Indy Hall Arts community works with coworking neighbors [ART] - Philly


Feb. 13, 2013 10:00 am

Indy Hall Arts community works with coworking neighbors [ART]

The very point is to better connect this artistic spirit to the existing creative business energy that has been a root of Indy Hall.

'Brittany Howard' by artist Mike Jackson, who is helping to lead the infusion of creative arts into the existing innovation culture of coworking space Indy Hall.

When Sean Martorana joined Indy Hall two years ago, he was bothered by the barren walls inside the Old City coworking space.

“Alex Hillman told me, if you want to do something, hang up some artwork, then shut up and JFDI,” Martorana said of the tattoo and rallying cry the coworking space’s cofounder has embraced.

Martorana – who closed his branding design business to become a full time artist out of Indy Hall – countered by covering the walls in murals and hangings. And when Indy Hall cut through a foot of concrete to expand occupancy to the loft-style first floor, Martorana, along with illustrator Mike Jackson and eight more artists, christened their new canvas with a 8-foot tall, 50-foot wide mural painted in under 10 hours before Indy Hall’s 5th anniversary party last March.

For February’s First Friday on N3rd Street, the annexed loft was packed to the brim for Indy Hall’s first group exhibition dubbed the “Music Inspiring Art Show“—as 22 artists collaborated to share paintings, illustrations and textiles motivated by music held personally dear, while demonstrating the increased role art is taking at Indy Hall.

But, as the Indy Hall crew is fast to say, artists do not operate within a silo at the space traditionally perceived as a headquarters for freelance technologists, independent software developers and startup companies. The very point is to better connect this artistic spirit to the existing creative business energy that has been a root of Indy Hall. How does growing a group of professional artists help your half-decade-old coworking space that was already known for its innovative members?

For February's First Friday, Indy Hall held a Music Inspiring Art event that packed its expanded space in Old City.

For February’s First Friday, Indy Hall held a Music Inspiring Art event that packed its expanded space in Old City. Photo courtesy of Eileen Daniel

“We’re building an arts community. We’re not trying to make it a separate thing. It’s not our section of the world at Indy Hall. That’s just what we bring to the table. I like to draw and that’s what I bring,” says Jackson, who joined the Hall in late 2011, and first pitched Martorana in late November on the show’s
fitting theme of one medium influencing another.


When Martorana isn’t working on his own tribal-style sketches, which he prints on anything from t-shirts to wooden lawn chairs, he’s chatting at his desk about color selection with app developers and fellow artists. Local gaming company Flyclops has commissioned him to do a version of their logo, and Parker Whitney – the designer behind the social gaming app Domino! — helps Flyclops brainstorm new game characters.

“Parker Whitney and I sit down and pass sketches all night. While I’m sketching ideas for new pieces, he is coming up with new characters that might show up in games that Flyclops is developing now,” says Martorana.

Sonia Petruse is a painter and installation artist fascinated by the possibilities of using 3D printing to enhance the tactility of her installations. She met Austin Seraphin, a programmer and 3D printer, at an Indy Hall networking event, and now she’s in the process of making wooden models for Seraphin to base a print.

Flyclops logo by Sean Martorana

Flyclops logo by Sean Martorana

Their partnership was partially inspired by a bond forged over Petruse’s piece at “Music Inspiring Art” called “Mirror Landscapes: Jacksonville/Lehighton”, a texture-rich double landscape paralleling the cultural landmarks of her hometown in the Poconos with Ryan Adams’ Jacksonville.

“Austin’s blind, and a really talented programmer. He ran his hands over the painting, and he got it. Now we’re thinking about ways he can experience more art. I’m also talking with other members at Indy Hall and NextFab.”

Petruse’s day job is in marketing for local design company PaperWeight—one of the show’s original two sponsors. Allagash was the other initial sponsor, while Flyclops and National Mechanics became impromptu sponsors of a second keg, after the first was kicked early in the evening by the First Friday

The community turnout was particularly impressive considering the show was put together in two months. In late November, Jackson brought the idea up to Martorana, who called a meeting for all interested to sit down and hash out the details over drinks. Together, in roughly two months time, they filled out a lineup of artists, developed the theme, found sponsors, and prepared the space for the event.

“We said let this be our show, not just a show that you’re in,” says Martorana.

An oil painting Hila Ratzabi

An oil painting of jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding by Hila Ratzabi

Hila Ratzabi rediscovered her love of oil painting to exhibit a portrait of jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding. She’s worked as a poet out of Indy Hall since joining in June 2012.

“One thing people at Indy Hall have in common is that we all wear many hats,” she says. “So tech people are making art, writers are editing, film-makers are teaching… and we all have a lot to share with each other.”

Ratzabi is offering a poetry workshop for all experience levels the night of Weds., Feb. 27 out of Indy Hall.

“Poetry’s something I’d not likely be exposed to and now there’s going to be a workshop that I want to check out,” Jackson says. Adding, “I get the feeling that people are discovering different sides of themselves.”

That includes Jackson, whose daily interactions with developers have piqued his curiosity to the mystery of keys and code, while stimulating new points of view on the artistic process.

“Being there has made me much less afraid of technology. To listen and watch as they redid the Indy Hall website, it made me excited about redoing my website. I’m thinking, who do I talk to about this?” Jackson said. “In art you can have ‘happy accidents,’ but you have to write a piece of code properly for a website to display your work correctly. That’s really interesting to me – establishing rules for yourself. I like seeing what rules other people come up with.”

Cary Betagole

Cary Betagole is the Product Manager at Technically Media. He studied journalism at Boston University and has previously worked at Nextdoor and SEER Interactive, in addition to experience with a few (failed) startups of his own. Originally from Cincinnati, he is interested in how financially sustainable media can help build stronger communities.

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