by Manuel McDonnell Smith
How many times have you placed a work of art on a wall, for no other purpose than just show? We all find moments like that, where we’re complicit in denying art’s greater powers. That’s why we need curators like Danielle Green. Her goal is to help art “impact a community.”
Her efforts grow from the Indigo Bleu Design & Cultural Center located at the bustling corner of 39th and Lancaster. A passerby would consider it a fledgling art gallery in a gentrifying neighborhood. But a tour inside the small space opens the mind to a world of possibilities. “Philadelphia has a lack of community oriented event spaces.” explains Green. “The Museum of Art is great for those with big budgets. And the Kimmel is great as a top performance venue. But what we need more of in this city, are space where emerging artists can aim to reach larger.”
The essence of that idea is behind her vision for Indigo Bleu. For her, it’s about more than just static art. “I knew going into this, as a black woman entrepreneur, that being just an art gallery was not a sustainable business model. 80 percent of the events we hold here are performing arts and culture.
It’s the events that help us make the rent each month. .” Combining her personal passion into her business plan has become a win-win for all. Indigo Bleu a low-cost, accessible and high quality event space.
Every artist or group that displays art, stages a performance or event gets more than just a great space, they get exposure. And that’s what keeps people returning. “Philly is a word-of-mouth city, and people are always surprised at the level of quality events we have here.”
Indigo Bleu recently featured a group exhibit titled “Our Greatness, Our Struggle.” Via an open-call, 16 paintings, drawings, sculptures and handmade objects were chosen. The works, submitted from multidisciplinary artists from Philadelphia, Greater Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington D.C. offered both exploration and reflection on the achievements and plight of African Americans in the United States. The range of artists, from emerging to high- end made the presentation unique.
Contributions from local artists like Andrew Williams and Asake Denise Jones displayed next to famous artists like Ellen Powell Tiberino. Before her death in 1992, Tiberino exhibited widely from Chestnut Hill to New York City. The Philadelphia Museum of Art holds five of her works in its permanent collection. “That her family even considered placing her famed watercolor “A Walk in Paradise” in our exhibit was an honor.” explained Green. “But this is exactly what we’re trying to do. Make art and culture accessible to all, even those who have never been to an art gallery or museum before.”
The exhibit closed February 27 with a free reception that offered community members the opportunity to “get up close and personal with the 16 artists, and gain insight into their work first hand.” Live music by the band Inner Journey accompanied complimentary wine and refreshments.
With the closing, Green and Indigo Bleu prepares for another exciting chapter for the business and the neighborhood. Soon, the center moves into a new 5,000 square-foot space just down Lancaster Avenue. It will feature affordable office and studio space for artists and entrepreneurs. This venue will be flanked by an expansive 2,000 square-foot space that is perfect for events of all sizes. Or as Green sees it, a larger space for bigger dreams to come true. “I want to use art to change people’s lives and push the boundaries of what is normal or accepted.”