Vox Populi: Art Oasis
While living in Philadelphia gives me a lot of opportunities, it’s not always easy to get a gallery to look at your work. Vox Populi is an art gallery located on 319 North 11th street. The phrase “Vox Populi” translates to “voice of the people” and the art gallery that shares its name with this phrase definitely encompasses that same idea.
I had been asked to be a part of Vox Populi’s annual juried show, “Vox IX” and I couldn’t wait until First Friday to see my work in the gallery’s public opening. Online applications for art shows are always a toss-up (and can be very impersonal). When I found out that notable contemporary painter Hilary Harkness and art writer Hunter Braithwaite had chosen a painting of mine to include in the show, I felt amazing. I dropped off the painting a few days early at the gallery and held my breath until opening.
Friday rolled around and it was time to kill my nerves with some beers and some art. The trek from Fairmount seemed longer and much hotter than I expected. I had attempted to arrive looking presentable, but in the heat this was a joke that no one was laughing at. The heat-wave that ruined my hair needed to be doused with beer. As I approached the art gallery, I noticed a few people trickling in following the sidewalk sign: “Vox Populi – 3rd Floor”. With a few friends in tow, I walked up multi-gallery building’s narrow staircase. We entered five minutes into Hunter Braithwaite’s musings on art.
Everyone was sweating in the scorching hot gallery. Art lined the walls and art-lovers were melting to the floor like Dali paintings. The crowd endured the hour long commentary on the specific artworks (including mine). Braithwaite spoke of what goes through a critic’s mind when choosing images, and where the art world might be heading. We were met with relief as the fans kicked on and the talk came to an end. The crowd began to dissipate and so we rushed over to quench our thirst. To my excitement, one of my favorite beers (Victory’s Golden Monkey) was available, for which I promptly paid a $5 bill. I was barely able to restrain from bathing myself in it. I began to feel the heat and nervousness lift from my shoulders with each sip. I was elated. It’s not every day that an art writer comments on your work, and nothing beats your favorite beer when you’re drenched in sweat.
With the monkey off my back (and suitably in hand), we walked around the gallery and took a closer look at the works of other artists, chatting with a few of them and the curator as well. The crowd was young (from 21 to 35) and the vibe felt as if you had walked into a room for some type of art-party or mixer. The people were interesting, easy to talk to, and passionately interpreting and reflecting on the work. Strangers became friends, and presented a warm and inviting artistic community. This was something that is seemingly rare compared to a commercial Philadelphia art gallery. The art community was vibrant here – a reflection as to how Vox Populi got its name. From videos, to sculpture, to photography, to artist books and paintings, Vox IX captured a variety of art forms, and encapsulates a very fresh, new flavor.
With my thirst for art and beer quenched, we left 319 North 11th street with a sense that this building was something very unique and special within the Philly art realm.
The bottom line:
Big name commercial galleries may be one thing in Center City, but 319 North 11th street is where the fresh, young, innovative artists of Philadelphia are coming together. The crowd was lively, unique, engaged and excited, while commenting and evaluating their personal engagements with the works in the galleries. The building outside may look minimal, but that’s because the enormous character of the gallery lies inside. The scene here was very different from center city galleries. It was great to make some new friends and greet familiar faces all while being surrounded by great art. This was my first visit to Vox, and it certainly won’t be my last. Make it a staple in your art-outings for First Friday. You won’t regret it.