By Sofiya Ballin STAFF WRITER
It was 10 a.m. on Aug. 12, 1958, when photographer Art Kane created the iconic image of 57 jazz legends that would become known as “A Great Day in Harlem.”
The photo has been remade multiple times over the years, from “The Greatest Day in Hip-Hop History” to “A Great Day in Doo-Wop.” In fact, there was “A Great Day in Philadelphia” in 1995 and again in 2012, both celebrating jazz musicians.
The most recent big picture was taken around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, abrisk wintry afternoon, when visual artist Charles “Uncool Chuck” Lloyd, gathered almost 300 creative types at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a photo he called “WE Culture.”
Lloyd said he thought, ”Why not follow in those steps, and give people a visual representation of what art, unity and culture looks like?”
His first shoot was in 2014, when he gathered almost 100 artists at the same spot. In 2015 it was more than 200. This year’s goal was 500. “It’s ambitious,” Lloyd said in an interview Sunday morning, before the event. “But it’s possible.”
“Leaving it up to God, faith and destiny that who will come, will come.”
Several hours later, nearly 300 of Philadelphia’s most creative individuals began gathering just below the Art Museum steps. Their personalities were as different as their styles of dress. In this city, Lloyd says, the art scene tends to be tiered according to level of success, making collaboration more difficult.
It also is a competitive landscape for artists, he said — the opposite of “WE Culture.”
Lloyd got the name from an interview that Kanye West did with BBC Radio in 2013, when West declared: “We culture — rap, the new rock and roll. We culture.”
Lloyd has used that message to empower artists in all fields and to build bridges between them. Sunday’s photo, for example?
It’s an opportunity to “introduce a bunch of people who should have known each other in the first place,” said Ricky Codio, a photographer who said Sunday morning that he supported the mission and has appeared in past photos but didn’t make this one.
There were plenty of other photographers, however, as well as writers, painters, designers, rappers, DJs, instrumentalists, singers, journalists, even a burlesque dancer.
At the base of the Art Museum, WE Culture was at work as an equalizer. Business cards, laughs and hugs were exchanged.
Julian Lopez, 24, discussed graphic design with the fervor of a politician. Twins Israel and Judah Crump, 23, talked about reclaiming black culture by curating events. Miya Pack, 29, is a chef who sings Anita Baker and Sade to her food because, she said, “anything you nurture, put love and care into, it grows.”
Kind of like that very moment at the museum.
Or as DJ Matthew Law said, it’s “the newer generation trying to cultivate the art scene.”
Most of the artists were in their 20s to early 30s. As picture time approached, the event photographers — there were three — discussed camera angles as the subjects stood on the lower steps. Some held out their artwork. Others embraced.
Shots ranged from the obligatory serious to the silly.
Intrigued tourists stopped to watch and take their own photos
— another gem in Philadelphia history.
“We’re the art culture right now of Philadelphia,” said singer Brianna Cash.
Lloyd’s goal was to have artists leave feeling accomplished, unified and inspired, because even the greatest fighter needs someone in his or her corner.
Before the shoot, one of the official photographers, Darren Burton, stood back and watched the crowd grow.
“I feel there’s a renaissance going on,” he said. He couldn’t quite describe what it is or where it came from, but he knew how he wanted to show it: “I’m trying to capture the Philly. I’m trying to capture the jawn.” email@example.com 215-854-5054 @sofiyaballin