Show Stopping: Lily Applebaum gives a backstage look at the Brodsky Gallery

SAS Frontiers
February 29, 2012

The decision of where to attend college was made easy for Lily Applebaum after she toured the Kelly Writers House during a pre-college visit. She felt the atmosphere and camaraderie of the House would provide a stabilizing effect within such a large school. What she couldn't know at the time was how her work as the coordinator of the Brodsky Gallery, an art gallery integrated with the main floor of the Writers House, would be instrumental in preparing her for life after college.

For the past few years, Applebaum, a dual English and environmental studies major, has been organizing and oftentimes curating the exhibits. From collaborating with the artists and arranging the physical display of the works, to planning an accompanying open reception, pulling off the four to six shows per academic year was a tall order. "I was initially drawn to the project because I wanted to become more involved with the House," Applebaum says. "What better way to make a big impact than to control what hangs on the walls that people look at every day?"

Though she primarily books local artists—the Gallery does not have the budget to support substantial travel arrangements for guests—timing presented Applebaum with a lucky break last March when well-known Canadian poet Derek Beaulieu was scheduled to be in the area. Applebaum arranged to meet with Beaulieu, at which point she was able to secure some of his works for the gallery. As a bonus, he spoke at the opening event and even touted the Writers House on his blog.

When she needs to be proactive about her search for artists, Applebaum doesn't necessarily seek out the most celebrated individuals. Rather, she looks to her peers. "I wanted to make sure the Gallery didn't come off as generic—something that you could find anywhere in Philly or SoHo," says Applebaum. "Our advantage is that we have so much up-and-coming student talent right outside our doorstep."

Applebaum, who comes from a writing background, credits an American poetry class with helping her cultivate her interest in art. "It's cool to think about how art can convey some of the same poetic impulses as words," says Applebaum. "It really got me thinking about how representations of writing apply to contemporary art. I wanted to explore that theory further."

Her work with Brodsky was influential in other areas of her education as well. Currently in the throes of a senior thesis on the Clean Water Act for her environmental studies program, Applebaum says her work with the Gallery helped her to make connections between seemingly unrelated topics. "Seeing artists who combine ideas, words and art to produce an even better result made me realize I can integrate my own artistic expression into something like a conventional research paper."

Currently, the Brodsky Gallery is featuring recent drawings and prints by Philadelphia-based artist Amze Emmons. Applebaum will host her final show this spring.