The Reinvestment Fund

Funding Received: 2011
Philadelphia, PA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 8, 2011

The beauty of any partnership is that you have many hands to get the work done.  For the purposes of sharing our work through the ARTSPACE blog, our partnership has decided to take the “many hands” approach and rotate our blog entries.  Not only is this efficient for us, it also allows readers to get a sense of our multi-faceted project from the perspective of each of the partners in our working group.

Having just returned from the annual Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) Conference in San Francisco, I thought it would make sense for me to reflect on how our project fits with some of the ideas that were discussed at the conference. The theme of the conference was “Embracing the Velocity of Change,” where arts funders from across the nation and a few from Canada, explored our nation’s changing demographics, changing technology and changing understanding of arts and social justice. It is always refreshing and invigorating to sit with colleagues to explore the larger issues and trends we experience in our respective communities, and think collectively about ways in which we can do our work better.

After the GIA conference, I am even more excited about the City of Philadelphia’s partnership with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) and Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) at the University of Pennsylvania. The Creative Assets Map project addresses these same themes, as it aims to use technology to understand and spatially explore Philadelphia’s changing demographics and our multitude of cultural and creative assets. We are also looking beyond the map; our goal is to thoroughly explore the landscape of our City, our transforming demographics and socio-graphics, and to use the gathered and analyzed data to inform decision-making and policy development.  As a result, we will create a tool that will help our constituents (artists, nonprofit organizations, creative businesses, funders, policy makers, government officials, and the public) advocate for investment both in the creative sector and in our diverse neighborhoods, where much of this activity is happening.

It was after attending the annual Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby (picture), a neighborhood “design competition and parade of human powered vehicle floats,” when Mayor Michael Nutter asked the OACCE whether or not we had a map that showed all of the City’s creative assets, including all of our for profit and non-profit arts organizations and artists.  In short, the answer was “no.”  Around the same time, we recently completed a program to award capital grants for the creation or renovation of creative facilities, and we were pleasantly surprised by how many cultural organizations and creative businesses applied that weren’t already on our radar.  Philadelphia is fast becoming a hub of artists and creative types. They are planting roots here, starting businesses, buying and renovating row homes in once forgotten neighborhoods, and repurposing old industrial buildings into multi-tenant creative facilities. Couple this with a population increase for the first time in 50 years and it becomes clear that Philadelphia is changing, and that the arts are playing a major role in our transformation.

As a City agency, the OACCE wears many hats - we are a funder, a producer of art programs, a project facilitator and a cheerleader for arts, culture and creativity. We see this project as a way to provide some answers to our own questions, as well as those questions posed to us by our constituents.  How can we help tell the story of Philadelphia’s creative renaissance? What tools need to be developed to support innovation in this sector?  How can we encourage investment and smart growth?  The online tool that we will create will help us examine the ongoing relationships between the arts and socio-economic data, between the arts and our neighborhoods, and between the arts and the future of our City.  And yes, Mayor Nutter, there will be a lot of maps.