“I believe people in this area really do want to support our local artists,” Masterman said last week, “and I feel like we are just scratching the surface so far."
The Masterman School at 17th and Spring Garden Streets, situated in a building that is on the National Register of Historic Places, has been rated the top school in the state and is routinely among the best in the nation. The school was named for Julia Reynolds Masterman, who was instrumental in establishing the Philadelphia Home and School Council and served as its first president.
There just happens to be another Masterman, this one in Chestnut Hill, who is also pretty exceptional. Amy Masterman, a Chestnut Hill resident since 2000 and the granddaughter of Julia Reynolds Masterman, has artistic creativity in her DNA. After running Allens Lane Art Center as its executive director for eight years until 2008, Masterman has been designing fabrics and home-related items, making jewelry, whipping up al fresco feasts, and ghostwriting a political suspense novel, a screenplay and numerous articles on global design.
And in July of last year, Masterman opened Moondance Farm Studios at 8236 Germantown Ave. (at Southampton Avenue), across the street from the Chestnut Hill Hotel. It is a colorful hybrid shop/gallery featuring a chromatic collection of handcrafted one-of-a-kind items from Masterman and two dozen other artisans, all of whom live within a few miles of the shop. In addition to painting and photography, there are 3D collages, ceramics, fabric art, several types of glass works, jewelry, woodwork and more.
“I believe people in this area really do want to support our local artists,” Masterman said last week, “and I feel like we are just scratching the surface so far. I want to tap into artist receptions, workshops, meet-the-artist events and much more. So far, the feedback has been so positive and encouraging. Chestnut Hill has such an amazing collection of historical architecture and residents who appreciate artistic beauty.”
Masterman grew up in Easton, but she had a cousin in Philadelphia whom she used to visit, and she fell in love with this area, moving here after her formal education was finished. She has an undergraduate degree in art history from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in historic preservation from the University of Georgia.
Moondance Farm Studios started as a pop-up event, part of the Chestnut Hill Business Association's Second Saturdays when Masterman was invited to guest-curate the space. With decades of experience working in arts-related positions, she was able to organize a group show for the July 2021 event, and it was so successful that Masterman signed a lease for the property with Richard Snowden of Bowman Properties.
Two of the most unusual art forms in the shop are dried gourd lamps and neon art. Both involve using light as art, but they are very different in materials and effect. Neon artist Eve Hoyt, of Glenside, has employed the labor-intensive process of hand-crafting authentic neon pieces from scratch for more than three decades. Her award-winning work has been featured in more than 45 gallery and museum shows, including the National Liberty Museum and Neon Museum in Philadelphia.
In 2007, when Masterman was curating shows for the gallery at Allens Lane, she found Hoyt and included some of her neon pieces in a group show. "I was so intrigued by Eve's work, and she was an obvious go-to when I got this opportunity to open a shop," Masterman said.
“I love the fact that everything at Moondance Farm Studios is handmade by local artisans,” Hoyt told us. “Having my artwork accessible to the community where it can be seen in person is very exciting. Not only has it given more exposure to my art, but I've been introduced to other local artists whose work I like.”
Another creative master, Chestnut Hill resident Jane Mawson, has been working with dried gourds for a decade by making them into all types of lamps — floor, table, hanging and sconces. Her process of making one lamp can take over a month. Mawson creates patterns that let light stream through and carved out areas so only a thin membrane creates a translucent glow.
“Amy is an extremely supportive art lover and curator,” Mawson told us, “and I think her shop showcases a diverse and unusual group of artists whose work you can't find elsewhere on or off the Avenue in Chestnut Hill ... I'm proud to be represented by her because I know she understands how much labor goes into making one of my lamps, and she provides a space and a voice to get me the exposure I need to continue doing what I do.”
For more information: moondancefarmstudios.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com