If you’ve spent time living in the city of Philadelphia, you’ve at one point set out to engage in the rich culture of the city. You have probably taken the SEPTA down to see all of the stadiums at the sports center, sampled some of the finest cheesesteaks, visited the different monuments around town. For me, I wanted to take advantage of the thriving art community here in Philly. Any local art enthusiast knows about the PMA, the Barnes, the Academy of Fine Arts, and my personal favorite, the Rodin.These are all great museums and galleries that every fan of art should take a trip to, but Philadelphia has tons of hidden gems all over the city.
The Rosenbach Museum
The Rosenbach is a much-overlooked museum located right near Rittenhouse square that contains a huge chunk of Philadelphia history. A great place to go for any history buff with a great collection of art as well. For a cheap admission price, you can get a guided tour through the well-preserved 19th century house of Phillip Rosenbach, a feverous collector of rare books from all over the world. He and his family dedicated their lives and their fortune to amassing a world-famous collection of rare books and art that rivaled museums of the time. The house is well decorated with paintings, statues, and antique furniture from the 19th century, but the rare book collection is even more awe-inspiring. From the entirety of Bram Stoker’s hand-written research on vampire myths for when he wrote Dracula, or original manuscripts of classic literature, there is tons to look at and, if you set an appointment online, can even flip through a book yourself.
The Arader Galleries
If you feel inspired from the Rosenbach’s, you can try to start your own collection at The Arader Galleries. Right in Center City is a small gallery that you can walk right past and completely miss. Although it’s small, it’s packed to the brim with historical prints, watercolors, paintings, old books and other antiques. You can find a large collection of Audubon animal prints, some being originals, along with maps, rare books, posters, and many other great finds. The best part is just about everything in there is for sale. The smaller, mass-produced prints can be affordable if you would like something to hang up for yourself, but there’s some old, rare antiques for serious collectors only. At least you can still appreciate it for yourself. Feel free to ask the person working there about a specific piece or if you want to see something specific. Despite the gallery being just a couple of rooms, you can spend hours looking through the drawers and shelves of antiques from across the world and dating back centuries.
If you want to see something more contemporary, the Vox Populi is a non-profit organization that hosts experimental art and encourages contemporary artists to explore and experiment with their work in its gallery. Vox Populi, which translates to “voice of the people,” was started by various artists in the 80’s, who wanted to a create a gallery by and for the people. The gallery constantly changes what it has up for display to stay fresh and showcase new artists. You will find a diverse range of art through different mediums meant to question your conception of what art is and how you engage with it. All proceeds go to various charitable organizations and support the art community of Philadelphia.
The Schwarz Gallery
Established in 1930, this The Shwarz Gallery has been collecting contemporary and historical art over the past century. As a more traditional art gallery, there is a whole collection of paintings varying in style and from different time periods. The gallery continues to purchase and update its collection from both modern artists and older works.
Moore College of Art and Design
Right on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, you can find a large art school with a free gallery even for guests. Initially established in 1848 as an art school for women, then called the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, but was then changed to the Moore College of Art & Design in the 1930’s. To this day, Moore exists as a fully functioning modern art school. It has gallery shows for both student and faculty work, to show off a diverse range of art. Aside from paintings Moore shows works of photography, sculpture, fabrics, fashion, and film. These shows will only be during the school year and the gallery might be closed during the summer and winter holidays. As an art student myself, it is nice to see work from a similar group of young artists.