Philadelphia Scenic Works (PSW) is a fully outfitted theatrical scene shop, paint space and props shop that provides high-quality, affordable scenic and props fabrication, storage, and build space. PSW serves the Philadelphia region’s robust community of non-profit theatre companies and other cultural and educational organizations by maintaining the highest artistic standards, while embracing a more sustainable future through shared pools of recycled, reused, and repurposed stock and resources.
Philadelphia Scenic Works (PSW) endeavors to establish a robust, equitable, sustainable, reliable, and affordable scenic fabrication economy for the arts organizations within our region. Equipped with a fully functional workshop and a skilled staff ready to execute projects for arts organizations as required, PSW offers the advantages of having one's own scene shop without the year-round costs.
Without PSW, arts organizations face significant challenges in fulfilling their scenic requirements. Commercial shops are prohibitively expensive, especially for smaller organizations, and maintaining an in-house scene shop, akin to larger companies, is also financially burdensome for most entities. Historically, companies resorted to hiring freelance artists to address their scenic needs. However, the freelance economy has long been known for its instability. Even before the pandemic, freelance technicians typically remained in the industry for only a few years. Consequently, arts organizations were compelled to seek new talent every few years, leading to inconsistent quality and a lack of continuity in understanding their unique spaces and practices.
The pandemic exacerbated this issue, causing many freelancers to transition to other industries or more stable employment opportunities. The current economic climate is not particularly inviting for new freelancers. Therefore, PSW is investing in the workforce by upholding fair labor standards, providing competitive wages, and implementing workforce development programs. PSW's is not only expanding the pool of potential employees but also to enhancing the overall proficiency and appreciation of the scenic arts.
Furthermore, PSW is fostering a more diverse talent pool, which in a city that is very racially and economically diverse, has been historically middle class and white. Until now, access to scenic arts careers has primarily been limited to those who can afford a four-year degree and endure minimal wages while working their way up the industry hierarchy. By streamlining the path for employees, we can bypass these obstacles, and thus open doors to a broader spectrum of candidates. The result is a more robust and diverse workforce for the greater arts economy.
Additionally, by maintaining a fully functional workshop and storage space, PSW reduces material waste by storing, reusing, and repurposing scenery. PSW also harnesses the efficiencies of scale, for example, by purchasing lumber in bulk. Finally, PSW serves as a connector amongst organizations, encouraging a facilitating a robust sharing economy.
When one of the region’s only affordable local commercial scene shops, Campbell Studios, ceased operations in 2016, a handful of its clients (InterAct Theatre Company, Theatre Horizon, and Act II Playhouse) came together to see how they could keep the shop open as a non-profit, community-driven organization. Having raised funds to purchase all of Campbell Studios’ equipment, PSW moved into a much bigger (10,000- square- foot) shop space at 2855 Emerald Street in Kensington in the summer of 2017. Since then, PSW has supported dozens of organizations across the region by providing scenic fabrication, shop space, and scenery rentals. These organizations include The Kimmel Center, FringeArts, Philadelphia Horticultural Center, Resident Theatre Company, Delaware Theatre Company, Theatre Horizon, InterAct Theatre Company, Two River Theatre Company, The Wilma, BalletX, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, and
Philadelphia Theatre Company.
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