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The beginning of the end…

Before I get into this, I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their help along the way with the starting, running and now ending of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym. I have learned so much throughout the process and have met so many amazing people because of this space. I truly could not have done it alone and every single little bit helped this idea along, from the biggest acts of kindness and support, down to the smallest ones. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart for all of it. And in order to properly talk about the end, I feel like I need to start at the beginning…

In 2010, Kara (aka the PSG Fairy Godmother) told me I should apply for a Knight Arts Challenge Grant, which consisted of coming up with an amazing idea for the arts in Philadelphia, in 160 words or less. So I, an artist with a nearly one year old baby, applied with the idea of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, a membership based sculpture studio that would run classes and show sculpture in its gallery, “helping the artists of Philadelphia get their art made and out into the world… without chopping off their fingers or catching on fire.” Yes. I wrote that. At the end of 2010, despite my eloquent and, ahem, straightforward writing style, I found out I was one of 63 finalists. While answering the required second round questions, I assumed I was up against a bunch of people like myself… individual artists with ideas they thought would be exciting to see come to realization, talking about people not catching on fire in their grant applications. It wasn’t until after those answers were sent in that the full list of semi finalists was released…and included big name arts organizations like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation… So, naturally I panicked and assumed I wouldn’t win.

AND THEN I WON.  I was one of 36 winners among a group of organizations I respect and admire. So, naturally I panicked and assumed I would fail. I mean, look at the photo I sent them when they asked for photos for the press…me and a shark in birthday hats. Birthday hats! Obviously I was not cut out for running a business based on this photo alone.

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Not to mention that I didn’t know how to run a business or raise money or be a boss or talk to lawyers or accountants or any or those things one thinks of when someone says “I have my own business.” And did I mention that I had a small child? Yep. Perfect recipe for complete and total failure. But what I did not consider are the following two points: 1. That being stubborn will get you very far. and 2. That there are so many people who want to see you succeed. People who don’t know you. People who have never met and maybe never will meet you. In addition to all the people who already know and love you, there are so many amazingly good people out there who want to help. And if it were not for these two things, my stubbornness and amazing people, I probably would have failed.
So instead of failing, I started to raise money to match the funds from the Knight Foundation, because that was a requirement of the grant. I had chosen $20,000 solely because I thought I could probably raise that much. I figured I knew at least 2,000 people who would want to give me $10 for what I thought was a cool idea. So T-shirts and mugs and tote bags were made and tables were set up at various events and there I was talking about this thing that didn’t really exist yet. AND PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA. Between all these events PSG had raised over $2,000 in individual donations, which was amazing to me, because it still really was just an idea.


So next we did a Kickstarter. (Naturally I took it very seriously and wore cat ears in the video.) And it was a hellish month because I worried the whole way through, but we hit our goal with 3 days left and in the end raised over $10,000. And then (!) someone called me out of the clear blue sky and said they would like to anonymously donate $10,000. I nearly died. It floored me to have people I knew supporting a space that didn’t exist yet, but perfect strangers? Madness. It made me believe in this crazy idea even more than I already had.
Now at this point funds were matched (in less than a year I might add) so the next step was to find a building. We looked at practically every warehouse building that had a roof (and some that didn’t) in Fishtown and beyond. Some were amazing but out of the budgeted price range. Some were in the price range but missing key elements, like big doors, concrete floors, a roof, etc. Some were perfect but just not somewhere people wanted to be late at night. And then at the end of 2011, 1834 Frankford came along…and I fell in love. Mind you it was a shit hole. Literally, as in there was dog poop and car parts everywhere. But I knew right away THIS WAS IT. So naturally everyone thought I was crazy but I persisted (have I mentioned being stubborn?) and after ALOT of help on the (scarily long term) lease from a PVLA appointed lawyer, in March of 2012 this building became PSG’s future home. So let’s just take a moment to look over what I first saw upon entering this space:
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Needless to say we had our work cut out for us. So I put out a call for volunteers on the blog I’d been keeping and people showed up to help. Every. Single. Weekend. And again, I was floored because no one had to be there. They just showed up. And most of them kept coming back. For a year and a half while we put up walls and plumbing and electrical and cleaned and swept and built things and rebuilt other things. For a year and a half. While we all waited for giant walls and a new electrical service, they came back, fed only on pizza, beer and the prospect of this place that we were building together.
So by June 28th, 2013, within a week of PECO finally connecting the new service, we opened with a great party and 50 (!) Charter Members. Our Charter Members are members who had signed up before we opened, some even before we had a location. Volunteers turned into monitors and we kept the shop going for memberships and classes and events. And like any business, we’ve had ups and downs, or “growing pains” as I’ve heard it referred to as, over the last almost 3 years that we’ve been open. I have certainly wanted to quit multiple times, but pushed through (ahem, stubborn) and kept going thanks to the kind words and support from everyone around me. And our membership continued and while people have come and go, a core group of people remained that feels like a weird little PSG family. Our classes continued to grow and we’ve taught hundreds of people how to weld, forge and more. Our gallery has consistently shown sculptors who are focused on creating beautiful, meaningful work throughout almost 50 exhibitions over the last 4 years. We have participated in tons of events with organizations like the Barnes Foundation, Fresh Artists, Art Star, Indy Hall, Ignite Philly, Philly Fixers Guild, Philly Give & Get, Here’s My Chance, CFEVA, PVLA, NKCDC and so many more.  So many amazing accomplishments… And I love you all for supporting this space and being a part of it in whichever way you have been able.  You all made it possible in some way, through monitoring, volunteering, lending or donating tools, time and money, being a member, teaching classes, taking classes, telling friends to take classes, buying a t-shirt, sharing information, providing grants, fiscal sponsorships, official business advice, unofficial business advice, words of kindness, encouragement, opportunities, showing artwork here, buying artwork here, building something out of nothing over and over again… Every little bit helped this place be what it was, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. We did damn well for a scrappy bunch of artists.
Unfortunately, the era of PSG is coming to an end as our building has been sold. I fought for it and  looked into relocating, but in the end, the reality of moving into a newer, more expensive space or starting from scratch in another old warehouse was not feasible. After taking a good long look at what I’ve done and what I want to do, I’ve decided to take some time to focus on myself, to make art, and spend more time with my daughter, who doesn’t know what life is like without this place. So, while on some level it kills me to do so, I have made the choice that I believe to be best for my little family.
Moving forward, we will end membership access as of April 30th. We will run classes scheduled for the month of May. We will sell off equipment and materials throughout May and early June, unless someone fancies themselves an entrepreneur and wants to buy the Sculpture Gym to open it up somewhere else, which would make a lot of people very happy to see it continue.  I’m also in the process of researching suitable studio options and/or makerspaces for our remaining members. If you have or know of a space I can tell them about, please let me know via email. I am here to talk if anyone would like to. So far the support from those who I’ve told about this has been overwhelming.
We will celebrate together at the opening reception of process: CASTING IV on Friday, May 6th from 6-9pm and I would love for all of you to join us.
Thank you again for the support you have shown throughout. It truly means the world to me.

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Coldhearted V December 4 + 5: Apply now!

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We are currently looking for vendors for Coldhearted V! We’re looking for a wide variety of artists, collectives, craftspeople and small businesses that are creating high quality, affordable items, including (but certainly not limited to): art of all kinds, handmade goods like bags, jewelry, housewares, etc, food items (we love food), plant items such as terrariums or flower arrangements, fabulously curated vintage selections, clothes, local businesses promoting appropriate services (massages, acupuncture, tattoos, etc..) and more…  Unconventional is good. We like unconventional.

For more info or to apply go HERE

Love + Handmade


Making something for your Valentine this year? Ever receive an awesome handmade gift? Nothing says I love you or that you care like a gift that someone took the time to make by hand. Have an awesome handmade gift that you’ve given or received? We’d love to see it! Share it with us! Post your image and tag it with #psghandmadefav and tag us @sculpturegym ! We’ll share our favorites on Valentine’s day!

Guest post by PSG Member/Monitor Seren Akcay

Philly Fixers Guild


Have you guys heard about the Philly Fixers Guild yet? I met Ben and Holly when they approached me about a location for their first ‘Repair Fair’ and I have been big fans of what they are doing ever since!

About the Philly Fixers Guild (from

The Philly Fixers Guild was started in early 2014 by Ben Davis and Holly Logan who both participate in the “Sustainable 19125/19134″ program in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Our guild is an independent collective of talented volunteers from differing technical backgrounds who are committed to the idea of “repair rather than replace.”

In many instances guild members will not just simply fix items for people, but should work with them to teach the troubleshooting and repair process. Ultimately, our community will benefit from less waste and improved economic conservation.

The Philly Fixers Guild is certainly not the first organization of its kind. Many other cities: Seattle, Boston, New York, San Francisco, to name a few, have had programs similar to this for some time. Philadelphia’s own Time4Time community time bank runs a periodic Repair Cafe in Chestnut Hill.  One concept that all these groups share is that the disposable “planned obsolescence” consumer culture we live with today isn’t always beneficial to the environment or people’s bank accounts.

We aim to support our community and city through periodic “Repair Fair” events where we can offer no-cost repair labor, knowledge, and education to all.


Check out a Repair Fair or if you think of yourself as a fix-it type of person, sign up as a fixer!

Volunteer Night: Thursday, December 4th


Want to help out at PSG, but don’t know how? Time is limited? Be a part of our volunteer crew! Sometimes when we need to prep for a big event, or are adding integral changes to the space, we could use your help! No experience is necessary, and if you’ve been here 100 times, or none at all, this is a great chance to come and be more involved with PSG!

We have an upcoming volunteer event on Thursday, December 4th from 6-10pm!
We will be doing sorting and organizing (a large donation of materials came in and we need to go through it all!), cleaning, hanging holiday lights, and possibly painting! Come in, meet some other members, and help us get the shop all squeaky clean for Coldhearted IV (happening on December 5th + 6th!

Even if you can only make it for a part of the time, but still want to help, let us know! We need all the help we can get! Can’t make it to this event, but still interested in co lunteering? Let us know, and we’ll keep you in the loop for our other events!

Email us at to tell us you’ll be there!

Apply Now: Coldhearted IV

ColdheartedIV-2Submissions are now being accepted for Coldhearted IV, an art/craft event! For more info or to apply go HERE

Coldhearted IV: Call for Vendors
Friday and Saturday, December 5 + 6, 2014
Submission Deadline: Friday, November 7, 2014
We’re looking for a wide variety of artists, collectives, craftspeople and small businesses that are creating high quality, affordable items, including (but certainly not limited to): art of all kinds, handmade goods like bags, jewelry, housewares, etc, food items (we love food), plant items such as terrariums or flower arrangements, fabulously curated vintage selections, clothes, local businesses promoting appropriate services (massages, acupuncture, tattoos, etc..) and more…  Unconventional is good. We like unconventional.
The Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, located in the heart of Fishtown, at 1834 E. Frankford Avenue. Each selected vendor will receive an approx. 8ft long space.  You must supply your own table and chair(s). (We have some tables available for $5 each. Be sure to contact us if you are interested in renting one.)
For more information about the space, contact
Selected artists will pay $50 for the 8ft space for one day, $75 for both days.  Payment will be due by November 14th.  Instructions for payment will be sent along with selection notification.
Selected artists/crafters can set up Friday, December 5th starting at 12 noon.
Submission due date: Friday, November 7, 2014
Artist/Craft Selection notification: Monday, November 10, 2014
Payment Due: Friday, November 14, 2014
Set Up: Friday, December 5, 2014, 12-6pm
Event Hours: Friday, December 5 (First Friday) 6-11pm and Saturday, December 6, 12-6pm



September…Back to Sculpture


For me, September always comes the distinct feeling of preparing for something. “Back to School” was one of my favorite times of year…I LOVED picking out school supplies and getting everything ready for what might come my way that year. As adults, typically our jobs don’t correlate with this feeling (well, some jobs…shoutout to all the teachers) and each Fall is the same as its ever been.  As an artist I’m “lucky” in that I get to create my own schedule but I still get busy and forget to allow time for learning new things. This Fall, I’ve decided to make learning new things that will supplement my studio practice a priority. Hellooo workshops…. I want to create a few things that are a bit outside of my comfort zone…I mean, we’re artists, right? Outside of most people’s comfort zones is where we thrive. Anyway, my feeling is established artist or brand new maker, we all should be continually learning and growing. With a resurgence of the “maker” and an amazing number of community based shops popping up, new classes are getting easier and easier to find. I’m really proud to be a part of that. There is nothing like seeing someone’s face after they torch cut steel for the first time and hearing the “Woah, that was AWESOME!” that follows. Forgive my being crass, but this is exciting shit we do! And we ALL still have room to learn something…be it related to what we do, or something entirely new. At PSG I’m working on making more classes available. We just rolled out a few new jewelry classes, a blanket mold class and still have some new classes coming soon, in addition to our classics, like Welding 101 and Aluminum Casting. Want to learn something here? Check out our classes and workshops. We update classes monthly so keep checking back. We do everything from Welding to Taxidermy Dreamcatchers (a special workshop with Beth Beverly…this Sunday!) and as we grow, we’ll continue to add more.  Want to teach something here? I’d love to see a proposal (feel free to submit one via Submittable HERE). Either way, here’s to September…Back to Sculpture.

xo Darla

Image from the PSG Pin Up Calendar, by J. Kyle Keener. Model: Jennifer Ferrell

FROM WITHIN… a solo exhibition by Joshua Parker Coombs

This September we are thrilled to present our current Resident Artist and longtime PSG member Joshua Parker Coomb’s solo exhibition, FROM WITHIN.FROM WITHIN Presscard


Not only is Josh presenting FROM WITHIN at PSG Gallery as his first solo exhibition, but for Philly Maker’s Week he will be having an artist talk and demo right here at PSG on September 17th at 7pm! He will be speaking about his work and also demonstrating his techniques and thought processes. We are thrilled to host this up and coming artist’s first solo show! Congrats Josh!

Mary O’Malley


I came across Mary O’Malley‘s ceramic work because she and I are both part of a group show, A Precious Few, at Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park, NJ. I love the intricate detail that Mary puts into her work. Makes me swoon…   Also included in the show are Shawn Huckins, Kris LewisMelodie Provenzano, Adam Wallacavage and Kate Zambrano. Also in the gallery is  Victor Grasso’s solo exhibition fable, which is amazing. I highly recommend taking the trip to Asbury Park before August 7th and seeing all these lovely things in person.