Oil City is welcoming two new artists to the city’s art scene.
Rafi Perez and Klee Angelie made the move from Pensacola, Florida, to Oil City last month.
Perez creates art through many mediums, including painting, sculpting, music and videography.
Angelie is a jeweler and musician, among other things, and the two were looking for somewhere to call home.
The two are originally from the Chicago area, and their paths crossed a few times before they connected at a concert in 2009.
“Pretty much from that point, I could count on one hand the days we spent apart,” said Perez. “Klee is my best friend.”
Eight months after meeting, the two embarked on a two-year trip that started in November 2009.
They traveled throughout the South and lived out of their 1992 Ford Explorer.
The couple moved to Pensacola after the trip to be near Perez’s father while he recovered from heart surgery.
“We never meant to stay in Florida. It was meant to be an ongoing adventure,” said Angelie. “It dawned on us a few years ago that we were itching to go somewhere else.”
When asked how they chose Oil City, Angelie said, “At first we were just throwing darts and investigating… We found a blog about an artist relocation program to Oil City.”
They researched Oil City as much as they could online and were pleased with what they found.
“One of the first things Rafi did was reach out to Stew Armstrong,” said Angelie. Armstrong, the Oil City Main Street program artist liaison, told them about his job and about the Main Street program.
“We really liked him and what he had to say,” said Angelie. “Stew was our lifeline to here.”
The two say the efforts of Oil City to work with artists really appealed to them.
Perez and Angelie have been full-time artists for 10 years, supporting themselves on their work.
“We don’t have a secret pile of money,” said Angelie. “It has just been that way, gradual steps from the first flea market…We said yes to a lot of opportunities.”
Saying yes to those opportunities meant countless art shows for the couple — sometimes three or four in one weekend. Then COVID slowed everything down.
“During COVID there were no more shows, and we basically transitioned everything to online,” said Perez. “We started to focus on treating the internet not as a cold marketing tactic, but treating it like a virtual neighborhood.”
Building up their online platform at www.rafiandklee.com prepared the artists to make the move to Pennsylvania.
“It gave us the opportunity to move here because we weren’t relying on the art shows,” said Perez. “As horrific as COVID was… It really forced us to evolve.”
After exploring Oil City as much as they could online, the couple decided they needed to see Oil City for themselves, said Angelie.
Perez and Angelie made a two-week trek to Pennsylvania in August to get a feel for the area and check out some potential houses. They documented their journey on their YouTube channel, “Rafi and Klee Adventures.”
Those two weeks cemented their inclination to move to Oil City.
“Immediately we got here and fell in love,” said Perez.
“It has all the conveniences and all the wonder that come from small town living,” agreed Angelie.
After viewing quite a few houses, Perez and Angelie found what they described as their “Dream Home.”
They affectionately call their 505 West Second St. residence the “Sunflower House.”
But for the pair of artists, it is as much about the human connection as the physical place.
“Everyone is so genuine. It is a really good feeling here,” said Angelie. “It is the human connection that will make a place for you… The human connection is first. Everything else revolves around that.”
Perez said that during their first visit, they pulled to the side of the road and turned on their hazard lights to check their map. They had only been there a minute, said Perez, when someone pulled up and asked if they were OK.
“Everyone was nice,” agreed Angelie. “We are discovering too that in a small town everyone knows everyone. That is really kinda awesome.”
“So much is happening in the area to try to revitalize this place,” Perez said. “I have absolutely no doubt that this is going to be one of those places people want to visit.”
The two are excited to be a part of the revitalization of the area.
“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know it is bright,” Perez said. “I don’t know what part I will play, or any part, but whatever it is, it’s worth it.”
Angelie agreed, saying “it is going to be amazing to let it unfold. This place could be our forever home.”