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Artist Darla Jackson has big ideas to help sculptors create their works safely while using heavy-duty tools.  Her idea to create the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, where artists can use these tools, have storage space and get one-on-one help with projects, won her $20,000 in the first year of the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia.

As an artist, Darla is most notably recognized for her animal sculpture and installations that have been seen infiltrating spaces throughout Philadelphia.  She graduated with a BFA in sculpture from Moore College of Art in 2003 and currently teaches sculpture classes at both the Fleisher Art Memorial and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. We talked with Darla about her winning idea and how grassroots fundraising has made a difference.

Artist Darla Jackson with 6' high Victorian Boot commissioned by Moore College of Art & Design to celebrate 160th anniversary, photo courtesy of the artists

Knight Arts: Can you give us some updates on the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym?
My husband and I are currently deciding on the future location of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym from a group of buildings we’ve narrowed down to. Once the space is finalized, we’ll begin building out the space and outfitting it with the needed equipment. We are slated to open in early 2012.

How are you approaching your year of raising funds to match Knight’s grant? Now that you’re about five months into your efforts, what has been most successful for you so far?
We have just over half of the money raised (61% to be exact!), with about $8,000 left to go. Setting up booths at arts fairs has been the best fundraising effort to date, as it allowed us to interact with artists who are interested in using the space and others interested in donating! I also launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym. We are aiming to raise the remaining $8,000 by Oct. 19. Visit the Kickstarter page here.

What has the Knight Arts Challenge grant meant for you and your work?
Being named as one of the Knight Arts Challenge winners immediately gave the project some degree of credibility to people who heard about it. Also the press generated by the grant was a huge help with the fundraising efforts. Many people heard me talking about the project on the radio or read about it in the paper and contacted me about donating because they liked the idea. Knight Foundation also gave all grantees access to information that has been helpful and has connected us with the Miami Foundation, our fiscal sponsor, which makes all of our donations tax deductible.

Do you have any other projects coming up?
You can read more about us at www.philadelphiasculpturegym.com.  We are doing monthly art related workshops out of our studio space until we open the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym. We’re also participating in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST) this year Oct. 15 and 16.

Read more about the Sculpture Gym in Flying Kite here.

2 Responses to “Winner Profile: Darla Jackson talks Knight Arts Challenge and grass-roots fundraising”

  1. Mr. Gumsandals says:

    Congratulations! You are worthy and extremely talented. Hopefully we will see some of your work down here during Art Basel.

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