Consider all the exhibitions you have ever attended, whether art, historical or otherwise. Perhaps you walked through spacious rooms studying oil paintings, or maybe you examined sculptures or artifacts made by past civilizations. The exhibitions you have visited likely focus on works or objects reminiscent of a previous time, whether created in the previous week or the previous century. The Fabric Workshop and Museum invites you to a living, breathing exhibition, which encourages patrons to take their time wandering through a collaborative space shared by local and international artists alike while they create inventive works of various media.

When first entering the space, the overwhelming aroma of plaster and wood-shavings saturates one's senses, a sensational often absent in other displays of art. The first room contains tools and tables utilized in the creation of the wood pieces, bricks and pottery in the second room, a huge expanse dedicated to the laboring of the selected artists and apprentices, which include Matthew Dercole, Pei-Hsuan Wang, Hope Rovelto, Carole Frances Lung and Andre Ponticello.

These artists can often be found bustling about the space in pursuit of generating more pieces of the exhibition, which was exactly what sculptor Andre Ponticello was doing on a rainy Monday afternoon. With his dust-covered jeans and plaster-crusted shoes, Ponticello busily moved through the room creating smooth wooden boxes to house some of the display pieces of porcelain created by some of his fellow artists, eager to discuss his work with visitors. "It's definitely different for me to be thinking about different ways of working," he said as he finished sanding a small box. "I think it's been a really nice collaboration. You know, [Theaster Gates] could have just hired a carpenter to do this work, but he chose artists."

Lead artist Theaster Gates, the brilliant mind behind the project, developed the Soul Manufacturing Corporation, which serves to "explore and create relationships among on-site makers, local and international artists, apprentices and students." This has certainly manifested with the current Philadelphia project, as artists often share lunch and discuss pertinent topics presented by Gates between their creative endeavors. Gates currently resides in Chicago, which is where this exhibition opened originally before traveling to Miami and Philadelphia, and also soon internationally to England, Brazil and China. The artists and work in each city will mostly vary, so each city serves as its own unique project.

The exhibition is currently available until May 12, when it will thereafter relocate to Whitechapel in London to begin its worldwide tour. The pieces presently in Philadelphia will not be seen again once the showcasing concludes; if you would like to experience art different from the stationary, time-honored exhibitions of more conventional art corporations, visit this dynamic workspace at The Fabric Workshop and Museum while the artists are finishing their projects. They would be more than happy to chat with you while they work.

“Soul Manufacturing Corporation - To Make the Thing that Makes the Things”
The Fabric Workshop and Museum, 1222 Arch St.
10-6 M-F, 12-5 SS, $3 entry fee for access to full museum and exhibition