Art Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Concierge.com's insider take:
In the past 30 years, a vital arts community has grown up in Old City as its small factories and warehouses have been converted into galleries for the visual and performing arts. One of the originals, Clay Studio, is a nonprofit that promotes ceramic arts; exhibits change monthly, but look for the meticulously crafted tableware of Elizabeth Lurie and work from visiting international artists, such as Eva Avadir's ceramic sculptures and Fiona Thompson's oversize domestic objects, like her salt and pepper shakers (139 N. 2nd St.; 215-925-3453; www.theclaystudio.org; Closed Monday). Another of the neighborhood's early adopters, the Painted Bride Art Center, supports groundbreaking contemporary work such as the photographs of Amie Potsic and performance pieces from the late Spalding Gray (230 Vine St.; 215-925-9914; www.paintedbride.org). A newer addition, Bahdeebahdu, is the not-to-be-missed workshop/gallery of Warren Muller and RJ Thornburg (whose business cards read "luminary" and "fabulist," respectively). From light fixtures fashioned out of found shovels, test tubes, and old coffee pots to unusual furniture pieces (like a chaise created from 6,400 nickels), these designers never fail to surprise and amuse (1522 North American St.; 215-627-5002; www.bahdeebahdu.com; open by appointment, closed Sunday, Monday, and the month of August). On the first Friday of each month, the Old City Arts Association hosts a neighborhood open house. Participating galleries are free and open until 9:00 p.m. on "First Fridays" (800-555-5191 or 215-625-9200; www.oldcityarts.org). Philadelphia is also a city committed to public art; it has more outdoor sculpture than any other city in the country. The murals that started out as an anti-graffiti project in 1984 now cover 2,760 walls, forming the nation's largest outdoor art gallery. Self-guided and group tours are available (1729 Mount Vernon Street; 215-685-0750; www.muralarts.org).