As director of Arts in Sacred Places (a program of Partners for Sacred Places) and through her integral work with the Philadelphia theater community, Karen DiLossi has often heard designers—including her husband, lighting designer Joshua Schulman—muse about how nice it would be to get out of their solitary home offices, to have an accessible common workspace where they could meet, converse, create, and collaborate, and share the costly equipment needed for their design projects. But she didn’t just listen, she decided to do something about it.
Under the auspices of AiSP, DiLossi spearheaded an effort to offer a place where theatrical designers could “create sets, lights, sound, costumes, and textile-based props, alongside architecture, landscape, and entertainment designers.” She secured space from owner and General Contractor Cormac McAleer in the James W. Queen Memorial Building—an 1897 annex to the former Hope Presbyterian Church, which also houses artists’ studios on the upper and lower floors, and a theater on the main floor—and together they worked on the redevelopment and repurposing of the historic structure, with funding support from the Knight Foundation, The Barra Foundation, The Wyncote Foundation, CHG Charitable Trust, and the Independence Foundation.
DiLossi also placed a cold-call to Vectorworks, Inc., a global leader in industry-specific 2D/3D CAD and BIM software development, to solicit its aid. The company, based in Columbia, Maryland, immediately joined in the partnership, generously donating critical state-of-the-arts tools, training, and annual upgrade maintenance, and sponsoring a grand-opening celebration for the new facility. Vectorworks Industry Product Specialist Frank Brault affirmed that it was an easy decision for the company, because of its dedication to “giving back to the arts community” and helping designers “bring their visions to life.”
Located in the Grays Ferry neighborhood of south Philadelphia, with proximity to West Philadelphia and Center City, The Philadelphia Design Center—“a co-working space for the design community”—will offer affordable contracts on a month-to-month basis. Membership will provide full 24/7 usage of the computer lab (including a plotter and 10 MAC Pro workstations equipped with Vectorworks® Designer, Renderworks, and Spotlight functionality, and MS Office Suite), textile/costume shop (with cutting and sewing-machine tables, a washer and dryer, dressing room, and temporary storage space for works-in-progress), lounge (furnished with comfortable plush chairs and sofa), and other amenities (filing cabinets and tables donated by the Wilma Theater from the set of its 2013 production of Assistance, free WiFi, hard-wired internet, and a full-scale color copier). Members will also have the opportunity to attend at least two on-site Vectorworks training sessions per year, and, for an additional fee, to use the Center as a classroom, in which they can teach their design skills to others.
The goal of DiLossi and her colleagues is for the Philadelphia Design Center to develop with the needs of its designers/members and to become fully self-sustaining. Monthly membership fees range from $25-$150 and are based on hourly usage of the computer lab or the textile/costume shop; a discounted rate for six-month Founding Memberships is now being offered for a limited time only. For more information, call 215-567-3234, ext. 16, or email email@example.com.
[James W. Queen Memorial Building, 1313 S. 33rd St.] phillydesigncenter.org.