Art Live: COM, CAP and more

If you haven’t been to Phoenixville lately you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you visit. A new mix of young professionals and empty nesters live there and they’re infusing the borough with a fresh energy. The vibe on the street is cool, and so is the art at Community Arts Phoenixville (CAP).

A captivating show on view there right now titled, “Rust to Rise”. It is the second annual juried exhibition on view for the two year old CAP. I visited with the director, Kristen Pell to talk about the show and about CAP in general. This year’s juror was local artist and gallerist, Teresa Haag. The call asked artists to think about rebirth, gentrification, cycles, and community. Artists rose to the task and Haag selected a great mix including paintings, drawings, bas-reliefs and mixed media.

"Breathe" by Trisha Mae at CAP

First prize went to Trisha Mae for her self-portrait titled “Breathe”. The 36” x 65” piece, of charcoal on paper, is a touching portrait inspired by, in Maes’ words, “a brief pause between two climatic moments.” It deftly captures a young woman lost in contemplation. It made me wonder what she’d gone through. Interestingly Haag awarded both second and third runner up prizes to works made of found objects.

Shoniece Mercado’s touching piece of fabric and wood, “In Living Memory” and Bob Hakun’s “Slave to Time”, a piece that also caught my eye a few months ago at the Montgomery County Studio Tour. I came into the venue thinking this was an art center like any other I’d been to but came out with a different perspective. CAP is under the umbrella of Camphill Soltane. Its focus is to build community for all people regardless of background or ability. Hence, adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities, are welcome to participate in any of the classes or events and teachers are trained to work with folks who have special needs. CAP features experimental music, poetry and improvisation as well. The exhibition is on view until October 26th. Visit for more details. Visit for more information on Camphill Soltane.

"Slave to Time" by Bob Haakun

I spoke with artist and arts administrator Dolores Kirshner recently. Topics included her own art making and the arts at Clay on Main (COM), the center she manages in Oley. Kirshner, originally from Philadelphia, has had a 40 year career and isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Kirshner works with natural objects that she says “are left behind”. They could be insect casings, empty worm shells or discarded seed pods. She wants to make use of objects that have served their original purpose yet still retain their beauty. “I like using my traditional training and pushing my work to the edge of what people think of when they think of pottery”.  Her primary medium of clay is fitting; it’s one of oldest mediums available to artists given it is of the earth. Her artistic process is thoughtful. She’ll observe something for a long time before she begins making it. First, sketches are made on graph paper, chosen because the grid honors a symmetry found in life forms. She’ll then close her sketch book, look away and make something from her heart. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but she isn’t concerned about mistakes. Her organic vessels are regal and command your attention.

COM was founded in 2005 when eight artists rented a former bakery within a 19th century farmhouse. In 2010, they became permanently funded through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Today, programming is developed as a result of direct requests received from the community. It’s a nurturing, grassroots model that works well. COM welcomes people of all skill levels. Music, poetry readings, unique workshops, art markets and gallery exhibitions are held year round. I asked Kirshner how she manages to keep everything afloat. “I keep on working, I depend on my abilities, and on my chutzpah. My mantra is, Be kind! Take a chance!” The center is about seventy five minutes from Chadds Ford and is a lovely scenic drive if you take the back roads. For all the details visit

The inaugural DELCO Arts Week launches on September 21st and runs until September 28th. Two events to check out: Images of Delaware County Art Exhibit at Oakmont Roots Café in Havertown, begins Sunday Sept. 22nd and Philadelphia Water Color Society Exhibit at Community Arts Center in Wallingford, begins Monday, Sept. 23rd. For all the details, visit  Look for more on this next week.

Whatever you do this week, support the arts!




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About Constance McBride

A native of Philadelphia, Constance McBride lived in Arizona for 16 years, where desert observations made a transformative impact on her work as a research based visual artist. Passionate about contemporary art, she was actively engaged in the local arts community. She served as a board member for several art organizations, managed an artist collective/gallery space, curated and juried several exhibitions and wrote for two arts publications in Phoenix. She taught ceramics at Shemer Art Center and Museum and exhibited her work both locally and nationally. McBride returned to Pennsylvania in 2018 and resides in Chester Springs with her husband and two dogs. In West Chester, she serves as a board member at The Art Trust Gallery at Meridian Bank and teaches ceramics at Chester County Art Association. She also teaches at Clay on Main in Oley, PA. She is a member of American Craft Council, Philadelphia Sculptors, and Women’s Caucus for Art, Philadelphia Chapter.



2 Responses to “Art Live: COM, CAP and more”

  1. brandywinebard says:

    Thanks for the blog Constance. I LOVE what’s happening in Phoenixville.
    I taught there through the 1970’s. Big employers like the Valley Forge Army Hospital on Charlestown Road and Phoenix Steel were closing during the decade.
    The town wasdying except for the Blob Fest at the movie theater. Ha ha!
    And Phoenixville has some great restaurants too.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Constance McBride says:

    Thanks for the note Sally, I am enjoying your column too!

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