The artistic landscape of Old City Philadelphia has a new inhabitant.
Paradigm Art Gallery — which has been bouncing around Philadelphia for 13 years, most recently on Fourth Street near South Street — recently bought a five-story, 7,000-square-foot building at 12 N. 3rd Street, in the heart of the Old City arts corridor.
Co-owner Sarah McCorriston said the gallery’s community of supporters helped her acquire the building for $1.7 million. She and her business partner, Jason Chen, raised $27,000 on the crowdsourcing platform IfundWomen.com, and had previously raised another $35,000 from their customer base and supporters in an earlier attempt to buy the Fourth Street building where they were tenants.
“We couldn’t do it without our community,” McCoriston said. “When we tried to buy our space on Fourth Street and got outbid, I think people saw what happens when a small business can’t stay in its space. I think people really wanted a permanent home for us.
The new iteration of the building will be more community-focused. This change is reflected in the new name Paradigm Arts Building, intended to be an art center of sorts, with exhibition galleries, classrooms and office space for other art and design businesses.
People who contributed to the fundraiser received gift memberships to the Paradigm Art Building, allowing them to be the first to sign up for discounted classes and workshops.
It’s a big step for a small business, McCorriston said, which she describes as “luck”: lucky that she has a generous base of supporters, lucky that she found a vacant building in Old Town that doesn’t need much renovation, and lucky that still be a business in the art world for 13 years. The last exhibition on Fourth Street was called “Lucky 13”.
“As spaces change hands and the rent goes up and things like that, we wanted to have more control over the space and what our monthly expenses were going to be,” she said. “We will miss Fourth Street so much, but we have found our dream home.”
The first two floors of the building are intended for exhibitions. They will be inaugurated this weekend by Nazeer Sabree on the first floor and Jason Andrew Turner on the second. Both artists are rooted in Philadelphia, but Turner has moved to Brooklyn.
Sabree’s Pursuit of Healing, his first solo exhibition, explores black masculinity and black healing through painting, digital collage and video.
“Pursuit of Healing,” curated by Ginger Rudolph, features a new series of abstract digital collage portraits called “Transgenerational Rorschach Fragments 1998” (TRF-98), which evolves from a previous series “False Face” — also a view — in in which he paints large-scale portraits of young black men, their faces covered in a collage of mixed messages from advertisements, media, peers, and various social and environmental forces.
Sabri says that the earlier series reflected how young black men navigated the outside world, and the new series goes inward.
“It’s the medium and how we move,” he said, pointing to earlier series hanging in the gallery. “Whereas this new work speaks to our families, the things that our mothers, our fathers, their parents had to go through. Those generations of curses and traumas that have been passed down that haven’t been addressed.”