Our History

The History and Achievements

Brandywine Workshop and Archives

 

Over the years, the mission of the Brandywine Workshop and Archives (BWA) has evolved as evidenced through its programming such as the Visual Artists in Public Service projects, the artists in residence series, national and international exhibitions, artist exchanges and currently, its national network of “Satellite Collections” program. From the beginning, giving support to the art of printmaking, artists, education and multiculturalism has been the driving force for Brandywine. Always evolving, BWA is striving to fulfill its core mission by building bridges and expanding its impact in today’s world.

 

Founded in 1972 as the Brandywine Graphic Workshop, in the Spring Garden neighborhood of North Philadelphia— a low-moderate income predominantly Black and Hispanic community —as a collective of artists and art teachers, Brandywine was incorporated as a 501 (3) tax –exempt cultural institution in 1974. These first years were spent facilitating hands-on projects with local teenagers and young artists who produced limited edition, screen printed, original fine art.

 

The Formative years of the Artist Residency Program and Community Outreach Projects

 

Early Visiting Artists-in-Residence projects were started in 1975 working with the abstract expressionist artist, Sam Gilliam. In 1976, BWA received its first grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for the Romare Bearden print project. That same year, Bearden was presented Brandywine’s first Lifetime Achievement Awards (formerly the James Van Der Zee Lifetime Achievement Award) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

 

Brandywine’s community outreach program, Visual Artists in Public Service (VAPS) ran from 1977-1980 with support from the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). The program grew from an initial 18 artists employed in communities across the city to a total of 38 per year by the end of the three –year program. Artists were assigned to teach classes in painting, printmaking, drawing and ceramics; they also designed and painted wall murals and introduced the concept of creating “artparks” out of vacant lots, complete with murals, landscaping and furniture, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Historical Society.

 

A subsequent iteration of the program, Philly Panache, emphasized art as a way to advance community redevelopment and it operated throughout the 1980s with support from the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections and local foundations. Brandywine staff, led by Clarence Wood, then a board member and part of the staff at the Urban Outreach office of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, helped to develop the program utilizing former CETA artists. Projects included murals, trompe l’oel panels in vacant property windows and doors, landscaping and sculpture on vacant lots. Many of the projects were executed with support from the Point Breeze Federation in South Philly and featured designs created by established visiting artists such as Jacob Landau, Keith Haring, Percy Martin and the Pioneer Mural Group from Swansea, Wales (UK).

 

More Brandywine programs were introduced in the 1980s and 90s to demonstrate the value of visual art and instruction in community development initiatives such as the Guest Artists in the Schools and summer youth employment programs. Notable achievements include additional “artpark” collaborations with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the “River Bottom” performance piece at the “Aquarium” mural project by Jonas Dos Santos in the Point Breeze Community, the painting of murals on construction sites and the placement of student generated billboards across the city.

 

Expansion of National and International Presence

By 1980, the Brandywine Workshop moved to 1520 Kater Street in South Philadelphia and started the Offset Institute to advance the use of commercial presses in creating new, original lithographs. As the artist residency program reached a high of 30 artists per year, the Workshop continued to increase its engagement with national and international organizations.

 

The establishment of the Offset Institute at Brandywine became a highly distinguishing factor in gaining recognition for quality, innovative work and it attracted wide attention. In the mid 1980’s, BWA started traveling exhibitions under the sponsorship of the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibitions service with more than 30 sites visited over four years. In 1985, Brandywine prints were first exhibited in Europe at the Tyler Abroad Gallery in Rome, Italy. Late in the 1980s, BWA traveled its own exhibit, Abstraction in African American Printmaking, to six venues nationally. It was at this time that BWA started a cultural exchange with Wales, UK (1988-1992) bringing muralists, graphic artists and curators to Philly and sending artists-printmakers to Cardiff and Swansea, Wales. The program concluded with a major exhibition, Collaborations, an exhibit of works from six Philly print workshops at the Swansea Museum. Later, the exhibit went to the Uffizi in Florence, Italy and to the Carnegie-Mellon University Gallery in Pittsburgh.

 

By the late 1980s, the Visiting Artists- in-Residence program was scaling back to about twenty artists per year to allow for more innovation with materials and processes: collage, dimensional and mixed –media prints. The artists at that time included Jules Olitski, Alvin Loving, Kenneth Noland, John E. Dowell, Jr., Jacob Landau, William T. Williams, Melvin Edwards, Keith Morrison, Betye and Alison Saar, Barbara Chase–Riboud, John T. Scott, Camille Billops, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, Benny Andrews, Juan Sanchez, Edgar Heap of Birds, and a host of Asian, Latino and Native American artists, all through a series of annual highlights focused on diverse artist communities. Many of these artists’ works formed the basis for future gallery exhibitions. By the 1990s, special BWA exhibitions were travelling abroad— Africa, South America, Middle and Near East —under the auspices of the U.S. State Department’s overseas art programs.

 

In 1993, BWA opened the Printed Image Gallery at its newly renovated historic firehouse at 730 South Broad Street, just a few blocks from the Kater Street location and situated in the middle of the newly formed Avenue of the Arts, Philly’s downtown cultural District. This was the first new art facility to open in the budding, dedicated arts district.

 

Organizational Development and the Growth of a Major Art Collection and Archives

The newly constructed Print Shop Building at 1404-1410 Pemberton Street (aka 728 S. Broad Street), which would house the BWA Offset Institute and formal print archives, opened in 1997. After-school instruction in video, web design and computer graphics resulted in new funding and the focus turned from outreach into communities to the hosting of programs at Brandywine’s mini-campus. High school students would travel to BWA from across the city. The goal was to establish Brandywine as a valuable cultural and educational resource for the city with easy access to its mini-campus on the expanding Avenue of the Arts, South. Between 1993 and 2003, over 330 high school students received training in computer graphics, videography, collection documentation, framing and exhibition planning during after-school and summer workshops.

 

Brandywine went on to establish its “Satellite Collections” program. The “Satellite Collections of editioned prints, selected from Brandywine’s growing inventory of visiting artist series, are now located at various institutions near and far from Philadelphia. These curated collections help provide for and insure both the physical preservation of the prints and the documentation of the artists’ legacies. Furthermore, as the art pieces are more widely disseminated, they can serve many valuable purposes, including as primary multicultural and educational resources for new viewers. “Satellite Collections” locations include ethnic heritage institutions, art museums, and universities. Today, there are 14 “Satellite Collections” across the country and one at the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center in Havana, Cuba. Other sites include: Arizona State University Museum, Scripps College-Claremont University, Hampton University, University of Delaware Museums, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, Warfield Center, the Museum of Contemporary Native American Art and Harvard University Museums, among others.

 

The book, Three Decades of American Printmaking: Prints from the Brandywine Workshop Collection was published in 2004. With almost all the prints in the collection illustrated and a series of essays describing the history, artworks and processes, artist bios and references sources, the publication quickly became a primary resource for learning about Brandywine and the contributions to American art by people of color over the preceding 30 years. In addition, a number of catalogs were produced to accompany exhibits in the Printed Image Gallery— i.e, Jacob Landau, Sam Gilliam, and Paul F. Keene, Jr. Most exhibits had a guest curator who planned the exhibit and/or wrote catalog essays.

 

By the mid 2000’s, Brandywine was working with the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA)towards a major acquisition by the Museum of additional BWA visiting artist prints and to plan for the exhibition of those works. The exhibit, Full Spectrum: Prints from the Brandywine Workshop premiered in the fall, 2012 at the Museum. The exhibition’s opening was the highlight event of Brandywine’s fortieth anniversary, year-long celebration. The celebration concluded in the spring, 2013 with the 21st presentation of the Brandywine Workshop’s Lifetime Achievement Awards at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Award recipients included art historians Lowery S. Sims,PhD; Leslie King-Hammond, Phd; Richard Long, PhD; and Keith Morrison, dean, Tyler School of Art. Poet Sonia Sanchez and artist Barbara Chase-Riboud were key presenters. A full list of Lifetime Acheivement Award recipients since its inauguration in 1976 can be fund in another section of the website.

 

In the fall of 2008, BWA had to close its historic firehouse and gallery space due to facade damage, and later, catastrophic flooding. Resourcefully, BWA ran an exhibition program in the Glass Lobby of the Print Shop Building and hosted installations of works by Michael Platt, EJ Herczyk, Peter Paone, Keith Morrison, Danny Alvarez, Tomie Arai, Jack Malotte, Edgar Heap of Birds, Andrea Chung, EJ Montgomery, Louis Delsarte and Samella Lewis among others.

 

In the fall of 2017, BWA proudly reopened its newly restored national historic firehouse property and re-designed Printed Image Gallery. It has since presented one-man exhibitions of prints by William Majors and Romas Viesulas (2018) and John T. Scott (2019) and Six Women Artists: Process and Invention (2018), a group of five local and one New York- based artist-printmakers. The continuation of the exhibition program also enabled BWA to initiate the ArtistNConversation galley talks, which presented Kakayoung Lee, Maceo Montoya, Melvin Edwards, Anthony Panzera, John E Dowell, Jr. Agathe Bouton, Cynthia Back, Linda Dubin Garfield and Willie Cole among others.

 

Today: Extended Documentation and the Focus on Increased Preservation and Interpretation

The decrease in funding for small and mid-sized art organizations and the increasing impact of technology on creativity in the fine arts, audience growth and engagement caused a strategic shift in Brandywine’s mission. Today, BWA recognizes its need to focus on building technology infrastructure, to develop content for web-based formats to better communicate with contemporary, mobile audiences and for growing private contributions and earned income.

While Brandywine will always give its support to the art of printmaking, artists, education and multiculturalism, the organization’s name was formally changed in 2013 to the Brandywine Workshop and Archives to reflect BWA’s expanding commitment to the areas of documentation, preservation and promotion of the permanent BWA collection/archives.

 

BWA remains firmly committed to the preservation and documentation of its collection and to the artists who participated in its residency program over the years. Today, however, with the increasing global interest in art created by Americans of color and with the tools of technology rapidly growing, BWA is expanding its vision. Brandywine has begun to focus on producing video documentaries of artists, especially women and people of color. In addition, BWA plans to grow its “Satellite Collections” program to include more larger institutions who could manage a gift/purchase option. With an eye to the long-term, BWA is working to build its digital portal (www.brandywine-art.org) to connect all of the “Satellite Collections” and provide free, easy access to the BWA database of images, research, digital media, and educational materials. Brandywine Workshop and Archives’ goal is to establish a “Satellite Collection” in every major geographic area of the country by our fiftieth anniversary (2022).

 

Brandywine at 50

In the year 2022, BWA hopes, through its programming efforts in the digital realm, to have impacted the expansion of a pedagogy that emphasizes cross- curricular, integrative learning through the teaching of diverse arts and cultures. This concept of “multiculturalism” reaching across the curriculum in American classrooms would also serve to attract an increase in the number of young artists of color pursuing successful careers as studio artists, art educators and museum professionals. BWA will continue to partner with diverse institutions to new “Satellite Collections” of its prints nationally as well as the establishment of one or more of its Collections on the continent of Africa

While maintaining strategies that expand our impact locally and outside of Philadelphia, Brandywine Workshop and Archives will value institutional partnerships and work to build on its intergenerational audiences, especially those who use digital technologies as a tool to enhance creative expression. Digital technology and the Internet allow BWA the capability to think globally, work efficiently and imagine what self-sustainability looks like. Ultimately, achieving these goals and potential programming objectives in multiple states and countries will ensure that Brandywine Workshop and Archives advances its mission by connecting, inspiring and building bridges among global communities through the visual arts and culture.