Art Live: Collective at the Casino

Several years ago a gamble paid off when the “Art 504 Creative Collective” partnered with Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester and began hanging art there. Open to members and non-members alike, their latest exhibition went up last week and is ready for viewing. Located on the second floor of the casino in a prominent hallway, it brings together an eclectic collection of works that patrons can’t help but notice. And, if the artists are lucky, passersby will make a purchase or two.

Art 504 at Harrahs

The collective, formerly known as Art on Avenue of the States, currently boasts 18 artists including President Linda Braceland, Jessica Barber, Jim Bracken, Courtland Craig, Helen Litwa, Bonnie Neubauer, Lois Schlachter, and more. Braceland said, “We have some interesting people in our shows and we’ve always been known for a variety of style. It’s fun because you never know what you’ll see on the next wall. Alphonse Lane is a Philadelphia based artist who has shown off and on with us for years. Courtland is on our board. He was never trained and he’s been in the art world forever. Jim Bracken, Jessica Barber and Helen Litwa are on our board and have been with me since the beginning over 10 years ago. Litwa’s been doing some amazing stuff with alcohol ink. She is 85 years old and is also self-trained.”

Petite Perfect Pear by Alphonse Lane

Work stays on display for up to six months and if a piece is sold, the artist has the opportunity to replace it with a work of similar size. It’s a good deal but not without rules. No nudes are allowed, and Harrah’s has final say in the selection of work to be hung. This has not deterred folks from submitting their art for consideration. The group has been mounting exhibitions there for almost a decade now.  Braceland said “We used to be downstairs here at Harrah’s. We didn’t have as many people stopping by. Up here there’s activity. We’re on the racetrack level, there are gamblers here and a casino members club is on this level too. It’s a better space for our receptions. Harrah’s did a renovation for us two years ago, installing 5000 kelvin lights for the art and providing an expanded hanging system. We thought it was a good win-win. Harrah’s takes nothing, they give us the space and it looks like a gallery here.”

Braceland’s photography work in the show includes the sweet piece “Red Delicious – Not!” taken at  Fletcher Street Stables in North Philly, which happens to be where the new Netflix show, Concrete Cowboy was filmed, and a beautiful piece titled “Cherry Blossoms at Fairmont Park”.

Red Delicious - Not! by Linda Braceland

Braceland began focusing on her photography in 2006. Before getting into the business of art, her career in business led her to real estate in Chester where she purchased numerous downtown properties. Eventually she began exhibiting art in one of her vacant retail units with no formal background running a gallery. “Our juror for this new show at Harrah’s was Valetta. It was she who helped me in the beginning because I had never run a show before, so I learned so much from her.” That unit at 504 Avenue of the States led to “Art on the Avenue”, the first art gallery to open during a large scale project which dubbed the 500 Block of Avenue of the States as an arts focal point for Chester. After an eight year run, it closed in 2019. When asked why, Braceland said, “We closed the gallery in Chester because I was getting ready to sell the properties.  It wasn’t really making money. I had given the gallery a super deal on rent, so I couldn’t sell with no income in that space.” Not wanting to close up shop completely, the group changed its name to “Art 504” and set up a website. “We didn’t sell memberships before but we do now and the fee helps us pay for our website. Every member gets their work on the site with a bio and link.” They kept their relationship with Harrah’s for juried group shows. Other member shows are in the works at alternative spaces like Normandy Farms in Blue Bell, Bryn Mawr Trust and Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center in West Chester.

Wisteria w-Flowers by Helen Litwa

Braceland again, “Every venue gives our artists a new audience. The Bryn Mawr Trust show opens on the 28th of April. Normandy Farms on May 6th, we have a relationship with them now, and they love it. We continue to look for new opportunities as the world opens back up for business. We’re now moving into Delaware. A board member connected with a space there, so we’re going to get details worked out for a show towards the end of summer. It’s been a very hard year but we’re starting to pull it together again.”

The Harrah’s reception will be held, with Covid-19 restrictions in place, on Friday, April 30th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information about “Art 504 Creative Collective”, visit here.

Whatever you do this week, support the arts!!






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.



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