Looking at Art from a Different Angle

Through the Hurford Humanities Center, Sarah Singley '10 is interning with Philagrafika, helping plan for the biggest international art festival ever to grace Philadelphia.

Sarah Singley ’10 didn’t imagine that her summer internship at Philagrafika, a nonprofit that promotes printmaking as a cultural art form in Philadelphia, would involve hauling furniture and files from one office to another. But the labor was not without a sense of fun, as Singley says, “The staff had t-shirts printed up for the move, and we wore them for about a week straight.” With relocation has also come conceptual renovation for this nonprofit, which has recently overhauled its image and is gearing up to host one of the largest international art exhibitions ever to visit Philadelphia.

Formerly known as the Philadelphia Print Collaborative, the organization changed its name to Philagrafika in 2006 to reflect the first of many transitions: a renewed commitment to cultural rather than commercial arts. Singley, a religion major interning with Philagrafika courtesy of the Hurford Humanities Center, which is funding nine rising seniors to take on summer internships with local organizations, says, “They are trying to open a dialogue on printmaking as an integral part of contemporary art, find new audiences for print, and reach a greater number of people through lectures and workshops.”

Philagrafika is repositioning Philadelphia as a major player in the art world and global arts destination in the region with its festival plans. Set to take place every four years, starting in early 2010, Philagrafika’s international quadrennial event, “Philagrafika 2010: The Graphic Unconscious,” will showcase the work of 40 artists from around the world and boast sponsorship from over 60 local cultural institutions. The festival will celebrate innovations in printmaking related to social justice. 

“Participating artists will draw inspiration from Philadelphia’s unique history, primarily using printmaking to examine social and political issues,” says Singley.

Currently, Singley is writing what she calls an “origins story” by researching Philagrafika’s developmental roots, the evolution of its creative vision, critical commentary on the contemporary art scene, and past marketing materials. The story will serve as a skeleton for a speech that Director Teresa Jaynes will make at a media presentation in the fall.

The questions that the quadrennial event seeks to address fascinate Singley, outlining as they do the “tension between the idea of a single stroke of creative genius,” like the sort embodied in painting, “versus a physical process of doing labor” by using the machines and technology of printmaking.   

“Printmaking: does it challenge corporate culture, or does it become corporate culture?” she asks. “Looking at contemporary artwork in general, where do you go when artworks that were once supposed to challenge the establishment become the establishment?” 

“That’s why I think the festival is really cool,” she says, “because it takes a particular interest in Philadelphia’s history as a print center and the American tradition while exploring the postmodern, increasingly public role of contemporary art on an international scale.”

—Nicole Gervasio, BMC ‘10