"Natural" Cultural Districts: A Three-City Study (2010-12)

 

From 2010 to 2012, with support by Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), a New York-­based national initiative, SIAP undertook a study of “natural” cultural districts in three cities—Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Seattle. The project had two interrelated parts: a citywide analysis of the social geography and cultural ecology of the three cities and a series of community studies of seven cultural districts within the three cities. Our fieldwork and qualitative study focused on the following districts:

  • Baltimore—Highlandtown-Patterson Park and Station North;
  • Philadelphia—Callowhill/Chinatown North and South Philadelphia; and
  • Seattle—Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Chinatown-International District.

The neighborhood narratives discuss the evolution and character of “natural” cultural districts and challenges posed to their sustainability, including the role of cultural space. The broader goal of the project was to improve our ability to invest in—and monitor the impact of—the arts on community revitalization. SIAP developed the concept of “natural” cultural district as a way to rethink the relationship of the arts and culture to neighborhood revitalization through the lens of the community cultural ecosystem. Some neighborhoods spawn a concentration of cultural agents—organizations and businesses, artists and activists, residents and visitors—that function as a geographically based social network.

This research builds on previous work by SIAP and The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. The TRF/SIAP collaboration produced a series of policy briefs and reports on creativity and neighborhood development—and the power of placemaking—that are available at: http://www.trfund.com/tag/culture.

This research builds on previous work by SIAP and the Reinvestment Fund with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. See Culture and Community Revitalization: A Collaboration (2006-08).

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