A platform to see and hear local artists

Local artists now have a platform to be both seen and heard, thanks to a popular program created by Craig Stover.

With more than 70 episodes under his belt, Stover has upped his efforts to continue ArtShow on a weekly basis. Fridays at 5 p.m. on Stover’s YouTube channel is the perfect place to learn about local artists and their most recent creations.

“I love talking to artists,” Stover said. “Being an artist myself, we always have really interesting conversations. And I think people need to hear about the artists who live in their own neighborhoods.”

Stover started the project during the pandemic when he was the executive director for Allen’s Lane Art Center in Mount Airy. No visitors were allowed, so he improvised.

“When the pandemic hit, I had to shut the gallery down,” Stover said. “To keep the constituents and to keep the artists engaged, I started interviewing them over Zoom as fundraisers.”

After he stepped down from his position, Stover decided to continue the idea as a way to give local artists exposure. As the city is loaded with talented artists, Stover realized there just wasn’t enough gallery room to accommodate all of Philly’s artistic talent. He has uncovered some gems that create art simply for the love of creating art.

“Because the gallery business in Philadelphia is rather anemic, the majority of the artists I come across aren’t making artwork because they are making a living,” he said. “They aren’t selling it hand over fist. They are making artwork because they have vision and drive that is being pushed by themselves. That’s what’s so fascinating. The artwork isn’t being churned out for money. It’s actually doing higher quality of work.”

Although Stover is based in the city’s Fairmount section, Stover still has some ties to South Philly including relationships with a strong lineup of artists. Some were formed during an exhibition he showed several years ago at the Da Vinci Art Alliance at 704 Catharine St. in South Philly’s Bella Vista neighborhood. 

South Philly artist Kathryn Pennepacker is one of them and the two combined for an earlier episode that can be found on Stover’s channel https://www.youtube.com/@ArtshowwithCraigStover

“We have been longtime friends,” Stover said. “She was connected with Da Vinci as well. She’s a real spokesperson for South Philly Arts.”

Another is Stover’s most recent episode as he chatted with Gerri Spilka, who is also from South Philly and specializes in textiles. For Stover, it isn’t always about talking about the most recent ventures of each artist. It’s more of a historical glimpse of the artist’s work as a whole.

“I always tell the artists that this isn’t about their upcoming show, this is more like a time capsule of these artists working today and how they got involved in the arts,” Stover said. “It’s so fascinating.”

Stover takes that approach based on a past experience when he had trouble finding information on a past artist. 

“Years ago I was looking for something on an artist from the 1950s and I found like five minutes of them making some sort of a print and I thought, this is gold, because there is nothing else on them,” Stover said. “Then, I realized if I record artists who are working today, we can make the gold for tomorrow.”

Each show runs about 30 minutes and the Zoom aspect plays nicely in showcasing each artist’s work. With multiple screens, about half the show highlights the artist’s work with visuals and discussion. The remaining portion of the show is a chat between two artists, and Stover’s welcoming tone makes for an easy watch or listen.

He’s previously had guests such as John Dowell, Rebecca Rutstein and Mitch Gillette, and there is no shortage of talented guests on the horizon.

“I’ve lived in Philly for more than 30 years and I know a lot of artists,” Stover said. “New artists who are on the program now come from recommendations from artists who I have already interviewed. Great artists tend to know other great artists.”