Many visitors to the City of Brotherly Love come for the history and fall for the culture. Philadelphia is home to the oldest art school in the United States, and the city has become known for its diversity. From fostering the fine arts to showcasing more public art than any other city, Philadelphia’s art scene is one to watch out for.
A famed space for national and one-of-a-kind exhibitions and one of the largest museums in the country, the Philadelphia Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of artwork. The building itself is an architectural marvel; the famous Rockystaircase up to the main entrance of the building provides a dramatic entrance. The permanent collection boasts over 22,000 works, and the temporary exhibits allow you to discover one-of-a-kind groupings, pepperinga mix of pieces from private collections and loans from various museums throughout the world.
A Victorian mansion in the Chestnut Hill section of the city, the Woodmere holds the private collection of Philadelphian Charles Knox Smith, who asked in his will that his collection be shared with the community. The permanent collection displays works from the founder and the exhibitions consistently showcase Philadelphia artists. For an evening event, head over on the weekends to enjoy Friday night jazz or the musical performances on Saturdays.
The Rodin Museum, located down the street from the Philadelphia Museum, celebrates the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Visit on a nice sunny afternoon so you can take in the French-style gardens and outdoor sculpture space. The sculptures are made from original casts of Rodin’s masterpieces. Visit this museum to become acquainted with the artist’s work before heading to France to see his studio and home. The Rodin Museum, 2154 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA, USA
The Barnes Foundation is a destination for lovers of Impressionism and home to a controversial history. The collection comes from Albert Barnes, a renegade of the art-collecting world in the early twentieth century, specifically in Paris. Barnes requested that, upon his death, his home become a gallery space and learning annex, allowing for the public to enjoy his life’s passion. The battle for custody of his collection ensued, and the city won in the end, paying homage to Barnes by recreating his home inside the museum.
Showcasing contemporary artists, with a focus on Philadelphia talent, the Paradigm gallery space is run by artists encouraging other artists to exhibit their works. Their unique exhibitions are designed to be accessible and affordable to the community, both locally and globally. They have extended the gallery’s accessibility by creating a heavy social media presence and a collaborative project with HAHA Magazine.
A contemporary photography studio, the PPAC offers exhibition space along with workshops and lectures. It provides the public with tools for creating better photography and showcases seasoned and promising photographers. Engaging the local audience is a big priority; each year the PPAC has a ‘Philadelphia Photo Day,’ during which everyone is encouraged to take a photograph and submit it for an exhibition of each image.
The Center for Art in Wood, Philadelphia | Courtesy of AIGA Philidelphia Space
The façade of The Center for Art in Wood says it all: versatility. The center provides space for traveling exhibitions and permanent exhibits. They also house an artist-in-residency program and provide classes and workshops. The location reaches out even further to the community by offering its space for private events and group tours. This location is free to visit and has a museum store with beautiful works of art for sale.
The American Institute of Graphic Arts Philadelphia Space is a multi-functional location, providing a meeting hub for members of AIGA in addition to a gallery for exhibitions aiming to serve and educate the community. Heading to an event here is a great way to get to know the visual arts in the area.
A great way to check out the art scene in a city is to keep a finger on the pulse of art students. Moore College of Art and Design is located right in Center City, so it’s a great location to add to your itinerary while visiting the Academy of Natural Sciences or the Franklin Institute. The school exhibitions are free and open to the public, giving visitors a chance to experience an intimate, thought-provoking gallery experience and support new talent.
If you are visiting the city the first weekend of the month, First Friday is a chance for you to explore over 40 galleries in the Old City area of Philadelphia and get a taste for the art scene in the city. First Friday is free, so it’s a cost-effective way for art lovers to find new galleries or what the up-and-coming talent is working on. The event runs from 5PM to 9PM all year round, rain or shine.