if these walls could talk: Martha Rich

one of the first artists who came to mind for the interior of our new minigrow space on 7th Ave in New York City was our fellow Philly-based friend, Martha Rich. We last partnered with Martha on a mural for our 11th Street location in Philadelphia, and the fact that she teaches at the nearby New York Fashion Institute of Technology, it was a no-brainer to collaborate again to bring more Philadelphia talent to the New York scene. As a result, she complemented our gorgeous new space (learn more about it here) with various colorful word bubbles filled with…interesting…sayings, musings, exclamations—a continuation of her theme which is found throughout Philadelphia + in other works. We caught up with Martha to learn more about what inspires her to put these overheard expressions on a canvas, as well as the similarities + differences between the New York + Philadelphia art worlds…

hg:  hi again, Martha! We’re honored to have you as our featured artist again, this time for minigrow. Being a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, how does it feel to have your work featured so close to the college?

martha:  it feels good! Now I can come get a bite to eat before class + admire my own work. HA!

hg:  tell us about your time at FIT—how long have you been with the college? What lessons do you try to instill in your students? Conversely, what lessons have you taken away from your time there?

martha:  I’ll be starting my 5th year in January. My main goal is to encourage curiosity + risk-taking.

"If you stop being curious and stop taking risks you become stagnant and boring."

That is the worst thing that can happen to an artist. The cool thing is that being a teacher also helps me to be more curious and to take more risks. The students keep me on my toes.

hg:  the mural featured in minigrow is a continuation of the theme present at our 11th Street Philadelphia location + other murals you’ve completed. What’re the similarities (+ differences) between the pieces featured in our 11th Street hglocation and our 7th Ave Manhattan mg location?

martha:  I’ve expanded more on who is doing the talking. At 11th Street I used very basic shaped “heads” to do the talking. They were supposed to be generic + not meant to represent any one kind of person. At 7th Avenue I got a little funkier and added weird shaped hair + animals. The basic premise is still there; they are both representative of all the noise we hear + are bombarded with on a daily basis. Writing down what you hear in a random manner tells a new story. I love the fate aspect of the mural.

The other big difference was that I actually painted on the wall at 7th Avenue. It was a much more physical experience climbing up on scaffolding + going up and down the stairs. I was also able to overhear lots of conversations while I was painting. I incorporated that into the mural in real-time, usually I am writing stuff down and saving it for later.

hg:  what inspired the creative expressions in the minigrow mural? Did the concept or food play any role in inspiring your work?

martha:  it might have. I am not sure. I can’t always remember where words came from—the folks working there definitely had an impact though…

hg:  you’ve now been in both honeygrow + minigrow—what’re your favorite parts of each concept?

martha:  my favorite part of honeygrow is that it is in Philly. My favorite part of minigrow is that it is near where I teach. I am pretty slack about making food for myself so having easy, fast, healthiness near me is quite appealing.

hg:  what’re some parallels between the New York City + Philadelphia art scenes? Any key differences?

martha:  I can only speak for the illustration scene—NYC is super competitive and where most of the action is. Philly feels more chill, and there is action bubbling up here under the radar. I love being in NYC for a few days, but definitely feel the tension leave when I head back home.

hg:  where else in New York City can we find your work?

martha:  I have a mural on the gate at Maxwell’s for Hair in Bushwick at 274 Troutman. You’d have to see it when they are closed. I think someone tagged it so I am going back in the spring to touch it up. Also I’ve seen the bags + socks I do for Blue Q in a bunch of places. Some of my bags in were in the window of Elegance in Penn Station near the Amtrak part + in the gift store of the Folk Art Museum. It’s very random where they pop up.

hg:  any other new life events or updates since we last spoke? Any new projects, murals or exhibits on the horizon?

martha:  I bought a house! That was a huge deal for me. It’s exciting. Hmm, what else? I just designed a dish towel for Blue Q, not sure when it comes out though. I’ve got some other things in the works, but can’t talk about them now…don’t want to jinx them!

learn more about Martha Rich by visiting her website, and be sure to follow her on Instagram + Twitter for updates on her work

check out our original blog feature on Martha here

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