KDD Theatre owner and creative entrepreneur Kristen Clark’s imaginative and innovative mindset has breathed life into the new Germantown Arts District (GAD), serving as a vital link between the thriving local arts scene and the wider Philadelphia arts community.
Clark identified a need for the district, saying that while there is usually a particular interest in the neighborhood’s historical significance, that enthusiasm doesn’t translate to the creative scene. She says, “It’s not like people are saying ‘Germantown’ when it comes to the conversation of the arts and culture for the city of Philadelphia at large. So, the Germantown Arts District works to combat that — to shift that narrative.”
This idea also sparks from a persistent feeling Clark has been having about the neighborhood for several years. In the past, Clark has spoken to Germantown Info Hub about a cultural renaissance happening in the community.
Clark blends the two definitions and adds that it’s “how [Germantown neighbors] show up in love.” She says she began to witness the shift in how neighbors support each other and connect throughout the pandemic and its aftermath.
“We’ve really been able to rally around each other, support each other, and show up for one another in ways that, yes, we were forced to, but in ways that have now impacted us for the long term,” Clark says. “We’re kind of moving out of that shadow and into this new world. And it’s not like we’re going back to our old ways.”
Out of this observation, Clark defined Germantown Avenue from Berkley Street to Johnson Street the “Germantown Arts District” because of all that she’s already witnessed manifest and the possibility of more.
Clark also sees GAD as a way for neighbors to have a stake in what they wish to see in the neighborhood through membership. She says, “Your money goes into an organization as a donation… and then that money goes right back into the community to offer services, to offer opportunities for engagement, to continue working towards our mission.”
Depending on your chosen tier, the membership offers partnerships & collaborations, grant assistance, curatorial services, promotion, and more. Membership costs will also help the organization put on free events, most of which are. Membership tiers include:
- $5/month for Neighbors
- $25/month for Artists
- $100/month for District Partners
GAD already launched its premier recurring event series Fourth Fridays on April 28th. Fourth Fridays allow businesses & district partners to interact with Germantown in ways they may only sometimes be able to.
Clark says, “I know firsthand how difficult it is to be able to maintain your business and create that one-on-one vibe and relationship you want to have with your customers, with the people that make your business possible. So Fourth Fridays is your opportunity to do that.”
Fourth Fridays also celebrate the neighborhood and its arts & culture scene. “It’s an opportunity to get people out and get people talking,” Clark exclaims. “Sharing space, building connections. That’s what’s important, and that’s always what we strive for. So Fourth Fridays is our call to action around that.”
Everything that neighbors discover and are exposed to during Fourth Fridays will eventually culminate in the inaugural Germantown Arts Festival, which has been a dream of Clark’s since she was younger. Neighbors can expect the festival to be interactive and immersive. Clark says there will be dancing, photography, painting, and other engaging art forms alongside vendors and artists selling their art, music, and food.
“There is something for everyone,” the creative says. “And I’m very excited to bring this to Germantown because, as I like to say, Germantown deserves nice stuff, too.”
Before ending, Clark circles back to her original point about Germantown’s historical legacy: “We are more than just a spot for historic events. We are the history makers of today. There’s so many poets, thought leaders, artists, contemporary and otherwise, here in Germantown making history every day. And it’s about time that we come together, and we reap the benefits of that energy.”
“Let’s see if we can build the change we wish to see from the muscle with just us and change the way we interact with arts & culture as a whole,” Clark says, hoping people will try out what she calls an experiment. “This is the Germantown Renaissance. This is the Germantown Arts District. It’s what we deserve.”
To keep up with the Germantown Arts District, visit www.gadphilly.org or their Instagram page at @gadphilly. To hear the full 26-minute interview with Clark, tune into the Germantown Info Hub Hour tonight (May 18) at 5 p.m. on 92.9 FM or gtownradio.com.