Written by Lindsay Hargrave
Photos by Josh Zegans & Nick Matousch
I didn’t think by going out on a small gallery story on Friday, Feb. 5 would end up getting me the opportunity to watch a performance art fist fight, pink paint on half of my coat, or two free beers. But it did end up going like that. After exploring three different buildings’ worth of visual and performance art all on the same block, I came to the conclusion that First Friday is no tourist trap; it’s actually probably the most fun night of the month to go out, see friends, and experience Philadelphia’s art scene the way it was meant to be experienced.
When our Lyft pulled up to the 300 block of N 11th St, we had to do a little bit of awkward shuffling around the dozens of people standing out on the sidewalks sipping cheap beer and smoking cigarettes.
We ventured first into Savery Gallery, a small space showing small canvas paintings by Nicole Dyer and sculptures and kaleidoscopic paintings by Dave Eassa, both Baltimore-based Maryland Institute College of Art graduates.
Dyer’s individual works are singular and primitive, speaking to the viewer’s basest perceptions of color and line and making for a simple yet articulate collection.
Eassa evokes a busier and heavier aesthetic, using large amounts of paint to create textural, heavy, and kaleidoscopic paintings and equally texturized and colorful sculptures.
After perusing Savery, we noticed a lot of people going in and out of the building next door. This building turned out to be Vox Populi, a collection of small galleries and studios for experimental and contemporary art. There, we browsed dozens of galleries on six floors, spanning the media from paintings to photography to sculpture to textiles to performance art.
One rather extraordinary installment was the work of Billy Green, a recent Tyler School of Art graduate, assisted by Phil Conine and Molly Lloyd. The room-filling installment utilized a combination of light, ambient music, lantern-like hanging paper cutouts, and food.
“We wanted to create an ambient space to explore communication and interaction, and how different sounds, light, and food affect people and the way their neurons interact,” Green said.
Next, it was on to the next door over, where the BBR Collective was holding a live graffiti-style art and poetry event (Tip: get there before they run out of surgical masks next time—the spray paint fumes can get to you quickly).
This space was more like a loud, chemical-smelling party than a gallery. The loud music was intermittently muted in favor of young poets and rappers showcasing their crafts alongside the graffiti artists who were simultaneously bringing canvases and the space’s walls to life with color.
From the small, quiet Savery Gallery with its colorful and whimsical pieces to the busy experimental energy of Vox Populi to the BBR Collective’s fun, entertaining spirit, there is nothing boring about Spring Garden on First Friday, for art fanatics as well as those simply looking for a different kind of night out in Philly.