The Reinvestment Fund

Funding Received: 2011
Philadelphia, PA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 16, 2012

CultureBlocks is a collaboration of The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), the City of Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP). The purpose of this project is to further research into the relationship between cultural engagement and economic development and to promote investment in the arts and creative sector in Philadelphia. A major piece of this effort is the development of a web-based tool for displaying Philly’s cultural assets in ways that are useful to artists and cultural organizations, public officials, philanthropies, development professionals, and the general public.

ArtPlace spoke with Katie Nelson of TRF’s PolicyMap about the impact CultureBlocks will have on Philadelphia communities. Here are her thoughts:

NELSON: CultureBlocks is a web-based tool, and is relevant and accessible to all members of the various communities within the City of Philadelphia. As a networking hub for artists, CultureBlocks will build a virtual community based on mutually beneficial resource-sharing. For the first time, all of the city’s cultural data will be available from one central publically accessible location. We foresee that users will be able to share their own data through the site, creating opportunities for interactive sharing among artists. Additionally, visitors will be able to generate their own custom reports on communities of interest and share their findings with friends and colleagues.

CultureBlocks also has the potential to transform Philadelphia’s communities in a less virtual, more physical way. Performing artists might use the tool to expand marketing to new audiences. A nonprofit after-school arts program, for instance, might use the tool to determine the neighborhoods in which they could expand their programs. Or a start-up creative business might use the site selector tool to identify where to locate their office or warehouse.

More broadly, City agencies will use the tool to identify emerging clusters of creative activity. Although creative place-making is a grassroots, bottom-up process, decisions in planning, advocacy, and investment can be made to nurture and support the creative sector. We at CultureBlocks firmly believe that promoting the arts and culture in our communities is directly related to supporting economic development in our communities. The data we are collecting and the analyses we are conducting will ultimately result in a White Paper that lays out guidance for an arts and culture investment strategy for the City.