“No one regrets a piece of art on their wall,” says Philly curator and author Nato Thompson, who served as art director at Philadelphia Contemporary from 2017 to 2020. “And you will never regret getting involved in the arts community in Philadelphia. From a collecting standpoint, it’ll give back a million times over, and the relationships, the experience, and the viewpoints, will only give you a much richer and more dynamic relationship to this incredible city.”
Thompson’s passion for the art community in our city is what naturally drew him to consult, in a pro bono capacity, on Artists in Residence at Offsite, a collection of 60 works by 21 diverse Philadelphia artists—from formally trained ones like Eileen Neff, who teaches in the graduate programs at PAFA and University of the Arts, to self-taught talents like King Saladeen, from West Philly, who used to doodle in a notebook and is now an international star.
“Artists in Residence at Offsite is as wild and all over the place as the Philadelphia art scene, and so there’s such a broad range from neighborhood to neighborhood, from generation to generation,” Thompson explains. “We have extreme talent here. And because it’s an affordable city, relatively so, artists actually get to get older here. So you have artists that have worked here their entire lives.”
Our city is not only home to so many artists, but a source of material for them as well, Thompson adds. “Philadelphia is a lot of artists’ muse. The city, the urbanism, the grit, the dreams, the promises, the heartbreak, the tensions, the community. It’s in a lot of the work and I think that everyone in Philadelphia feels that—the good, the bad and the ugly. And it certainly makes for a poignant dancing partner.”
Since last November, the collection has been on display at Offsite, the sleek co-working space at Fitler Club where The Citizen’s office is located, as part of the social club’s first-ever Artists In Residence program. All works are for sale, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the artists.
“I believe this is a time of opportunity for a newly engaged civic community in Philadelphia. We are seeing more people active in local issues than ever before, and we want to work together on creative solutions for what is taking place in Philadelphia, and supporting the art ecosystem is one of them,” says FS Investments Chairman and CEO, and Fitler Club co-founder, Michael Forman, himself a passionate art collector, who dreamed up the program.
“We’re not a gallery, we’re not in the business of selling art, but we can give artists exposure and access to Fitler Club’s community,” Forman says. In addition to that exposure, participating artists were awarded a stipend and a dues-free membership for a year to Fitler Club.
“Fitler Club wants to make a difference beyond the four walls of the club, to help advance Philadelphia to higher levels,” explains Tricia Maloney, director at Forman Art Institute. “We felt that way before everything happened in 2020, and we certainly do now.” Artists, she says, are small business owners, struggling just like everyone else.
“The artists need you,” Thompson agrees. “I hope Artists in Residence at Offsite drives home that you don’t have to watch [the art scene] from a distance in Philadelphia. You can get involved. The artists need you, and it’s a team sport.”
Check out the video below to learn more about the collection, and contact [email protected] for information about purchasing works.Header image is Graceful in West Philly by Shawn Theodore