Monday, April 4, 2011

Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy Testifies Before City Council

On Monday, March 28th, I testified before City Council as part of the FY12 budget process. I was joined by Moira Baylson, Deputy Cultural Officer. The Office staff, and other cultural leaders such as Tom Kaiden of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, attended as audience (and moral support). In the end, the hearing was relatively free of contention, which in these times is always a good thing. However, since so much work goes into preparing the testimony, and it serves as a good report on the past year's activities and plans for the coming year, I am summarizing the testimony here, with a link at the end for a fuller version.


I am honored to have the opportunity to report on the Office’s accomplishments over the past year, and to explain how our Office plans to use and leverage City funds in Fiscal Year 2012. After spending two years reorganizing programs and staff from multiple departments, we are pleased to provide testimony from our new home, right here in City Hall. The opening of our new office and gallery in June of 2010 has allowed our staff to work together in one location and for the first time, has provided the public direct access to our office. With this change, we have gained tremendous momentum in the services and programs we offer to Philadelphia and in serving our larger mission: to support and promote arts, culture and creative industries; and to develop partnerships and coordinate efforts that weave arts, culture and creativity into the economic and social fabric of the city.

In Fiscal Year 2011, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund will distribute a little over $1.6 million to 200 Philadelphia cultural organizations. The Fund’s Youth Enrichment Program, in its second year, will distribute an additional $100,000 in grants. Last year the program distributed $350,000 in grants to eight organizations with exemplary youth arts programs such as Art Reach, Asian Arts Initiative and Kùlú Mèlé African American Dance Ensemble. Although down 42.5% from 2010, the Fund continues to achieve its mission of re-granting City funds to hundreds of deserving cultural organizations throughout our Philadelphia neighborhoods.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia, the first museum funded and built by a city to help preserve African American culture, celebrated its 35th Anniversary this year. The Office, through an annual grant of roughly $230,000 helps to ensure that the museum has adequate resources to deliver high quality programming and exhibitions to the public. Through its core exhibit, “Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876,” the Museum details the freedom journey of African Americans in Philadelphia..

In December 2010, with funding from the William Penn Foundation, the Office released the report Creative Vitality in Philadelphia: A Three Year Index 2006-2008. Highlights from the report include a 7% increase in Philadelphia’s creative health from 2006-2008; a 70% stronger creative community than the national benchmark; and a nonprofit cultural sector five times stronger than the national benchmark. Areas identified for improvement, such as creative sector employment, which was 15% below the national benchmark in 2008, are priority areas for the Office in FY12. In January of this year we held a Town Hall meeting, which was attended by over 150 people. The Office shared the findings of the report and solicited input into how the City can better promote, unite and invest in the creative sector. We are currently investigating these recommendations, which will guide our strategy for the development of programs and policies that serve and add capacity to the creative sector.

We have also been working on how to better communicate about our programs and services, and this year will launch an official website, through the pro-bono services of Electronic Ink,  that will better connect all City programs and services to the arts and cultural community and creative businesses.We have also created an active social media presence through Twitter and Facebook.

With a $25,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts matched by funds from the William Penn Foundation, we have partnered with The Reinvestment Fund and Social Impact of the Arts Project at the University of Pennsylvania to create a creative assets mapping database. This initiative is a comprehensive effort to identify and promote arts, culture and creative assets in Philadelphia. It will also be an ongoing resource and tool for asset-based community and economic development.

The Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council, a diverse group of cultural, creative business and philanthropic leaders have continued their work through FY11 crafting and finalizing a comprehensive Vision and Plan for the Office. The Office expects to publish this plan within the next few months.

In May, we will announce a $300,000 fund that will support artists, nonprofit arts and culture organizations and for-profit creative businesses through capital facility investments that produce specific benefits for low- and moderate-income neighborhoods or create or retain jobs. The goals of the program are to strengthen the relationships between the creative industries and their neighborhoods, and to foster organizational growth and job creation, asset development and economic efficiencies within the creative sector.

Since 1992, Art In City Hall has presented exhibitions that showcase contemporary artwork by professional and emerging Philadelphia visual artists. “Emerging” artists include community based art from Philadelphia’s public schools, community nonprofits, and other city agencies, including an annual exhibition highlighting art from City of Philadelphia employees and family members. Art in City Hall has approximately four juried professional exhibitions in hallway display cases and four to five community exhibitions along the fifth floor north corridor each year. In FY11, a particularly notable exhibition featured art by Philadelphia inmates and ex-offenders. Currently, on the fifth floor of City Hall, BuildaBridge, a community non-profit providing assistance for families in transition, will present: My Home Is In My Heart: An Artistic Inquiry of Place, Home and Belonging by Philadelphia’s Children and in May, The Village of Arts and Humanities will celebrate its 25th anniversary with an exhibition of individual and collaborative art projects in photography, textiles and graphic design.

With the opening of our office in June of 2010, we also opened The Art Gallery in City Hall. Expanding upon the Art in City Hall program, the Office now has a comprehensive “exhibitions program,” providing even more opportunities for artists, arts organizations and community groups. To date we have had four shows in the gallery including an annual student exhibition recognizing the importance of arts education from the School District of Philadelphia. Our exhibitions that coincide with major events such as DesignPhiladelphia and the upcoming Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts send a message that City Hall is an active partner in the city-wide initiatives that are putting Philadelphia on the national and international map as a major arts destination and a world class city.

Currently there are eleven Percent for Art projects in various stages of development. These include a LED video project for the Race Street Connector on the Delaware waterfront, as well as two projects at the Philadelphia International Airport, and two at neighborhood recreation centers. Through a competitive process and with funding from the William Penn Foundation, the Office commissioned the internationally renowned artists group Futurefarmers for a project called “Soil Kitchen”, a temporary public art project timed to coincide with the 2011 National Brownfields Conference at the Convention Center. Located at 2nd and Girard, the project incorporates community involvement, naturally generated energy, local foods, the creative reuse of a Brownfield site and Brownfield mapping. 

The Office played a facilitating role in major arts and cultural events such as DesignPhiladelphia, Philagrafika, Art in the Open and Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts; and in representing the creative community interests in major efforts such as Philadelphia Plan 2035, the Philadelphia Zoning Code and the Dilworth Plaza renovations.

FY12 Initiatives
The Office expects to launch several new initiatives in FY12. Under the new moniker, Creative Philadelphia, we will launch a quarterly event series that highlights topical issues that are relevant to a spectrum of artists, cultural organizations and creative businesses and provides networking opportunities for the creative community. We will release a formal creative economy strategy and specific policy and program recommendations driven by our recent Town Hall meeting and continued stakeholder engagement strategy. We will also launch our new website, which will streamline the services that the City provides to artists, arts organizations and creative businesses.

We will launch phase two of our Creative Assets Mapping Database Project. The results of this project will be the creation of a creative asset database, new research regarding creative and neighborhood development, and new local and national policy and investment recommendations.

We are working to secure private funds for four sculpture conservation projects - two on the Parkway and two in Fairmount Park. We will also work to restore and reinstall El Gran Teatro de la Luna, one of only three public sculptures in existence by the famed Puerto Rican artist Rafael Ferrer. Now 76 years old and the subject of a major retrospective at El Museo del Barrio in New York, the artist will work with a conservator and others to return this piece to the community. The coordination of a new permanent home for the Dilworth Memorial is also underway, due to the changes planned for Dilworth Plaza, including a new major public art component by the artist Janet Echelman. Based on the interest and anticipated success of Soil Kitchen, the Office will continue with a temporary public art project for FY12 and hopes to incorporate temporary art into Philadelphia’s public art strategy.

Our exhibition programs will continue to provide opportunities for emerging and professional artists, arts institutions, and community organizations that utilize the arts to improve the quality of life for our citizens. FY12 exhibitions will include the Philadelphia School District show; the annual employees show; the Mural Arts Program Winter Exhibition; and in coordination with the Recreation Department, the Senior Camp Exhibition - artwork from a network of Philadelphia senior centers.

In addition to the exhibitions programs at City Hall, in the Winter of FY12 the Office will introduce expanded cultural opportunities in City Hall with a performing, literary and media arts program that will bring music concerts, dance performances, spoken word and film screenings to the City Hall Courtyard in the warmer months and in the Mayor’s Reception Room and Conversation Hall in the colder months. 

For a copy of the full testimony, click on this link.

1 comment:

  1. Your report speaks to how vibrant the arts are in Philly. The city has reason to be proud.