Landmarks, Reinterpreted


First place winner "After a Spring Storm: Columbia Bridge" by Patrick Connors, on display at the Athenaeum until August 8

First place winner “After a Spring Storm: Columbia Bridge” by Patrick Connors, on display at the Athenaeum until August 8

How do you see the city’s historic landmarks? That’s the question the Athenaeum asked of artists this spring. Forty-five of them responded with paintings, drawings, and prints depicting Philadelphia buildings, ships, and bridges on the National Register of Historic Places. The work was reviewed by a jury that included Woodmere Art Museum director Bill Valerio and architect John Blatteau, as well as Athenaeum executive director Sandra Tatman. The jury gave the first place prize to Patrick Connors for his painting “After a Spring Storm: Columbia Bridge.”

This is the second year in a row the literary society and architectural archive on Washington Square has sought to use art to interpret “the historic fabric of the Athenaeum,” says Tatman. Last year, as part of the 2013 Hidden City Festival, artist Ruth Scott Blackson installed Through the pale door, which explored Edgar Allan Poe’s connection to the Athenaeum.

This year’s art exhibit is in celebration of the Athenaeum’s 200th Anniversary. Tatman says it’s been a success: more than a quarter of the work sold on opening night.

Artists produced interpretations of familiar Philadelphia icons, including the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, City Hall, Independence Hall, and Laurel Hill cemetery. Five artists took on the Athenaeum itself. Perhaps my favorite of these is Popo Flanigan’s acrylic on birch board painting, which includes this, from 1814, in script: The Athenaeum. It’s who I am and where I go. She affords me the reverie of other man’s words.

Architect Sherman Aronson provided one of the only interior interpretations in the show, and perhaps the most subjective view, a lovely freehand sketch of the Academy of Music filled with patrons.

The show runs through August 8. More information HERE.

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including the forthcoming Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple Press) and a novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and the Hand Press). He is the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."

1 Comment

  1. Nathaniel,
    It is a really nice show at the Athenaeum, and a great space in an exciting building, I hope you had a chance to browse through the main library reading room.
    Thanks so much for the good words about my sketch of the Academy. It’s the kind of space where you go for the music, but your eyes have a feast, too. Sometimes I just can’t put aside the pen and draw on whatever is handy.
    Glad that you liked it, thanks.

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