From 2011 to 2013, SIAP worked in partnership with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE), and Philadelphia Department of Commerce to develop an asset mapping tool and livability index for the City of Philadelphia. The project--called CultureBlocks--was made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA Chairman’s Grant and Our Town Grant) and ArtPlace America.
CultureBlocks was designed to build on local capacity: the cultural data infrastructure developed by SIAP; the web capacity 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 completed new research that involved development of a policy tool to enable assessment of how the arts and culture connect with livability and other dimensions of social wellbeing.
The most visible product of the collaboration was the April 30, 2013 launch at Philadelphia City Hall of the free online mapping tool called CultureBlocks.com [www.cultureblocks.com/wordpress]. Local press lauded CultureBlocks as a tool that “democratizes a lot of the data that has been collected by researchers” (“Data Democratized: CultureBlocks Launches” by Vivienne Tang, HIdden City Philadelphia post, April 30, 2013). Next City was impressed that the creative economy can be mapped, describing CultureBlocks as "a detailed atlas of the city’s cultural terrain.” (“Down to the Parcel, ‘CultureBlocks’ Maps Philly Arts and Culture” by Patrick Kerkstra, Next City, May 2, 2013.). The October 2013 issue of the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal featured an article on “Culture Blocks” by Anya Saretzky. For a discussion of CultureBlocks.com in national context by NEA Our Town grants program managers, see the National Endowment for the Arts website: https://www.arts.gov/exploring-our-town/culture-blocks.
The CultureBlocks project was a milestone in cultural research and its potential contribution to urban and social policy. The online asset mapping tool opens discussion of the role of culture and the arts in Philadelphia neighborhoods to a broader public. The SIAP/ Reinvestment Fund social wellbeing frameworks and findings--archived in SIAP's CultureBlocks Philadelphia Collection--provide ideas and evidence that inform that discussion.
Submissions from 2013
What do the Arts & Culture Contribute to Urban Life?, Mark J. Stern
Cultural Ecology, Neighborhood Vitality, and Social Wellbeing—A Philadelphia Project, Mark J. Stern and Susan C. Seifert
Submissions from 2012
Cultural Asset Mapping Project: Progress Report, Mark J. Stern and Susan C. Seifert