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Artist creates miniature version of a pre-gentrified Fishtown

Written by
Karen Chernick

When Drew Leshko first moved to Fishtown 10 years ago, the entrance to the Penn Treaty Food Market at the distinctive asymmetrical intersection of East Girard and Frankford Avenue was at the corner. The entrance soon moved to the rear and, for a reason he’s never quite gotten, the market’s graphic, red sign moved with it. “I never understood it; it must have been expensive to move the sign,” Leshko says.

The faded ghost of the original corner signage and its rusted drill holes are just a few of the meticulously crafted details that appear on Leshko’s sculptured version of the Penn Treaty Food Market, in a newly opened exhibition at Paradigm Gallery + Studio called “Sacred Lands.” On view until May 19, the show brings together the artist’s 1:12 dollhouse scale replicas of Fishtown’s overlooked and, often, neglected buildings.

Drew Leshko creates miniature versions of pre-gentrified Fishtown buildings in Sacred Lands.

Photograph: Courtesy Paradigm Gallery

Starring in the exhibition are the Edward Corner Warehouse, Kensington Soup Society, the now-razed Penn Treaty Metals, the Barbary, Bicycle Stable and “Old Brick” (aka Kensington Methodist Episcopal Church).

“Sometimes I select a building because of the juxtaposition of slapdash renovations paired with the late 1800s-style architecture,” Leshko explains. “Sometimes I’m attempting to forecast what may not be here tomorrow. For this show, I wanted to show buildings that are important to our history and act as reminders to our past.”

The movement of the market’s exterior signage is probably the least dramatic of the changes that Leshko has documented over the past decade, resulting from the neighborhood’s wave of gentrification and redevelopment. Of the 40 buildings he’s sculpted in miniature form, roughly 10 percent have been demolished. Others, like the Edward Corner Warehouse, have been the subject of preservation battles.

Drew Leshko creates miniature versions of Fishtown buildings in his latest exhibit , Sacred Lands.

Photograph: Courtesy Paradigm Gallery

But in their miniature, sculpted form, Leshko hopes that Fishtown’s “eyesores are somehow transformed into ‘cute’ decay. Hopefully the sculptures encourage people to look around our city differently.”

And many of the exhibition visitors may have been to Penn Treaty Food Market without realizing it. The one-story supermarket became popular bar, Garage Fishtown, in August 2016—complete with a selection of 400 beers, whiskey and $4 pickle backs.

See “Sacred Lands” at Paradigm now through May 19.

Drew Leshko sculpted this mini version of the Barbary in his latest exhibit, Sacred Lands, at Paradigm Gallery

Photograph: Courtesy Paradigm Gallery

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