5 Local Artists on Why They’d Rather Make Art in Philly Than Anywhere Else


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For the longest time, there’s been a perception that artists in Philadelphia need to move elsewhere if they’re going to make it in the arts. You know, the whole “grass is greener” concept that draws our precious creative types to cities like L.A. and New York. But that may be changing.

The Creators Project, an arts and technology blog that launched with the help of Intel, chatted with a handful of local artists—from actors to DJs to illustrators—to see why they stay in the 215 instead of jetting off to some perceived land of plenty. Here’s what they had to say:

Rose Luardo, Performance Artist

At the end of my schooling—I graduated [from NYU] in 1996—you had this feeling that the world was kind of paved with gold bullions. … And there was something about New York; I still really enjoyed my time there, but it wasn’t as weird, and creative, and gritty as I had fantasized it to be. … When I visited Philadelphia it had this really grimy, underworld, crazy, bizarre, art culture happening. And it was inexpensive to be here. And I thought: Wait a minute, here are my freaks. This is not something I’m able to access in New York.

Broadzilla, Turntablists

We started coming downtown and going to parties and going dancing … and then one night the DJ got sick and the owner said can you fill in? And we said sure. I had never touched a record until then … but we cobbled together a collection, and a bunch of people we knew came and had a great time, and they kept asking us back. … In other cities … we would have never gotten that first gig. Well, we definitely wouldn’t have gotten that second gig in any other city. … New York is too damn expensive, and LA is too damn far away. And it’s really cheap in Philly to get really drunk, to get really messed up. No dancing and music scene can really compare to Philly. People are so full of themselves in other cities, but in Philly people are really just trying to have fun.

Melissa McFeeters, Illustrator

I started working at a local magazine, and it opened my eyes to a lot of the inner workings of the city and how people work to make it better, supporting small businesses, making it more sustainable. … And that made me really appreciate Philly and the way that it’s changing the story of the city. And that made it harder to leave, I think. Because now I’m finding a way to be a part of its changing.

Rebekah Callaghan, Painter

Workspace can be rented cheaply, and there are several large warehouses being repurposed into studios. … And similar to a pre-revitalized New York, Philadelphia offers an affordable and dynamic environment for working artists.

Fred Frederick, FF Knives founder

The art community in Philly is really robust. … and I made a lot of connections through that, and Philly still allows me to work a job and pursue this craft. … I have a space to work. And it’s one mile from where I live. And it’s cheap. I don’t see that happening in any other city. … [Philly is] a place where you can succeed being a small-time guy. … You can get away with working other jobs, supplement your income, do it all without having to work 80 hours a week. It’s a lot easier to buy yourself some free time.

Read more at The Creators Project