the foundation for disco and smooth jazz. Today, you can take a studio tour around the Philadelphia Records/The Sound of Philadelphia, and listen to authentic music at Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus, the quintessential jazz club. Another great venue to check out is Bob & Barbara’s, which has a live jazz band every week.
4. More Local Artists Thrive in Philadelphia
The cost of living in Philadelphia is 37 percent lower than in New York’s, which presents an opportunity for young arts professionals thinking of leaving New York City for rising rents. With cheaper housing and other living expenses, more artists can thrive and support the local community in a geographically dense area.
5. Art from Centuries Ago to the Present
Philadelphia is home to some of the most historically powerful arts organizations – including PAFA, Rodin Museum, and Philadelphia Museum of Art – there are art shows of international renown, from the Salvador Dalí to Renoir. Given the affordable cost of living there are also interesting fringe art experiments happening. For progressive contemporary art, CATALYST recommends visiting the art collectives like Space 1026 in Chinatown.
Because Philadelphians are not hindered by any mortgage crisis or housing slowdown, they have relatively higher security than most cities. In fact, there is a 10-year tax abatement on new construction spurring the construction of affordable housing. There is even one development project by Bart Blatstein that is offering lower prices for “edgy, creative types.” This affordability allows for an incredible vibrancy on both cultural and economic levels. There are arts projects taking place in Philadelphia that could never take place in New York City and that is why it is essential for anyone interested in creative economies to take a short train ride to Philadelphia.