Space Savers Project: Tradition of saving spaces gets fresh take

“Where you are, where I am, where we’d like to be,” by Jebney Lewis & Maria Moller, is part of a new exhibit at the Esther Klein Gallery.

Some neighborhoods sport rusty beach chairs. Others, “borrowed” traffic cones or toppled trash cans. Occasionally, you spy the more exotic broom-in-bucket combo. All resourceful and effective, sure, but there’s usually very little art in the highly controversial practice of claiming a parking spot.

Now on view at University City’s Esther Klein Gallery, The Space Savers Project is looking to change that — or at least get us talking about the strange and storied practice — by having local artists design alternative savers, from oversized papier-mache sneakers to interactive installations.

“We wanted to imagine the actual physical experience of what a space-saver is and what happens when the car leaves the space to go to the Acme or Home Depot or wherever,” says South Philly–based photographer and theater artist Maria Moller, who along with Jebney Lewis created a playful installation that allows the viewer to take a seat and listen to the car’s thoughts.

“There’s this futility of saving a space for going to the Acme,” Moller explained. “We thought the car would rather go to the mountains, that it was longing for something more exciting.”

Like Moller, Chris Landau won’t go on the record as condoning the Philly tradition. But when designing his piece, “Table,” he wanted to honor some of the traditional, tried-and-true space-saver materials: buckets, recycling bins and an unhinged door. “Space-savers are often dysfunctional — they have the function to save a space, but while they’re there they don’t serve a purpose,” he says.

“I wanted to create a public space, because I think art has the power to maybe make us take a second look.”


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