20 Nov Jeff Cain and Terry Fox
10/08/18 Jeff Cain and Terry Fox
Interviewed by Brett Mapp
Brett: What HS did you go to?
Terry: Girl’s High.
Jeff: I was born in Olney, but we moved to New Jersey, so I went to school in Cherry Hill.
B: What about College?
T: I went to Temple a little bit, quit but finished my degree later at NYU.
J: I went to University of Hard Knocks. Actually, lot of my education was in Old City
B: How did you get to Old City and when did you first meet.
T: We met when I was in Group Motion as a dancer. He was working with group of musicians who were working with the company on a particular work. We met through that experience, around 1970 or ‘71. Group Motion was located in Roxborough at that time.
About a year later Group Motion moved to South Street and I left the company. Jeff and I were living together and we were looking around for another space to live and also to work. Another dancer and sculptor who had been in GM was also wanting to work with us, Jean Parisi – as well as a few other musicians who wanted to do their own thing and free it up a little, as GM’s way of working was fairly rigid. We look in the classified section of the newspaper. We saw this commercial listing in Old City.
( J: We looked at bunch of places, one 8th & Sansom Sts. and some in South Philly.)
T: We wanted a large warehouse space. I was teaching dance classes and rehearsing in the Parish Hall of the Trinity Church at 22nd & Pine Sts. (J:The early incarnation of Wilma Theater started there.)
B: Why not South Street?
T: There were very few large spaces there.
B: What did you find?
T: A top floor loft at 217 Church Street.
B: What’s there now?
J: It’s 2 doors over from Old City Coffee. M & Company is on the first floor. The landlord had just bought the building. We had a couple of musicians who chipped in on the rent since we all rehearsed there. It was a “community effort”. We built a loft at one end. The big space went from 8 feet to 16 feet.
B: This was before Old City Coffee.
J: Before a lot of things.
T: Trenton Pottery had warehouses on most of Church St.
B: The population of residents was just a few hundred?
T: By mid 70’s, artists comprised about 25% of the resident population. So a few hundred including Elfreth’s Alley, and residences further north above Race and Vine Sts.
B: What did you consider the boundaries of Old City?
T: Front to 6th Street, Chestnut to Vine. Although the INHP park was included.
J: It’s funny in the printed program for WW@N it says Front to 8th Market to the (BF) Bridge. Not that it is accurate. But there were definitely stuff and artists on the other side of the Bridge.
T: And probably the Old City Civic Association had different boundaries as well. They often met at Old First Reformed Church, because the Minister there Daehler Hayes was very active
J: And Bill Kingsley, Director of Betsy Ross House, was president. He was like the mayor of Old City. He was very nice, congenial, also smart and saw a lot of things that were coming together at that time.
It was a kind of a crazy intersection of energies that started to happen in 1973.
B: Were many artists part of the OCCA?
J: It was mostly businesses involved. But artist David Deakin who worked for Locks Gallery and had a frame shop on Arch Street mentioned in his interview, because he as a painter and a businessman and got to know a lot of the community. There was also a business association.
B: What were some of the businesses that were around?
T & J: Sichel Mattress, Silberg Abrasives, Rothman Motors, Mouton Ladders, two hardware stores on Market Street, Pearl Communications, Danish design OECH, Trenton, National and other restaurant supply stores, a wholesale cigarette and candy store, furniture at 2nd Arch. There were a lot of jobbers everywhere. Lady Lynne Mills was in our building. Humphrey Flag and Banner. It was a very eclectic mix.
B: How many roommates did you have?
T: Only 3 of us lived there, Jean, Jeff and I. Others had keys to come and rehearse. Jean went back to Chicago after the first year, where she did the same thing there only she and her partner bought a building where they could live and work. They founded Pros Arts Studio, a now well-established community arts organization there.
B: What was your dance background? Did you study at Temple?
T: At that time there was no dance program at Temple. I took an elective taught by a PE Instructor who happened to be a dancer in a local company the Joan Kerr Dance Company. She commissioned Kerr to do a piece for our student dance group. I auditioned and got to perform in the work. Then I quit school and started going to Joan’s Studio. The Instructor was Kathy Pira and she took a year sabbatical to study in Berlin the last year that Mary Wigman was teaching, She met dancers there who called themselves Gruppe Motion Berlin and she was instrumental in getting them to come to Philadelphia. I asked Hellmut about it. He said it wasn’t a direct invitation but they decided to come to the States and they knew Kathy so they came to Philadelphia.
J: At the time the wall was still up in Berlin. They had walked out of East Berlin never to return.
B: Jeff you said you didn’t have a formal education. What’s your background in music?
J: I came in playing Rock music – into Philadelphia. Started playing in clubs, I played the Electric Factory the 2nd Fret at 19th & Sansom Sts. and that’s where I met other musicians through that network.
I started out as a bass player, but I met a musician from Mandrake Memorial, Craig Anderton who was designing prototype synthesizers. So we became friends and I met my music partner Charles Cohen through him and we formed a trio called Anomali. Charles knew of Group Motion through his connections at Temple so we were invited to come and play music for them. We were informal musicians for Group Motion for maybe a year or two.
T: Anomali improvised electronically which was remarkable at the time. No one was doing that.
J: And also because they were unique prototype instruments. It was right around the time when the Moog synthesizer was just being developed commercially so people were just beginning to be exposed to that music, like “Switched On Bach.”
B: So in 1973 what other studios or venues were around in Old City?
T & J: Sig Kaye founded ETAGE a storefront venue, which opened around that time. He had graduated from Temple and started his own Theater at 253 N. 3rd Street. Lots of other artists. Mark Campbell and Scott Donohue came into our building and then Diane Keller moved in with them. On Third Street there were a number of artists in dance, theater and music. There were two buildings, a complex of PAFA grads and then further along, above Race and above the Bridge on Bread Street. There were artists over on the 100 block of Church and on Cuthbert Streets. There were artists on Bank and Strawberry Streets just below Market. James Havard had a studio on Chestnut St
B: All types artists? Were the spaces big ?
T: Spaces were big, but needed to be made livable. But the city didn’t seem to hassle any one about occupancy.
B: What’s at ETAGE now?
J: There was a post art school collective in there for a while.
B: Oh – but that building it’s so small only holds about 50 people.
T: Well the Painted Bride held about that many when it was on South Street. The Bride came later to Old City. There was a beautiful finished private studio on Bread Street that was developed and occupied a by a painter/architect and a dancer. They invited people to come and perform there. Later,
when the Bride lost its lease on South Street it moved there. When that building was sold the Bride had to move again.
B: So how did audiences find you in the pre-internet, pre-cell phone day?
T: A lot of word-of-mouth. And that’s still predominately the way that people hear about things and go to things. But there were a couple of alternative presses like the Distant Drummer and the City Paper. So if you wanted to find out about cultural events that were not mainstream, not the Ballet or the Orchestra you would look in the Drummer and they were the ones that covered the counter culture including the bands.
J: There were many different kinds of personalities that were coming into the neighborhood so there were these emanating rings of connectivity and networks of people who would learn organically. There was also this interesting phenomenon of people making posters for their performances and a lot of that was very involved. There was a performance artists named JW McCullough who would do these pretty elaborate little art pieces and put them all over, not only this neighborhood but one or two would make it out to Center City and beyond. But people would take them because they were so unique. There was a lot of that kind of grassroots marketing and advertising. People would cover wheat paste and staple poles everywhere. 3rd Street Jazz was here. That was good place for postering. That was a great incredible destination for reaching audience.
TF: As example in Wear White At Night, we knew circle of artists, others had a different circle of artists and it became a kind of ripple effect. Eileen invited artist I didn’t know, etc.
B: When you moved here in 1973 who else was here? Where were your favorite watering holes?
Continental or Snow White diners ( JS & TF We were Continental folks not Snow White)
TF: We didn’t know that anyone else was here. We had to go around. So in the evening like Mark Campbell noted when business day cleared out and you saw people you wondered if they were residents.
And then in 1976 I went around purposefully when I was putting together the Jes Grew Festival asking who people knew. So, I went door to door.
JC: So, talking about watering holes. A lot of local folks ate on regular basis the Continental when it was a real diner, a traditional Greek diner not a Martini Bar. A full breakfast was a $1.19. So, you would see other artists there. The other place was Paddy’s Bar on Bread Street. A draft beer was .25¢ and people would hang there. That bar was a leftover for people getting out of work and going to the “tappy.”
TF: Khyber Pass, sometimes, and Sassafras for something special. Upstairs for the Khyber was Miss Headley’s wine bar and that would be where we would go post performance to celebrate and spend our box office.
B: When did Old City come “on the map” a place for people to come for events and to move to?
T & J: all during that time, and little by little.
T: By 1976, the feature article in Philadelphia Magazine says the scene had shifted from South Street to Old City. That’s in just 3 years. So, everything happened very rapidly, and during that period is the backdrop of the City Planning Commission saying yeah this is a new idea, a new way to develop and renovate this neighborhood. People knew stuff was happening. Like the Beckers (Larry & Heidi) they were based up on North Broad Street, but they came down here to take in the scene. They knew something was afoot.
B: Did the Bride make a change because Old City was more hip?
T: No, they lost their lease and had to move. So the logical place was to come where there was an arts community, because that’s how they had started in the beginning with other artists on South Street.
J: By that time Clay Studio had been here for a while. So by 1976 there was ETAGE, Clay Studio and a number of small galleries.
B: What was the rest of City’s reaction to Old City? Did people from other sections like West Philly, Center City come here?
J: People came from all over.
T: There were artists who didn’t live here who participated.
J: or had friends here and would hang out.
B: What are some of the big events that stick out besides the OCA collaborative performances like
Wear White at Nite and No Man’s Land?
T: I tried to see a lot of Bricolage’s productions because they were so really interesting with a strong visual arts esthetic and an intellectual and social tenor to their theater. It was really well crafted and well done. They were presented here but also elsewhere around the city, as we were, too. We were part of programs at ICA and PMA, etc, There was press coverage in the major dailies like the Inquirer and the Evening Bulletin.
I would think of – Wendy Hammartrom’s Sunrise Sunset Orb a large outdoor event, and we did an artist’s Parade – A Walk in Public.
J: There were at least 50 artists who participated in the Parade and the Councilman, Jim Tayoun got us a camel for the parade. The Fairmount Park Guards lent a horse, as one of our artists was an equestrienne and she rode the horse as the marshal.
B: What else was happening culturally citywide? Walnut St Theater?
J: Yes, Studio 5, I think had just started there
T: Temple University had a Temple Center City theater. Sig Kaye was working there.
B: before Arden, Lantern and Interact theaters ?
T: Yes. There was a theater group on South 4th Street
J: Wilma’s early days were on Arch Street in Chinatown, and they performed in old City
B: What about Dance?
T: Well, Philadanco started around 1969. They were just getting underway, and the PA Ballet was just getting underway, too. As was Arthur Hall who was a modern dancer who decided to explore traditional African dances and he was one of the first to bring those dances to the stage here. All around late 60’s into the 70’s there were dancers and groups working in various techniques, like Graham technique, who performed. South Street Dance Company, started by Ellen Forman who studied Limon Technique, got a fair amount of coverage. Joan Kerr was a Horton dancer and she started a company when she came back from the West Coast. Juba Contemporary Dance Theater was an African American dance group. Maureen Wiley had a group Great Chazy (She was PDA Director at that time). All of those groups were very mainstream style-wise, modern dance based. There was a collective of independent artists called Seminole Hall, which had Temple grads who formed the base of that collective mostly Contact Improvisers around John Gamble who was Dance Dept. chair at Temple at that time. Jano Cohen was part of that, and she was also in WW@N. Former Limon dancer Susan Hess, a little later, developed a studio on Sansom Street to teach, and to provide creative residencies for local dancers.
J: and of course, Group Motion.
B: What kind of artists support was available?
T: Well, none for independent artists but for incorporated organizations there was some support.
The PA Arts Council, the NEA, other foundations like the Philadelphia Foundation and the Fels Fund and local banks and businesses. You could get a grant, but the grants were small. Some companies and artists had CETA support for a few years in the mid-70’s. Fabric workshop was just started by Kippy Stroudt who had a resource of wealthy individual donors, that many did not. Especially maverick organizations like The Bride
J: Keep in mind the economy was very different at that time. A $200 grant was still good.
Inflation was high. Ticket prices were very low. The economy was depressed with gas rationing, etc.
The 70’s were tough for artists, which in a way was not a big deal for artists ‘cause they didn’t have anything anyway.
T: Pew wasn’t giving out fellowships or other large grants at the point.
B: How did the Bicentennial effect OCA?
T: Not much effect. It happened in our neighborhood the City set up outdoor stages (J: those big kite like tents) and by default because of City low funding, local artists got invited to perform.
B: What of tourists ? Was there a difference before or after the Bicentennial? Did they stay to see the arts?
J: There was always a modest a stream of tourists; Bus tours that went to Christ Church, Betsy Ross House, Elfreth’s Alley, Franklin’s grave and the Mint. It was slow steady growth through the years.
T: The busses idling was a big issue for neighbors and artists. It was always on the OCCA agenda at meetings. Tourists didn’t come t see art here.
B: Was there a formal association of the artists. Why did you form OCA ?
T: All the artists, of different media, mixed together – that was the exciting thing. We were encouraged by Daehler Hayes pastor to Old Reformed Church to organize around Jes Grew in 1976. The Church was our fiscal sponsor.
J: He was very community oriented. OCA had a very informal structure. (T: We were all co- founders, co- directors. It was not curated; we’d just ask people. We’d all take turns…)
It was pretty organic. It just happened there wasn’t any preconceived intention or road map to any of this. One thing we’ve been learning through this process, in addition to OCA and the artists who participated and all the internal controversy around creating an infrastructure of organization, was that there were other artists who didn’t participate but who lived an worked on Old City, too. They were around and we knew them, but they weren’t joiners, say.
B: Did things change in the Reagan era?
T: I don’t know. Maybe Rizzo was more of an influence. Ishmael (Houston-Jones) talks about his repression of Blacks, Gays and Hippies – but in Old City in terms of politics, artists could be whoever they wanted to be. It was much more liberal and wide open.
J: Maybe because Old City was so isolated and not part of some other more staid neighborhoods, more formal parts of the city. It was a neighborhood that was lost.
B: What were the demographics, so many were fleeing to the suburbs.
T: After the 50’s Society Hill and Center city were being repopulated.
J: The INHP Mall was built in the 50’s
T: The NE corner of 4th & Market was an empty lot.
J: The mall was fountains and walkways. Tarello’s original feasibility study for Old City was already in process in 1974 and architects and developers like Silver & Harting were already renovating. They were developing the Sugar Refinery by 1976. One of the things as counter point to artists being here, all this creativity, is the realization that this neighborhood has a viability we weren’t able to capture before. Because in that Study the City essentially crafted a lot of recommendations that would really be beneficial to developers who came in and converted these spaces commercially. It was cool, Soho-like. There were tax abatements and other incentives to entice them, because most building were fairly small, by development standards.
B: When did the “condo-nation” start?
J/T: We were gone. That’s on you, dude.
B: No, let’s talk about it. Why did you leave?
T: For me it was very hard economically. I was an artist curator at the Bride and I had this experience organizing these arts events, so I thought I would pursue a degree in Arts Admin. Courses were offered at NYU and I could enter the Gallatin school of individual study, beginning in 1981. I graduated 1983 and got a job in New York in 1984.
J: We lost the studio in 1981. I stayed in the neighborhood through 1986. Living with friends first on Cuthbert St and then on Cherry Street. Then I moved to New York.
B: How old were you in 1976.
T: 30 J: 25
B: How did you get back here?
T: For me it was personal. I got married and had a baby and when we would come back to the area it felt good to be around my husband’s family, because I had lost brother and mother who were my closest family at the time. We figured we had contacts in the area for work. I returned to the Bride, and while I was there I started working for Philadelphia Dance Projects.
J: I went to NYC and was there for a little over 6 years. Same thing I got married had a baby and was trying to figure out about raising kids in Manhattan. It seemed very abstract. I know a lot of people do it. But it made more sense to come back and be close to the grandmothers, and then be close to a more economically manageable city. The idea of trying to buy a condo in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn seemed astronomical.
T: Some artists had resources, could invest in buildings in Northern Liberties. Jeff and I don’t come from that kind of background. We never had those resources. Certainly not a legacy of financial wealth.
We have stayed friends. Our families have shared summer vacations together over the years. We have shared some artistic ideas. In 2010 I got this idea to do the Local Dance History Project to connect all these experiences to a new generation – who still face the same challenges – and to have the work of this independent dance artists’ history to become part of the Special Collections at Temple University Library. Later Jeff said what about performance art and that became the provenance of this Project.
B: Why is it important to know about these artists and OCA?
T: Not just about OCA. Why is it important to remember artists at all? That’s a question back to you. Someone who is total art maven and loves to go to the theater.
B: It just the history you want to know. What built this space? (place?)
T: What are cities made of? particularly cities… they are the centers of ideas and culture… not just the philanthropists, manufacturers and politicians and the architects who make the buildings, but….
B: We still see Greek tragedies.
TF: Exactly That’s a very good point you make… That’s why artists are part of the fabric of the city.
This group in OCA compared to the community in NY that Melissa researched is different. Those “Downtown” artists gained traction and credibility by whatever mechanisms were in place to make a reputation. They then were sanctioned as important.
So, what happens to a group that doesn’t have that kind of sanction to them? Is their work then discounted as not important for remembering? They were still integral to this neighborhood in terms of its development, but also in terms of the work itself. And that’s what we found in 2010 that engagement with a current generation gave us validation, that we were doing work that was good and of value and still relevant Melissa asked us how to measure standards, because so many of the interviewees for this project said the work was so great and amazing. How do we qualify that if no one became famous or sold a big painting or wasn’t in a big museum? Does that diminish the work or its contribution?
B: You mentioned that earlier you didn’t have resources to buy a building. Were most artists from a blue-collar background?
T: Maybe so. We found out in our research that many were first generation to get a higher education.
It was mostly white demographic, but there were some people of color who were artists here. Also, esthetics were different in Old City then elsewhere, and a there weren’t diverse populations working in newer esthetics then.
B: What of LGBQ? Why didn’t Old City become the Gayborhood?
T: Maybe more bars?
J: Well, the Black Banana was here, and Sneakers was here. At the same time, it wasn’t organized in that way. Many weren’t comfortable with coming out or being public about it. Ishmael in his interview talks about how you could be yourself in the Old City community, where it didn’t matter. When they did Two Men Dancing at Penn, the banner was up for a gay festival. There was this disconnect in a certain way because what was happening in Old City was just more about the people and the community.
B: When you returned back to the area, what struck you as most dramatic changes?
J: First Friday. It seemed to have become more retail driven. It was a big transition that from artist owned galleries of the beginning.
T: Volume of condos. All the old businesses left, and Market Street so changed. The volume of people and traffic in the small streets. The quality of the small streets really feels different.
J: I’ve been thinking a lot about what we’ve been the talking about the earlier, about the neighborhood and its attraction. There was something about the scale of this place, that is more unique than all the other places in Philadelphia – between the bridges, back alleys, cobblestones, kinds of buildings that make up this neighborhood – there is something about the place that I think held some kind of sway over artists and their attraction – and audiences, too. That was part of doing site specific performances in the neighborhood and things that reflected part of the neighborhood experience. It felt different at the time from other neighborhoods. And it still has a compelling atmosphere.
B: One of the things that people love about OC is the building height restrictions.
If you could wave a magic wand what would you bring back from years ago?
J: Maybe go back to time when it wasn’t so dense with people. Overwhelming in terms of intensity. I still walk down Market Street and am startled to see people lined up for cheesesteaks.
T: Yes, this past Saturday, we went to the Continental near midnight, and Market and 2nd Streets were bumping, crowded with people. I had no idea.
To wave the magic wand? I would still have the Bride open whether it’s the Bride there, or another arts organization. Keep arts as signature in this district. More public spaces inside and out for outlier artists.
B: If you went to a classroom at UArts, say what would you say, “this the one thing you should know about these artists and this time period?”
T: Don’t be daunted. Aspiring artists still have to make art… try…
B: Could OCA exist today?
T: The city, individual donor and foundation giving needs to be much more robust. Networks still seem to be closed systems here. What does the festival mentality say about the steady “seasonal” art going?
B: Is there too much art?
T: Well, there are no dance presenters here in my field. So, few are able to get their work out.