Backround image - Earth Coatesville Area Arts Alliance

The History of C3A

Where We've Been, Where We're Going...From Eggtooth* to C3A
written by Deborah Kates, co-founder of C3A

Which came first: the Egg, or C3Egg? Actually the Eggtooth Gallery was our first home collaborative gallery in Hatboro, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in a back yard garage behind the rented house we shared. That was 36 years ago. The Eggtooth was a piece of art in itself because we recycled the gutted innards that had been haphazardly stored in the garage from the interior rehab of our rental. Our landlady had told us that the garage was nothing of interest to us, since a car couldn't fit in it. But after a year of eyeballing the place curiously, temptation won out and we had to explore it. Upon opening the double bay wooden doors (the place had actually been a car repair shop), we were amazed at the immensity of the interior. An old claw-foot bathtub, old windows, nice torn out woodwork, tongue-in-groove wood paneling, discarded metal of various sorts, and a couple of mysterious large tin boxes**. We couldn't believe our eyes. Greg said, "Here’s my next 'messterpiece'." So he, with my occasional help, set about transforming the interior space, with all it's very cool nooks and crannies (including a loft!) into a patchwork quilt, including a skylight made from a window frame. The skylight leaked into the bathtub, where I installed several houseplants. We both built a few of our paintings right into the wall. Many an interesting time was had in the Eggtooth. One of the most notable was when Greg brought his class of students from a Bucks County alternative school over for a field trip. I discovered then the therapeutic magic of art on disturbed souls. They just loved it and were calm for the first time in my experience with the class.

While we were running this gallery and working fulltime, we were members of OCA (Old City Arts), a seminal arts organization in what was then a very run down Old City/Northern Liberties neighborhood. We had a condemned dollar-a-year gallery rented to us by the City because I-95 was on its way. Most were young and poor artists living in or near Philly; we were the only far-suburban members. This group was the genesis of the Mural Arts Program and the Philadelphia International Film Festival and all the subsequent Fringe Festivals and explosions of galleries and dance troupes that were to come. OCA staged many original and interesting events, including the People Pyramid we created out of discarded Belgian block torn up from old city streets. We were also involved with Painted Bride and Nexus Galleries; now major institutions.

After our 4th year in Hatboro, our jobs weren't working out and we left for greener Chester County pastures and landed in an old farmhouse in Wagontown. There we recycled it into our second gallery, MARZ (Make America Really Zany), which begot WAM (Wagontown Art Museum), which begot WAG (Wagontown Art Gallery). We began staging events, bringing out our city friends and newfound local homesteaders. We built a stage in the back yard and decorated it with paint, lights, and leftover machine patterns from Greg's father's machine shop, LG Industries. We formed a band with local singer/songwriter Sandy Harry and here were all the names: The Dogmatics; Eyes X. Sighted and the Visionaries; The Ones; The One; Machine From Heaven. We performed our original rock and ballads all around the Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Wilmington areas. We even performed for a cross-country peace march in McKeesport, PA. There were poetry readings, short plays, music fests, and art openings. We were founding creative forces in the embryonic West Chester cultural scene; there was nothing else quite like it going on in western Chester County, at least what we knew of. We were also participants in dozens and dozens of art exhibits and openings in the Philadelphia area and members of various art groups trying to make original art important in the suburbs.

Then, in 1989, Greg's wonderful father, Ted, passed away. Things went really askew, and the odyssey of the land - and the biggest art project of our lives - began. Family land in Wagontown that had been in the Layton family for 50 years was now up for grabs. Beautiful rolling Chester County farmland! No family members lived in the area, and all thought it was an excellent idea to sell for top dollar to a developers for residential development and/or a strip mall. All except Greg and his mother, that is.

Greg knew that 50 million dollars had just been made available for land preservation in the county through the Save Open Space initiative, and he proposed going after it for parkland. He brought the family together with The Brandywine Conservancy to expedite this process. However, a long fight ensued with other family members. Greg and Deb sent endless articles, pleading letters, and phone calls, spelling out the error of selling this land. It ended only when the developer the family had been meeting with for 6 years offered a business plan full of holes. Finally realizing they'd been had, they turned to Greg. It turned out that West Caln Township was looking for land for a park. So with funding from the state, the county, the township, and the Coatesville Water Authority (which owned land along the Coatesville Reservoir at that time, which bordered the Layton parcels) two parks were created and dedicated. One is the Theodore and Martha Layton Park, an "active" sports park on Route 340 in Wagontown, and the other is a 100-acre parcel of open space for walking that is farmed for hay and other crops. It is an enduring and important legacy that helped forestall further development in this area by encouraging adjacent land owners to also not sell out.

Fresh from that victory, we were approached by Charles Lukens "Skip" Huston, a Lukens Steel Co. heir and Coatesville supporter and activist, about creating an arts group to help re-energize the City of Coatesville through The Arts. We applied all our knowledge and experience to this endeavor and Coatesville Area Arts Alliance (C3A) was born. What follows below is a list of C3A projects, hopes, and dreams, spanning from 2003 to 2010. The rest is recent history! For pictures and more, explore our site.

* The temporary tooth some baby birds grow to break out of their eggshells, which then drop off.
** In these mysterious boxes were surreal scenes: melted together were legs, arms and heads of plastic baby doll parts. Our curiosity went wild until we found that a doll hospital had been right down the street in the 1940s. Some of these strange finds were incorporated (of course) into the Eggtooth and some have since moved to Wagontown as sculpture elements.


2003

United States of Art at Graystone Mansion in Coatesville's Historic District. Arts buffet of professional and student visual artwork, music, singing, poetry, discussion, readings, and a Chinese bonsai display, presented by dozens of student and adult artists.

2004

Great Scott - A Community Celebration, a 3-day spring arts festival at the newly renovated Scott Middle School (formerly Coatesville's high school). Student and professional artists comprised of 120 painters, 55 musicians, 52 singers, 38 actors, 26 dancers, 22 twirlers, 17 poets, 3 filmmakers, and 2 earthArtists entertained some 500 people from the tri-state area.

Victory Thru Art Thru Victory, an all-ages event at Victory Brewing Company featured the "world premiere" of Great Scott - The Movie, the 45-minute documentary created from the Great Scott event. Attendees also enjoyed live music acts, student and adult spoken word performers, earthArts exhibit, and Coatesville School District student artists.

2005

Lights! Camera! Action! Coatesville Arts Party: A packed house celebrated the Grand Opening of LumenEssence Lighting Design on Main Street Coatesville, with a screening of Great Scott - The Movie, other live entertainment, and earthArts exhibits. A promotional event for the fall Coatesville Film Festival, to be held at LumenEssence and other venues.

The Coatesville Film Festival, a 3-day event that featured 50 original films from across the country, live music outside on Main St., and acting and film sound workshops. A "guerilla" drive-in theater with more original shorts on an adjacent vacant lot was unfortunately rained out. A Preview Party for festival filmmakers brought another unique group of artists to the City.

2006

The debut of C3A's Soap e-Box, a newsletter emailed to 350 and mailed to 150, discussing art issues, upcoming events.

Grounds for Music, on a private property in West Caln Township, featured 17 live acts from the tri-county area on two stages, attracting an audience from the county, the state, and Delaware. Food, flea market and craft vendors were present.

2007

The Day The Art Stood Still paired live music acts with 2 classic sci-fi movies, contemporary art from around the world, and a great brunch at The Arts Scene gallery and performance space in West Chester. Looking for giant reptiles and robots springing out from musicians' heads? You saw it there.

Grounds for Music 2007 brought eleven acts on a single stage, double the audience, more vendors.

Vanity Fare Business Expo and Arts Showcase: C3A conceived of this new take on the usual business expo held at the gorgeous Greenhouse event facility at Twin Brook Winery in Gap, PA. Also sponsored by the Western Chester County Chamber of Commerce and Twin Brook business expo, forty-five business and art exhibitors including banks, clubs, plumbing and heating, service organizations, printers, jewelry makers, and other visual artists displayed their goods and services. Also featured were live music, food, beer and wine tasting, and speakers PA State Sen. Mike Brubaker on the green economy and Victoria Wyeth on her grandfather's abstract approach to art, all to prove the theory that art is business! Great attendance from Chester, Lancaster, Berks, Delaware Counties and state of Delaware. Exhibitors were thrilled.

2008

Grounds for Music '08 featured 16 acts on 2 stages, twirling performances, more arts and service vendors.

HealThy Self Community Day: In partnership with Coatesville area businesses Excellence Training Camp and Philadephia Rock Gym (PRG), the goal was to focus the attention of the Coatesville low income community on these businesses that offer physical and mental health strengthening. Featured were full-court basketball and volleyball, pitching and batting cages, kickboxing, full climbing walls for all levels, and related fitness offerings. Also live music, health vendors and others, sports demos and games, and food.

Democracy Train Café brought attendees from Coatesville together at eART h for a night of fellowship, live music, and food to raise funds for a trolley (the Democracy Train) to bring to the polls voters in Coatesville who would otherwise have no way to get there. Almost all the funds required were raised and the election day trolley was truly a success.

2009

Art Everywhere : Art Exposed Part I invited people of all vocations and avocations to speak for two to thirty minute slots about the creative vision on the job to inspire and educate others about how art informs work. A mental health worker, teacher, musicians, visual artists, an animal communicator, a floral designer, and a journalist took part. Discussion followed.

Art Everywhere : Art Exposed Part II, the 4th annual Grounds for Music, featured 8 diverse and terrific acts, a very eclectic array of arts vendors, speakers about the new economy of art and its direct connection with the C3A mission and events, and even more outdoor art. The event was free to the public and vendors because of the disastrous economic situation.

Art Everywhere : Art Exposed Part III, Creating Visual Art and Organic Gardening and Food Preparation, a demonstration and talk by 40-yr contemporary visual artist Greg Layton, culminating in a group painting project; followed by a discussion on gardening and food by 30-year organic gardener Deborah Kates, a tour of her garden and sampling of produce.

Art Everywhere : Art Exposed Part IV, A Winter Afternoon Writing Circle, with a local writer/editor who led the group through timed writing exercises and discussion for "discovering your inner writer."

PA Arts Trail: Organizational meeting to extend the Pennsylvania Art Trail from Lancaster through Chester County. This is an art concierge service that will bring the art fans to the artist and his/her home studio or gallery for promotion and direct sales, thereby bypassing the expensive gallery system. Originally funded 4 years ago by the State of Pennsylvania, the first leg of the trail was begun in York to Lancaster, PA. The goal is to extend it through Chester County and eventually end in New Hope.

2010

eARTh is created to signify everybody's Art home, C3A's cultural center and the home/studio of Greg Layton and Deborah Kates. AKA "The Country Club for the Rest of Us."

Let's Get Dirty – Basics of Organic Gardening - 3rd generation gardener and 30-yr organic gardener Deb brings the public to her showplace garden and reveals the way to organic. Let's Get Dirty went on the road to other private home, and night school classes.

Let's Jam! - Basics of Food Preservation - At Kelly Caterer's beautiful kitchen in Downingtown, Deb showed how to savor the summer harvest all year long by making jam, pickles, tomato sauce, and other goodies.

Grounds for Music 2010: Another great year of music, fun, food, artisans and people at eARTh, benefiting C3A and showcasing the Chester County Family Academy, whose young students sang and played the violin for a "set."

HoneyFest: Another music fest with a jam band flavor that drew ~400 people. More great music, food, arts and people to benefit PKD, polycystic kidney disease, a genetic killer that affects millions.

Coatesville Area Arts Alliance, Inc. | 120 Reservoir Road, Coatesville, PA 19320 | debc3a@verzion.net