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Proprietors Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston of Paradigm Gallery are facing the opportunity of the decade, and it’s been a whirlwind.
The business partners have been presented with the chance to buy their space at the corner of 4th and Fitzwater, where the studio has spent the last six of its 10 years in the Queen Village neighborhood.
“We do understand why they’re selling,” McCorriston said about the current property owners, Sunset Group, LLC. “It’s a seller’s market right now. But we want to be able to guarantee that we stay, and in our eyes the only way to answer that unknown is for us to be able to purchase the building.”
To do that, they need to raise money. The pair came up with what McCorriston called a steep fundraising goal, at between $50k to $100k, so they could offer a solid down payment on the building.
In an optimistic Instagram post Sunday, they called on gallery friends and followers to do what they do best: Buy art!
“It’s simple,” the duo wrote, “if you’ve had your eye on artwork, now is the best time there has ever been to buy it!” They also shared a link to their Venmo account for supporters who’d rather just send cash.
Support has been pouring in, McCorriston said, with everything happening “very quickly.”
“We’re so grateful to have created this community, this family around us,” she said. “It’s making what feels like a stressful situation… feel possible.”
Several other potential buyers are seeking to acquire the three-story property at 746 S. 4th St., according to McCorriston, so they’re essentially joining a tight bidding war. If someone else wins, there are no guarantees the gallery will still be allowed to operate there.
Over the past 10 years, Paradigm has become a pillar in the Philly art community, with a mandate to keep arts accessible, promote early and mid-level careers, and support small businesses. McCorriston said the gallery works hard to emphasize local creators, taking them to national and international shows.
“There are so many talented artists in Philadelphia — and the vast majority of our artists are Philadelphia artists,” she said.
Sean Lugo, whose solo show “Immigrant Mentality” opened July 23, described a gallery that lives up to his mission.
“Their reputation is amazing,” Lugo said. “What they’ve been able to do in 11 years in the gallery, how they were able to hold on during this pandemic — even during rough times they were still able to support local artists.”
McCorriston said the gallery has had a good relationship with its landlord, and that the property owners “seem to understand and appreciate small business.”
Not much information about Sunset Group is publicly available online. It appears to have at one point owned a few properties in the neighborhood. It bought the 1,200-sq.-ft. gallery building in 2003 for around $325k, according to city records. City assessments value the property at more than $760k today.
Artist Lugo said he’s had a relationship with the gallery for about six years, and worked on one of its street art projects, an ongoing collaboration with Philly’s HAHA Magazine. He called the current exhibit his “first major.”
“I’m really honored,” he said. “Paradigm keeps it very homegrown. They support local and that’s not something a lot of people do. I’ve been doing this for 16 years, and to show with Paradigm, it meant the world to me.”
McCorriston has been “positively overwhelmed” by the love and support Paradigm has received. She urged supporters to share the campaign even if they can’t donate.
The gallery owners are considering options in case they don’t win their bidding battle. “I am making plans that I hope I never have to look at,” McCorriston said of a potential plan B.
McCorriston said Paradigm is working with financial advisors to establish a firm offer, and hopes to raise as much as $100k by this Friday, July 30. More information is available on Instagram.