For the last 3 years, Paradigm Gallery has become a major hub for culture, community and the arts in Philadelphia. Sara McCorriston and Jason Chen originally opened the doors of their first space on 20th and South sreets in 2010 on an impulse. With nearly fresh college degrees in hand—and young passionate drive—they risked what little they had to start something bigger than themselves. Since first opening, they’ve hosted over 30 unique shows, received a grant from The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts for a Resident Artist Program and managed to move to their current location on 4th Street’s Fabric Row.
Sara is a multi-disciplinary visual artist, working with 3D forms such as sculpture, mixed media and fibers. Jason is a fine art photographer, University of the Arts teacher and video artist for Juggling Wolf. The pair first conceived the gallery as an opportunity to showcase their own work, but it naturally transformed into an approach for the artistic world to become more accessible. “We have always looked for ways to make galleries less intimidating,” says Sara. “It’s amazing how many people stand at the window looking in at the artwork for long periods of time, but are actually nervous to come inside a gallery space.”
By creating a less intimidating gallery environment, they attracted young, regional, unknown artists—many ultimately invited to do solo shows. Sara and Jason discovered many of these hidden talents by hosting open invitation art shows; as a result, they’ve grown their network of artists, friends, and partners. “I love to think that we gave artists a chance to show at a gallery that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” says Sara. “But sometimes I think that we’re just really lucky that we happened to take notice of them before someone else did. We have hosted so many first solo shows for artists in the space and they’ve all rocked the opportunity with flying colors.”
Most recently, they’ve called upon their circle of peers for their Community Arts Project. As two twenty something’s with full-time jobs, personal projects and graduate school on their plate, it’s no piece of cake maintaining a gallery. The Community Arts Project is a call to action for artists and friends to donate to the space without spending any money. It originally formed in the summer of 2012 as a regular Saturday open to the public, arts and crafts program. With the same idea in mind, Paradigm has given any willing participant—with or without an art background—a blank 6x6 wood block; they even provided construction materials. With these blocks, participants were asked to create an original work of art that would be put on display for this Friday’s March 22nd opening.