Monday, August 31, 2009

Design Philadelphia 2009

It was gently brought to my attention that in highlighting NxtUp Philly in a recent post, I had not really devoted much attention to the individual components of that initative. Let's start with Design Philadelphia 2009.

Design Philadelphia 2008 was happening right about the time I was starting my position last October, and I have to say it was a great introduction to the robust design sector in Philadelphia, as well as the City's ability to come together and make great things happen. This is largest event of its kind nationwide, and just blew me away. So what is it? Here is how they describe it:

From October 7th to 13th 2009, over 125 diverse and dynamic exhibitions, lectures, building tours, book signings, open studios, runway shows, and workshops will take place in boutiques, galleries, museums, universities, warehouses and city streets, underscoring the impact creative industries are having on Philadelphia and the region.

As the city evolves from its industrial past, it is building a future founded upon knowledge, networks, and culture. We have a unique environment for design exploration and development ­­– an incubator – for students and professionals alike. In this setting, DesignPhiladelphia is making the case for the way in which design is central to economic, social and cultural growth.

DesignPhiladelphia emerged in 2005 to unite the design disciplines – from architecture to interior design, fashion to product design, multi-media to graphic design – and celebrate their contribution to this renaissance. This citywide cultural initiative recognizes this region’s distinguished design history and celebrates its contemporary significance as a center for creative advancement.

One of the things we struggle with in the arts, I think, is the increasingly gray area between for-profit art and non-profit art, between "art" and "design." The great thing abut Design Philadelphia is that it does away with those artificial dividers, and engages nonprofit arts organizations, for profit design firms, individual artists - and the entire city of Philadelphia - in an exploration of "everything design." Very cool!

Friday, August 28, 2009

NxtUp Philly brings together an array of creative economy events this fall

Philly is not only home to a robust arts, culture and heritage sector. It also has a thriving creative economy. Coming up this fall is the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit, Design Philadelphia, Ignite Philly Fashion Week, etc.

NxtUp Philly brings together all these events and others with a 12-day calendar of events starting Oct. 5. It provides a showcase of creativity and innovation. Anyone in art, design, film, business, architecture, fashion, food, and any other creative field can post a program to the event calendar at

There’s no charge for listing. You’ll be able to preview and edit at later date if need be. The events calendar will go live on September 10th and be supported with advertising [City Paper], postcard and other promotions.If you enter your events in next three days they will be listed in a dedicated City Paper insert which will run Oct 1. So there are plenty of opportunities to extend the reach for free.

The organizers for NxtUp Philly include Josette Bonafino, executive director of the Multicultural Youth eXchange; Ian Cross, CEO of I-SITE; Hilary Jay, founder and director of DesignPhiladelphia and executive director of the Design Center at Philadelphia University; Neil Kleinman, professor of multimedia and communication and senior fellow in the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts; Kelly Lee, CEO and president of Innovation Philadelphia; Scott Tattar, senior vice president and director of public relations at LevLane Advertising and Public Relations.

And, of course, once the site goes live you can use to navigate the huge array of events that will be going on during October related to creative businesses.

Great Philly coverage in today's New York Times!

Today's New York Times features not just one but TWO major stories highlighting Philadelphia culture. 
This story  covers an array of less well known Philadelphia cultural organizations and spaces, including Fluxspace, and a new Mural Arts Program installation in West Philly called "Love Letters." It also celebrates our robust food scene, including the wealth of BYOBs. The other story is a review of the new Duchamp show at Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Mural Arts Project piece also got some nice coverage in the Wall Street Journal.

I think these stories are a reminder of the work of national and international significance that is taking place in Philadelphia every day. It has become almost a stereotype that Philly locals don't appreciate what is in their own backyard. Attention like this from the outside helps to reaffirm our extraordinary cultural (and culinary arts!) assets. I suppose one of my advantages in doing my job is that in many ways I DO see Philadelphia with the eyes of an outsider, and can truly appreciate it all, without taking it for granted.

Getting started!

Welcome to my blog! Don't know where this will be take me, but thought it would be useful to (to me and perhaps to others) to periodically muse about the issues I am observing and grappling with.

It is clear that arts and culture as a sector is especially challenged in our difficult economy. Our share of private philanthropy, after some years of slowly creeping back up after many years of decline, now seems to be slipping back down again. many funders are seeing the arts as less important given the crisis being faced by many human services areas facing their own huge challenges.

But are we in part to blame for this situation?  Have arts organizations and arts leaders failed to make a persuasive "value proposition" case for what they do as having real social value?  Is it that the work itself is not resonating with the public as powerful and relevant?  Have we inappropriately equated "popular" with "pandering" and developed an attitude that is in fact somewhat elitist?  I am not saying all these things are true, just these are questions I ask myself, and I think we all must ask ourselves.

Here in Philadelphia, our arts culture and heritage sector is extremely robust and vital to our community. Yet, for all its success and scope, it is also fragile, and I wonder if the downturn takes too long to recover, how much of the sector will survive. I worry if the "best" organizations, the ones doing the most dynamic or relevant work will survive, or just the ones with one or more board members with deep pockets. I worry how well the sector as a whole is serving the ENTIRE community, which includes vast numbers of people in poverty, far removed (geographically and socially) from our Center City. And if we are not serving this broader population well, are we truly fulfilling our role as public charities, even if we are creating great art?  As someone who must look at the arts from a public benefit perspective, these are things that occupy my thoughts. Of course, there is the economic benefit of the arts, which ultimately benefits the entire City, as it generates tax revenue and jobs, especially in the hospitality industry.

It is looking increasingly likely that the City will get the legislation it needs from Harrisburg that will allow us to avoid the horrific cuts that would otherwise have been required. that means that funding of our cultural programs will be saved, including support for my Office, which was slated for elimination. There are so many exciting plans for the future and I am pleased it looks like we will be able to "live to fight another day."