by Jennifer Katz

Brookes Britcher

The Chestnut Hill Artists Initiative has arguably brought more culture to the Avenue than the myriad of galleries and home stores peppered along its cobblestoned stretch in Chestnut Hill. This summer the group will unveil its latest and most ambitious project to date, New Trails, an exhibit featuring the work of 20 invited artists interpreting the Wissahickon Valley.

Brookes Britcher, 28, a CHA alum, is an art enthusiast in his own right. He has a Masters of Fine Art in curating, but most Hillers know him from his day job working in the kitchen at Top of the Hill café. Britcher is one of the founders of the Chestnut Hill Artists Initiative and co-curator/project planner for New Trails.

“The Wissahickon valley is one of the main assests of the area and we wanted to develop a relationship between the commercial corridor and the natural corridor,” he said.

The idea of creating an exhibit based on the Wissahickon grew out of a Department of Commerce grant application for projects that restore commercial corridors through art. New Trails was one of only four projects selected by the Commerce department.

“We are hoping to build a stronger connection between the two corridors,” he said.

Britcher has put together a list of artist from across the country, including several local artists, from New York to Wyoming.

“When we started to research the Wissahickon we found that it had this amazing history,’ Britcher said. “It’s a rich place for artists to respond to.”

The project, as with the previous installations, are supported by Bowman Properties and the paintings will hang in several locations along the Avenue. Although the artists do not receive any funding for participating, there are still minimal costs associated with the exhibit.

To offset the $1,700 Britcher said it will take to produce the project, he and his cohorts have created a campaign to collect money.

New Trails is expected to open this summer.