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A Pennsylvanian Renaissance: The Norristown Arts Building

By Paul Rowe

During workshops attracting people from all over the country, artists come together to work on what truly matters to them at the Norristown Arts Building. Choice environments tend to produce the best work from artists, and the Norristown Arts Building creates a charged atmosphere aimed at fostering artistic visions in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Artists who make the pilgrimage here find a welcoming home not only in the workshop program but also through residences where they can make use of the resources of the building's space and the community of artists already thriving there. Artists in-residence exchange fresh energies and experiences for the chance to immerse themselves in their vision over the span of a week to three months.

"I'm an artist and had always imagined a studio building where art could be made, shown, and taught," says founder Tim Hawkesworth. And the Norristown Arts Building, a loft space that was once a costume factory, fit the bill.

"Norristown has a dilapidated grandeur that reminded me of my years in Dublin in the 1970s before the Irish boom years. I enjoy the dynamic mix of cultures that make Norristown a vital and constantly changing place," says Hawkesworth. "The tall windows of my studio look out towards the river. When I drive across the bridge into Norristown and see all the old church spires and the beautiful old architecture, I can feel the history and the vibrancy of the Borough."

Norristown, loving referred to by Hawkesworth as "Florence on the Schuylkill," has continually attracted innovative artists thanks in part to the Norristown Arts Building. This building's magnetism is evidenced by its extensive waiting list of people seeking to join the community. Many of these artists are beginners looking to boldly dive into the art scene with little prior experience, and that takes guts.

"It's more about courage than anything else," says Hawkesworth. "The courage to take ownership of your own life and your vision of the world. These workshops are never predictable and often transformative. We work with people of all different degrees of experience, from people just starting out to very established artists."

Artists sync their personal visions up to a larger history culture through the building's extensive library of art books. It is here, more than any other place, that they can discover their brothers and sisters in art. Norristown is lucky to have such vast resources at its disposal.

With twenty private studios, a teaching facility, a non-profit gallery with a year-round exhibition program of high-caliber contemporary art, and Pagus: Africa, an outreach program targeting rural communities in Ghana, Norristown Arts Building brings a tremendous contribution to an already-thriving cultural center in Montgomery County.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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