Fleisher Art Memorial: Making art accessible for everyone
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dominic Mercier, Communications Director of Fleisher Art Memorial. We discussed the organization’s fascinating history, all of their excellent programs, exhibitions and events as well as their mission and plans for the future. We were amazed by the origins of this institution, the passion of the staff and all of their accomplishments as an organization. Though the Fleisher Art Memorial maintains a low-key presence in the Philadelphia, art and culture scene, we guarantee that they will quickly earn you respect once you are exposed to the phenomenal work that they do.
Fleisher Art Memorial is deeply rooted in the history of Philadelphia. The organization came into existence in 1898 under the name, The Graphic Sketch Club. Samuel S. Fleisher, Vice President of the Fleisher Yarn Company, opened The Graphic Sketch Club in an effort to positively engage his employees by offering them free art classes. He was dedicated to recognizing the value and importance of all of his employees and went to great lengths in order to show his appreciation for their contributions to the success of the company. The venture was successful and enrollment continuously increased, even requiring the organization to move to a larger location. After Samuel S. Fleisher’s death in 1944, his estate was left in trust to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the club was renamed the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial in his memory. Miraculously, it is still in operation, 117 years after its formation.
Today, The Fleisher Art Memorial offers affordable and cost-free art classes and workshops, hosts a series of mind-blowing exhibitions and engages in many community programs. Classes and workshops are typically offered in ten week blocks throughout the year and are appropriate for children, teens and adults of all skill levels. Exhibitions display the work of Fleisher students, young and old, highlighting the amazing work of the organization and its faculty. “The Wind Challenge” is one The Fleisher Art Memorial’s most popular exhibits in which hundreds of artists from Philadelphia and the surrounding counties submit work to be judged in an attempt to earn a spot in a special Fleisher exhibition. One of the most notable attributes of this organization is their community engagement efforts. The Fleisher staff works to place artists within Philadelphia schools and provides a free, drop-in after school program for teens. They operate a mobile arts studio called Colorwheels that appears at events throughout the city. Additionally, they open their studios and facilities for special community events. Clearly, this organization is extremely dedicated to serving their students and the Philadelphia community.
The Fleisher Staff is extremely proud of the work they have done to uphold the organization’s mission, which Dominic Mercier explains is “to make art accessible to everyone, regardless of economic means, background, or artistic experience.” Mercier goes on to describe the best part of being involved with Fleisher Art Memorial as “watching our students, young and old, experience art … sometimes for the very first time.” He also made sure to add his gratitude for his “incredible…smart and funny” colleagues, stating that “their biggest asset is their heart, which is completely imbued in the institution.” This commitment and passion has allowed The Fleisher Art Memorial to experience continued success for a miraculous 117 years. Mercier adds, “as a nonprofit, being a stable resource for the community for that long is a tremendous success.”
During our time together, Mercier was adamant about expressing his appreciation for the Philadelphia community, stating that “we’re lucky to be located in such a vibrant and culturally forward city.” He praised Philadelphia for its focus on the arts and the overwhelming amount of talented artists and teachers in the area. Moving forward, the organization hopes to introduce new courses, programs and exhibitions, focused on contemporary artistic techniques and mediums. They urged anyone with even the slightest interest in their programs to visit and take part in one of their cost-free workshop series. Mercier informed us that their “Sanctuary Series,” located in a scenic and historic sanctuary, is a great introductory program for anyone seeking to “engage in lively discussions, hear inspiring talks, or see film screenings about the arts.” Overall, Mercier simply explains that The Fliesher Art Memorial staff is “really happy to be here for anyone looking to make art.”
Be sure to visit the Fleisher Art Memorial gallery at 719 Catherine Street or check them out at www.fleisher.org.
Written by Patrick Kaisinger (Mike McCann Team Blogger Extraordinaire)