Address: 319 North 11th Street, Third Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Open Hours: Wednesday – Sunday from 12 to 6 pm
How is the project operated?
Vox is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It is a collective of local Philadelphia artists who run an exhibition and performance space with the aid of a small professional staff.
How long has it been in existence?
Vox Populi was founded in 1988.
What was your motivation?
Over beers at Dirty Franks (a Philadelphia dive bar with long ties to the artistic community), a loose-knit group of Philadelphia artists decided to call a citywide open meeting (publicized through posters, flyers, and word of mouth) to discuss non-existent artistic opportunities and to propose a remedy through self-organization. At the meeting, Vox Populi was formed, and thirty members joined the new collective. These were mostly young artists, just out of arts programs, who rallied together to find a space to show their work.
Vox was initially supported and administered solely by its members. New members were welcomed into the organization based on their desire to show their work in a cooperative environment and their ability to contribute to running and maintaining the gallery space. The model was purposefully loose, with no hierarchal structure and no focus on long-term stability. The gallery operations and financing relied on the skills of its members, their ability to take advantage of beneficial relationships with people outside the organization, and their personal monthly financial contributions.
As the organization grew and changed, members decided that auxiliary programming that highlighted the work of artists from outside the organization was beneficial to the artist-membership and to the community at large. Over the course of several years, new programs were added to Vox’s member exhibitions – as the exhibition of national and international challenging contemporary work, education, and outside collaboration became new priorities of the group. A focus on community and collaboration has always remained a valued approach of the membership.
In 1997, the organization applied for status as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, formed its Board of Directors and hired a part-time Executive Director.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
Vox maintains a rolling membership of an average of 20-25 local artists. The administrative staff is the full-time Executive Director, a part-time Events and Performance Coordinator, and a number of interns.
How are programs funded?
Members pay modest monthly dues. However, the majority of Vox’s operating budget comes from government and foundation grants, individual and board contributions, fundraising efforts, and earned income through studio and space rentals.
Who is responsible for the programming?
The programming is conceived of and guided by the membership. On occasion, guest curators are invited to complete specific exhibitions or projects.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
Vox Populi’s programs are diverse and divided into the following:
Member programming – Each of the artist-members shows new work in one of the four gallery spaces on an average of fifteen months. (Each show lasts one month)
Guest artists – The artist membership reviews applications for exhibitions by artists from outside the region regularly. Each year, around twenty of these shows are awarded, which take place in one of the four gallery spaces. (Each show lasts one month)
Guest curator program – Each year, the artist membership invites a guest curator who matches the organization’s goals and priorities to organize an exhibition that spans the entire gallery – all four gallery spaces and the lobby. (Each show lasts one-two months)
Emerging artist exhibitions – Each year, Vox invites jurors to review submissions for an emerging artist exhibition that features 20-50 national, and sometimes international artists. This show also spans the entire gallery. (Each show is one month)
Fourth Wall – Vox has a small “gallery with the gallery” that focuses on video and new media work. This video lounge is curated by invited guests on a three-month rolling basis. (Each show is one month)
AUX – Vox’s 1,000-square foot performance space, AUX, features time-based work in performance, experimental film and video, sound art, and the like. Four to 6 events are organized in the space each month.
What kind of events are usually organized?
Outside of traditional exhibition programming, events include contemporary performance art, professional development workshops for young artists, experimental music showcases, gallery talks, readings, and screenings of experimental film and video. We do seriously consider all proposals made to us for special events.
How is your programming determined?
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes. Vox accepts proposals for membership from local artists, proposals for solo shows from artists outside the region, and curatorial proposals for gallery-wide exhibitions. Also, our annual juried exhibition is an open call. All information can be found on the website.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
New artist-members are selected by the current membership by group review. The aesthetic framework that guides these selections varies, depending on the current makeup of the membership, but some consistent shared values are evident:
- Aesthetic and conceptual excellence.
- Experimental materials, practices, and methodologies, less likely to be shown in a commercial setting.
- A close and probing relationship with contemporary ideas and culture. A discourse around current issues that is robust and may challenge dominant ideas or aesthetics – in the broadest sense, a political imperative.
- Knowledge of and engagement with both historical trends and contemporary practice.
- A well-developed body of work that represents a serious engagement with materials and subject matter.
Artistic, curatorial, and programmatic decisions regarding non-member exhibitions and projects are made by the membership of Vox Populi (average membership is 25 artists) in cooperation with the ED.
What’s working? What’s not working?
Vox is quite an old institution, so we have learned a great deal as we’ve grown but are always adjusting our programmatic decisions to reflect contemporary issues and a changing Philadelphia artistic landscape. We’ll never stop self-evaluating.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
We hope we can positively impact the careers and experiences of both member and visiting artists and form meaningful connection among gallery artists and outside artists, curators, gallerists and other administrators in the region.
We aim to continue to function as a prime destination for relevant and challenging contemporary art and art-related activities while challenging institutional and commercial models by serving as a place for development and exchange of new ideas related to contemporary art. We want to foster healthy dialog and an ongoing body of critical writing focused on Vox and Philadelphia artists and to serve as an educational resource for the artistic community and general public.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
Our performance space AUX is just over a year old, and we’re excited to push that programming to the next level in the coming year.
Images courtesy of Vox Populi.