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Credit: Tiffany Pham

I’m an aspiring poet, and I am perfectly aware the life ahead of me is not swathed in gold-encrusted toilets and luxury spa trips based on my poetry abilities alone. Poetry is canonically the profession of the starving artist. If you don’t believe me, read any Bernadette Mayer poem. Because I am an aspiring poet, I know how important local support can be for ensuring the survival of an artist. Not only does supporting a local artist enact the opportunity for impact they are trying to construct through their art, but on a logistical level, the revenue and promotion your presence and support brings can solidify the artist’s ability to continue producing. This is why I urge Penn students to support local artists and go to local art events. Not only will this benefit local artists, but local art and events are a great and enriching way to spend a few hours away from homework and studying outside of the Penn bubble. 

Artists need support in order to continue to produce. But supporting artists is a mutually beneficial experience. I like jazz music, so by going to jazz musicians’ jam sessions, I can help ensure jam sessions keep happening. Penn offers so much to its students, but supporting local artists is one way to support the Philadelphia community in a way that the institution of Penn does not.

South Street may seem like a different world to Penn students who have yet to venture past the Schuylkill River, but it’s a beautiful part of the city that’s always boasting local art. Last year, I wanted to interview the owner of Eye’s Gallery on 4th and South streets for a Spanish project, and when I actually went to the gallery, I was blown away by the tri-level bazaar offering Indian and Latin American folk art. If not for my Spanish project, I probably never would have entered the gallery. But that made me realize that my exploration of art shouldn’t be predicated on a class assignment, and neither should yours.

In a recent visit to the Tattooed Mom, I bought a witchy zine from upstairs, where the creators of the zine told me about the South Street Art Mart. I regularly listen to local musicians play at Chris’s Jazz Cafe on 14th and Sansom streets. All of these things rip my attention away from the internal drama and stress of Penn and work, focusing my attention on art and artists I appreciate.

This attitude of support should extend to our fellow Penn artists as well. Go to the plays that Penn students work so hard to produce, attend the Zine Raves at the Kelly Writers House that the zine librarians spend hours planning and preparing for, read The Daily Pennsylvanian! Art isn’t a hobby, or the stress-relieving side passion for busy Wharton students (though Wharton students might find refuge in art as well). Art is just as valuable a use of someone’s time as any other passion or study, and by supporting local art and local artists — local including even as close as Annenberg — we are reaffirming this central principle. 

I’m not saying everyone needs to drop the money to buy my book on Amazon, though I would greatly appreciate that if you have the funds. But it costs nothing to attend a cafe and listen to the musicians play from their heart. It costs nothing for me to take a sticker from the South Street Art Mart and put it on my phone, promoting their event without spending a penny. It costs nothing to consider how your presence can positively impact someone else’s passion and profession. 

SOPHIA DUROSE is a College junior from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is sdurose@sas.upenn.edu.

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