Jason Chen BFA '08 (Animation)

Jason Chen BFA '08 (Animation) claims to have plenty of free time; his resume says otherwise. Chen is co-owner of Paradigm Gallery + Studio, one-third of the film/animation team Juggling Wolf, and a commercial and fine art photographer, all while holding a full-time job in the Office of Technology and Information Services at UArts.

He sees this non-stop, jack-of-all-artistic-trades lifestyle as essential to his mission of making art an accessible and vital part of people's everyday lives.

"Art should not be on a pedestal in a museum," says Chen. "Art should be shared for everyone to be involved with."

That notion is one of the guiding principles of Paradigm Gallery + Studio, which he co-founded in 2010 with Sara McCorriston BFA '09 (Theater Design & Technology).

"Our goal with Paradigm is to change the definition of what people think is art," Chen says. "We want them to see that art is everywhere, that art is an investment. We want to create a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work. We want Paradigm to be a landmark in the community, so that when people talk about the Philly arts scene, they mention Paradigm."

That mission helped Paradigm secure a place in the Creative Incubator/Wells Fargo Fellowship Program's class of 2012 offered by the University’s Corzo Center for the Creative Economy. Since moving to a new location in Queen Village last year, Paradigm has regularly featured exhibitions by local artists and hosted interactive workshops for the public. Last summer, Paradigm collaborated with online arts and culture magazine HAHA MAG on "Before I Die," part of a nationwide project that gave people the chance to write their bucket-list wishes on a giant chalkboard poster, creating public artwork on Broad Street in Center City.

"Within 15 minutes of us putting it up, it was full," says Chen. "Everyone has creativity in them, everyone wants to be an artist. This project gave people a chance to do that in a way that wasn't intimidating."

Beyond giving the general public a chance to appreciate and create art, Chen wants to establish opportunities for fellow artists. Juggling Wolf, which also includes fellow Animation alumni Ian Foster BFA '08 (Animation) and Marina Gvozdeva BFA '08 (Animation), could be the key to such opportunities.

"Our focus is stop-motion animation incorporating video and experimental filmmaking," says Chen. "Right now we're one of the few studios on the East Coast focusing on stop-motion animation. Our hope is that eventually we can help open up the job market for Philadelphia-based animators."

That helping-hand attitude is one of the reasons Chen chose to build his career in Philadelphia.

"Philadelphia is much more about collaboration and helping each other than other cities are," he says. "I love working with other people because collaboration is all about learning. I'm so lucky to have these friends who are so talented, who can teach me so much and also hopefully learn something from me."

When it's time to unwind, Philadelphia's accessible-art champion turns to his other passion.

"Photography is what keeps me sane," he says. "Photoshop is like my Zen garden. I start a project and before I know it, hours have passed."