GERMANTOWN >> For Mercer and Evelyn Redcross, appreciating art is like breathing.

The first floor of the couple’s Victorian home in Germantown houses October Gallery, featuring the paintings, artifacts and reproductions from many artists who call Northwest Philadelphia home. Occasionally, they invite the community in for a meal to socialize, listen to artists share their creative journey and offer discounted art to take home.

This was the case when the Redcrosses held a free fish fry and BBQ open to the community Sunday, July 15. Dozens gathered in the October Gallery located at 6353 Greene St. Some of the artwork was posted outside on columns and doors. Those who pre-registered were able to acquire a Laurie Cooper print titled “White and Purple.”

“The thing about art is that it is nonconsumable,” Mercer Redcross told those gathered at the open house. “It’s not like a Philadelphia cheesesteak. You can keep it. It can grow in value after time. You can enjoy it for 20, 30 or more years.

“We didn’t go into this business to make money. We wanted more to have access to artwork. We started with pieces and artists who we loved. That is what we encourage you to do … to select art that you love. We feel that is the No. 1 reason to have art and support our artists,” he said.

So it was not a random decision to give those who responded ahead of time a Cooper print. Cooper is a Northwest Philadelphia artist who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Arts and her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. Her works are included in the art collections of Dr. Samuel F. Quartey, Dr. Carey Tucker and Dr. Pete Smith.

“She strives to highlight the inner and outer beauty of everything that she paints. Her paintings are known for their inherent strength of character, strong unique facial features and richness of skin color,” Mercer Redcross said.

Mercer Redcross also noted the historical significance of art. He said many visit venues like the Louvre in Paris to see the classic “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. He said though many of the October Gallery works and painters do not have the historical or international renown of a da Vinci, many of their artworks have become more valuable over time.

Among the artists who were on hand was David Lawrence. The former Germantown resident has sold art through local outlets like October Gallery. He was using the community event as a networking opportunity to share the paint parties he is organizing at his new location near 95. He said he still stays in touch with Northwest Philadelphians because they are among the city’s strongest art enthusiasts.

“A paint party is when you get the opportunity to have a canvas and a paint brush and explore your talents,” Lawrence said. “The concept is that many want to come together to explore art, create art and enjoy an afternoon doing art. It’s an interactive event.”

Lawrence said by doing so, one can learn more about what makes quality art and what types of art is worth their investment.

Lawrence said it is important for artists to delve into possibly doing mixed media in their art. This is one of the reasons he loves to teach and does workshops at venues like October Gallery or his new On the Avenue Gallery.

“Art brings joy. Once you appreciate art, it is something you can love, and it is also something that can appreciate in value making it a great investment,” he said.

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