BY VALERIE RUSS
Daily News Staff Writer
She was a student-government representative when a state legislator asked what she would do to change Philadelphia.
“I would develop the Divine Lorraine because it is the kingpin of the city,” she replied. “Nationally historical, a beautiful striking landmark, and completely derelict, just six blocks from City Hall.”
Kunkle, 29, founded the Philadelphia Salon in 2007, while in graduate school at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Members of the Salon gather once a month at her home inside the old Matthew Baird mansion on Broad Street, not far from the Divine. Baird headed Baldwin Locomotives after the death of its founder, Matthias Baldwin.
Today, Kunkle has teamed up with Baird’s great-grandson, New York architect Matthew Baird, in the hopes of creating a Philadelphia Interactive Museum of Contemporary Art inside the hotel.
Kunkle calls the project “The Return of the Beautiful.”
She has talked with officials from the Institute of Contemporary Art, PAFA, the Barnes Foundation, the Mural Arts Program, the Clay Studio and the Fabric Workshop about sharing a 45,000-square-foot space on a rotating basis.
She is also working with developer Eric Blumenfeld, who wants to partner with four city high schools to create a campus on the lot behind the hotel.
Should the Divine become home to PIMOCA, Kunkle said it would create a new “museum triangle” connecting the Divine to PAFA and the Convention Center in Center City and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes and Rodin Museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
Kunkle sees PIMOCA as not only a museum and exhibit space, but a place for high school students to study art, a place to have apartments for college students and open green-space. It would also have a garden producing food for low-income city residents.
She compared the planned outdoor space to the Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain.
Said Kunkle: “I can’t wait to walk the halls and see high-school students interacting with senior citizens and college kids and everyone soaking up the art.”