Explore Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Art Scene on a Smaller Scale

Art appreciators will enjoy a leisurely stroll through of one of Philly's most charming neighborhoods

Philadelphia's major museums house world-famous masterpieces, but art appreciators will find a leisurely stroll through of one of Philadelphia's most charming neighborhoods just as alluring. In Old City, more than 50 independent galleries and showrooms spotlight artists that are up-and-coming, contemporary and in many cases local to Philly. Follow the suggested itinerary below to sample some of the best. Along the route, you'll find tons of options for food, drinks, shopping and more. Take your time, take it all in and perhaps take home your new favorite work of art.

Gallery 51
Gallery 51 includes fine textiles and antique tribal carpets. (©Gallery51.com)

Start on the corner of N. Second and Market streets and head north to 3rd Street Gallery (45 N. Second St., Philadelphia, 215.625.0993). This artist-run cooperative has been around since 1972 and urges its members to take risks and experiment with their art. Members are also tasked with engaging the public and supporting visual arts in the Philadelphia region. Next, go to Gallery 51 (51 N. Second St., Philadelphia, 215.413.3191). The inventory here includes on an array of fine textiles, including antique tribal carpets, oriental rugs, pre-Columbian weavings and other functional yet collectible art. Across the street, Muse Gallery (52 N. Second St., Philadelphia, 215.627.5310) is another artists' cooperative with more than 20 contributing members. These creative talents work with materials ranging from glass and ceramics to photography and oil paints, so you never know what you might find when you walk through the door.

Cross Arch Street and walk to The Clay Studio (139 N. Second St., Philadelphia, 215.925.3453), where ceramics is the medium of choice. This non-profit organization offers classes and community outreach, as well as a managing a gallery with a rotating roster of unique exhibitions. A few doors down, Pentimenti Gallery (145 N. Second St., Philadelphia, 215.625.9990) features a mix of works by both established and new talent who create abstract pieces, often from unconventional materials. The industrial space encompasses two separate galleries that often change their exhibits, keeping the aesthetic fresh even for repeat visitors.

At the corner of Third and Race streets, the team at the Wexler Gallery (201 N. Third St., Philadelphia, 215.923.7030) runs the space with the goal of challenging traditional labels in the art community. The 6,000-square-foot space is home to a wide array of works in media ranging from glass to furniture to jewelry.

a piece at the center for art in wood in philadelphia
Malcolm Martin & Gaynor Dowling, Bend II, 2013 (Courtesy the artists)

Turn south, and when you see the façade of tools on the wall you'll know that you've arrived at The Center for Art in Wood (141 N. Third Street, Philadelphia, 215.923.8000). The permanent collection here includes more than 1,000 wooden objects from all around the world, including functional tools and decorative sculptures. Snyderman-Works Gallery (303 Cherry St., Philadelphia, 215.238.9576) has deep roots in the Philadelphia art scene. The organization is the union of two formerly separate entities: The Works Gallery, which focused on contemporary crafts, ceramics and jewelry; and Snyderman Gallery, dedicated to furniture and glass sculpture. Today, the expansive studio also exhibits paintings, prints and photography.

End your journey at Indy Hall (22 N. Third St., Philadelphia, 844.687.4639). Primarily a co-working space, Indy Hall attracts creative types who pay to rent workspace there. Artists within the community adorn the bi-level space with wall art and three-dimensional installations, and often the creators are on hand and happy to discuss their work with visitors. The group hosts roughly six shows each year, encouraging young people to curate their collections for personal enjoyment rather than for investment purposes. In this spirit, pieces are often available for as little as $5 (or as much as $4,500).