Dynamics of Culture—2003-2005

SIAP began in 1994 to develop methods for examining the character of Philadelphia's cultural sector and understanding its impact on communities throughout the city and region. The Dynamics of Culture project, with support by the Rockefeller Foundation from 2002 to 2005, enabled the research team to refine and replicate earlier investigations concerning cultural producers and participants as well as develop new methods for understanding the role of artists, their social networks, and the informal arts sector. SIAP used the research, in partnership with the Penn Urban Studies Program, to generate a broader public conversation about the role the arts play in promoting the wellbeing of Philadelphia neighborhoods. The 2003-04 program—Arts In Place: Philadelphia’s Cultural Landscape—is documented as part of the collection.

For an overview of the Dynamics of Culture collection, compiled for the Rockefeller Foundation in October 2005, see the "Culture vs. Policy” introduction and chapter outline below.

Culture vs. Policy:

  • Culture vs. Policy: Introduction and Summary of the Research

Changing Ecology of Culture:

  • The Dynamics of Cultural Participation: Metropolitan Philadelphia, 1996-2004 (Oct 2005)
  • “Natural” Cultural Districts: Arts Agglomerations in Metropolitan Philadelphia and Implications for Cultural District Planning (Oct 2005)
  • Truly Disadvantaged? An Exploratory Analysis of Nonprofit Organizations in Urban Neighborhoods (2004)
  • Culture and the Changing Urban Landscape: Philadelphia 1997-2002 (March 2003)
  • Cultural Participation and Distributive Justice (July 2002)

Artists, Networks, and the New Urban Reality:

  • Artists in the Winner-Take-All Economy: Artists’ Inequality in Six U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1980-2000 (Oct 2005)
  • Gauging the Informal Arts Sector: Metropolitan Philadelphia, 2004 (Oct 2005)
  • Artists and their Social Networks, Metropolitan Philadelphia, 2004 (Oct 2005)
  • Institutional Networks Serving Artists: A Look at Philadelphia (June 2003)

New Civil Society and the Arts:

  • Arts in Place: Philadelphia’s Cultural Landscape, 2003-04 (May 2005)


  • Culture’s Role in Community Revitalization in Philadelphia (March 2003 presentation)


Search results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 12
  • Publication
    Arts In Place: Philadelphia's Cultural Landscape
    (2005-05-01) Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP)
    To inform the debate over costs vs benefits of arts-based development to neighborhood revitalization, Penn Urban Studies Program chose "arts in place" as the theme of its Third Annual Public Conversation Series 2003-04. This document is a synthesis of the narratives and insights gleaned from the series--eight events with 23 speakers over five months--to share with a wider audience. The report describes the models and theories about how the arts influence development raised in six site-based discussions. Lastly, the report presents themes and issues that cut across Philadelphia's cultural landscape aired during the culminating session and throughout the series.
  • Publication
    Cultural Participation and Distributive Justice
    (2002-07-01) Stern, Mark J; Seifert, Susan C
    Expanding cultural participation has been an important goal of cultural policy, among both public and private policymakers, over the past half century. In its work with the Urban Institute from 1996 to 2006, the Arts and Culture Indicator Project (ACIP) took a unique approach to the issue in its emphasis on overcoming historically-based exclusion and giving voice to cultural expression by ethnic minorities and poor communities. This paper builds on ACIP’s approach, first, by making explicit the policy question--that is, what are the consequences of cultural expression for distributive justice? The authors then draw on SIAP research in Philadelphia to examine the ways in which different forms of cultural participation connect with indicators of social inequality. They found that much of mainstream cultural expression actually reinforces social inequality. However, two parts of the cultural sector—the “alternative” regional cultural sector and the community cultural sector—show more promise in providing resources for historically disenfranchised groups and marginal neighborhoods. The paper concludes that, if public support of cultural expression is justified on its promotion of social justice, these sectors would likely provide the best opportunities for addressing this goal.
  • Publication
    Culture’s Role in Community Revitalization in Philadelphia
    (2003-03-01) Stern, Mark J
    SIAP grew out of the belief that a better understanding of how the arts fit into urban social processes could provide a stronger foundation for policy making beyond a narrow focus on economic development. Its research to date can inform urban policy and community development strategies in several ways: highlight upcoming trends beyond “urban crisis”; measure the impacts of cultural engagement on urban neighborhoods; and document the mechanisms through which cultural sector works in urban communities. Thus the arts and culture are not marginal but rather are at the center of the new urban reality—characterized by a mix of decline and revitalization. Looking forward, SIAP wants to document how cultural engagement—along with other forms of community involvement—fit into an evolving “new civil society.”
  • Publication
    Truly Disadvantaged? An Exploratory Analysis of Nonprofit Organizations in Urban Neighborhoods
    (2004-01-01) Rutherford, Lindsay Taggart
    This paper uses unique data on Philadelphia’s nonprofit organizations compiled from IRS listings, city cultural fund grant applications, telephone directories and newspaper listings in 1997 and 2003 to test Wilson’s (1987) hypothesis that inner-city neighborhoods suffer from a dearth of social institutions. The author integrates these data with demographic information from the 2000 census to explore the size and spatial patterns of Philadelphia’s neighborhood nonprofit sectors. Results indicate that neighborhoods have suffered a net loss of organizations over the past six years, although most neighborhoods still had over 100 institutions per 1000 residents in 2003. Ethnically diverse neighborhoods and neighborhoods with over 40% of residents living in poverty had the largest nonprofit sectors. Finally, neighborhoods with the most institutions were concentrated in the central city. The author confirms an earlier SIAP finding—that poor neighborhoods in Philadelphia are not necessarily institutionally ‘deprived’—and suggests that the literature on concentrated poverty find a way of understanding this pattern.
  • Publication
    Gauging the Informal Arts Sector Metropolitan Philadelphia, 2004
    (2005-10-01) Stern, Mark J; Seifert, Susan C; Zaman, Mehreen
    The uncertain state of the traditional nonprofit has sparked interest in unincorporated cultural associations to maintain the vitality of the cultural sector. Despite increasing interest in and qualitative study of the role of the unincorporated groups and individuals in cultural production and participation, there are no data that allow assessment of their importance to the overall cultural sector. In this paper, SIAP takes an alternative strategy for estimating the informal arts sector. The authors use a representative sample of artists to ask what proportion of artists’ professional activities takes place in the for-profit, nonprofit, and informal sectors. The analysis is based on a sample of 270 artists in the Philadelphia metropolitan area interviewed during 2004. The team found that a large share of the sample’s professional activities did indeed occur in what might be called the informal cultural sector; and that the importance of this sector varied by discipline, age, and ethnicity of the artist. The informal arts sector is likely to be a major agenda item for cultural research in the years to come. If nothing else, this paper demonstrates that researchers can use quantitative methods to expand our understanding of the informal sector. It also holds out the promise that the research would contribute to a more complex and variegated portrait of informal cultural engagement and its place in the ecology of urban culture.
  • Publication
    Culture vs. Policy: Introduction and Summary of the Research
    (2005-10-01) Stern, Mark J; Seifert, Susan C
    This summary provides a descriptive overview of SIAP’s research from 2003 to 2005 in metropolitan Philadelphia. The authors argue that the papers produced by the Dynamics of Culture project document an early 21st century American city with a flourishing cultural sector--a community infrastructure full of vitality and promise, in spite of social policy, not because of it.
  • Publication
    ‘Natural’ Cultural Districts: Arts Agglomerations in Metropolitan Philadelphia and Implications for Cultural District Planning
    (2005-10-01) Seifert, Susan C; Stern, Mark J
    As older cities and towns retooled to accommodate post-industrialism, cultural districts have become popular strategies to promote tourism, revive downtowns, revitalize neighborhoods, and generally boost the local economy. While entertainment centers are hardly new to urban life, the cultural district as economic stimulus has become increasingly standard equipment in the planners’ toolbox. The typical district is “a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area of a city in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as the anchor or attraction.” Thus the cultural district is a strategy for simulating arts “consumption” and “event-related spending”, but planning largely ignores the production needs of artists and cultural providers. Generally, local government takes the initiative to define and create a cultural district through planning, legislation, and fiscal policy. Over 100 communities across the U.S. have planned cultural districts. The widespread practice of using of older, top-down models of urban policy, however, does not recognize the need to link cultural strategies with new urban realities and new models of social policy. This paper draws on SIAP's research on metropolitan Philadelphia to look at an alternative approach—that is, the dynamics of arts agglomeration or what the authors call "natural" cultural districts.
  • Publication
    Artists and Their Social Networks, Metropolitan Philadelphia, 2004
    (2005-10-01) Seifert, Susan C; Stern, Mark J; Zaman, Mehreen
    This paper reports the rationale, methodology, and findings of SIAP's Philadelphia Area Artists Survey 2004. SIAP undertook the survey as a first step toward the documentation and understanding of the region’s artists and their social networks. The study had four objectives: to address a gap in the literature by doing an empirical study of the social networks of artists; to document the informal dimensions of artists’ networking in metropolitan Philadelphia; to test methodologies to identify the universe of artists in the region and analyze their network strategies; and, finally, to advance SIAP’s understanding of the role of the artist in the contemporary city. The report documents two types of networking activity: networks that are part of everyday professional life, including nuts and bolts as well as inspiration for the creative process; and networks to get work, that is, projects or positions (over a 12-month period) that tap their capacity as an artist. The picture of social networks presented in this paper differs from the image based on the organization-centered perspective that has dominated policy research. An artist-centered view redraws boundaries of the cultural sector and recasts definitions of informal vs. formal and internal vs. external networks. The findings begin to address the empirical shortfall in research and offer new perspectives on the nature and function of artists’ social networks.
  • Publication
    Institutional Networks Serving Artists: A Look at Philadelphia
    (2003-06-01) Seifert, Susan C; Fairbanks, Robert P.
    This paper is a preliminary sketch of institutional networks serving artists in metropolitan Philadelphia based on interviews with 13 organizations from June to August 2002. The approach was to develop a “cognitive map” of the network of institutions that support artists based in the region. That is, what are the nodes and functions in an artist-centered network? What types of links connect these nodes or functions? What nodes and links are the most important? The study found that Philadelphia’s institutional network appears to operate, by and large, on a market model with artists functioning as individual “buyers” in an environment of limited resources and imperfect information. Some parts of the network, however, operate more on a service model for categories of artists—including many low-income groups— who because of race, immigration status, or location are cut off from the mainstream cultural system.
  • Publication
    The Dynamics of Cultural Participation: Metropolitan Philadelphia, 1996 - 2004
    (2005-10-01) Stern, Mark J; Seifert, Susan C
    This paper uses data on over 800,000 cultural participants in 1996 and 2004 to examine changes in patterns of cultural participation over these years. The authors discover a consistent pattern in which areas of metropolitan Philadelphia with a large number of cultural organizations are those most likely to have high rates of participation. The connection between institutional presence and cultural engagement was one of SIAP’s first discoveries in the mid-1990s and remains one of its most durable findings. With respect to change over time, there were also unexpected findings. Participation became more tied to both social class and ethnic diversity. The authors explain this seeming paradox in the context of the “new urban reality”—as ethnic groups became more economically differentiated, high-income, ethnically diverse neighborhoods also became more common. These were now the neighborhoods with the highest rates of cultural participation. Another pattern uncovered in the 1990s—what SIAP called “alternative” participation that linked socially diverse audiences to newer, more experimental cultural production—seemed to wither over the decade. By 2004 the former “alternative” cultural organizations had participation patterns identical to those of more “mainstream” organizations, a trend attributed to the increasing market orientation within the cultural sector.