From 2011 to 2013, SIAP worked in partnership with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE), and the Philadelphia Department of Commerce to develop an assets mapping tool and livability index for the City of Philadelphia. The project—called CultureBlocks—was made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA Chairman’s Grant and Our Town Grant) and ArtPlace America.
The project was designed to build on local capacity: the cultural data infrastructure developed by SIAP; the web capacity already developed by TRF, a robust geospatial platform called PolicyMap; and the City’s interest in the creative economy as a focus of economic development policy. In addition, SIAP and TRF developed a research agenda based on the body of work on culture and community revitalization the partners had generated in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation. The new research involved development of a policy tool for Philadelphia to enable assessment of how the arts connect with livability and other dimensions of social wellbeing.
The CultureBlocks project marks an important event in the development of cultural research and its contribution to urban and social policy. The online mapping tool provides an opportunity to open up discussion of the future of culture and the arts in Philadelphia neighborhoods to a broader public. The SIAP/TRF policy tool and research findings provide ideas and evidence that can inform that discussion.