September 29, 2021
The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, one of the city's top resources for photography enthusiasts and artist exhibitions, is taking on a new identity as the TILT Institute for the Contemporary Image.
After 12 years in South Kensington, Founder and Executive Director Sarah Stolfa said the rebrand is about adapting the nonprofit's mission for the future after modifying its programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We first started in 2009, and even our planning before that, our brand was modeled on similar photo arts centers in other cities," Stolfa said.
At the time, the organization was filling a void in the city by opening a digital lab space for photographers of all experience levels, in addition to providing courses and holding artist events to spotlight their galleries. These spaces largely only existed in universities, and there were more dark rooms available in Philadelphia for analog photographers to access.
In recent years, as the art of digital photography has grown to encompass various creative uses of images, the organization wanted to pivot to a brand that better represents contemporary interests and appeals to people beyond Philadelphia.
"The organization is recognized as a leader in the field, but the name was not representative of how forward-thinking we are," Stolfa said. "The idea to rebrand had been a thought for years, and it was solidified when we had to quickly pivot at the start of the pandemic and move our programs, educational offerings, and exhibitions to a virtual space. We were able to reach a broader and more diverse audience and erase boundaries that held us back in the past."
Since 2009, more than 125,000 people have participated in TILT programming. The biggest change seen during the pandemic was that the shift to virtual trainings and guest presentations attracted people from across the United States and 41 other countries.
Moving forward, TILT will offer hybrid programming and will officially reopen its gallery space to the public Friday with an exhibition called "Object Lesson" from renowned photographer and printmaker Richard Benson. A second exhibition, "Rolls & Tubes," will run concurrently in an adjacent project space and will display the work of four California women photographers whose images offer a critique of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Moving forward, Stolfa explained that TILT is committed to making its resources and programming more accessible both in-person and virtually.
A new sliding scale membership will offer shorter terms and staggered course start times. The digital co-working space at TILT also will become available to members 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by appointment only.
The organization will continue its long-running Artist Residency Program, Teen Photo Program, Contemporary Photography Competition + Exhibition and monthly lecture and workshop series, dubbed "Oh Snap!"
Stolfa said she's excited to enter TILT's new phase and continue partnering with artists worldwide to capture the best of a hybrid model, one that serves Philadelphia residents and people around the world who are passionate about contemporary photography.
"When we made this change, it was really about asking, 'What is the future of photography?" Stolfa said.