The Center For Emerging Visual Artists™ was born in Philadelphia under the name
Creative Artists Network. The organization’s founder, Felicity R. “Bebe” Benoliel
was a lifelong lover of art; her grandfather was a painter and her great-grandfather
was a sculptor. Not only did Bebe love art, but she was acutely aware of the enormous
challenges an artist faces trying to succeed on talent and dedication alone. She
had had great success raising money and creating opportunities for musicians at
the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts (now University of the Arts), so
in 1983, she decided to use her skills and experience to help talented visual artists
make it in the art world. Armed with only her charisma and passion for art, Bebe
marched into local corporations and asked for funding to start up a non-profit organization
for emerging visual artists. The corporations agreed to underwrite; Bebe and her
colleague Mati Rosenstein took care of the paperwork, and a unique organization
Everything about The Center was conceived with careful consideration for the needs
of emerging artists (and the services are regularly re-evaluated and supplemented
with these needs in mind). The first focus was what we now call the Career Development
Program. Bebe put together an Advisory Board of noted artists and professionals
in the art world. The Board was charged with selecting artists who were not only
exceptionally talented, but who were at a point in their development at which the
Program would have its greatest impact. Bebe understood well that artists are particularly
vulnerable when they are no longer in school but have not yet met concrete success.
In the early days of the organization, Bebe and her colleagues focused on exhibiting
the works of painters, print makers and sculptors selected for the Program and introducing
them to collectors, gallerists and other arts professionals. One artist called it
“gallery boot camp.” Then, they included photographers in the program.
Over the years, the Career Development Program has expanded and deepened, encouraging
artists in every visual medium to apply. We have accomplished this even as we chose
to respond to the profound need for services among all emerging visual artists in
our region by creating the Regional Community Arts Program with its opportunities
open to the public.
While many things have changed in the organization since Bebe founded it, our goals
have not. We want to give artists the tools they need to become professionals in
charge of their own artistic destinies. We want art to get made, and the artists
who fashion it to succeed.