Community Partners in Arts Access Evaluation

Document Type

Research Report




This report evaluates the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Community Partners in Arts Access (CPAA) initiative to expand cultural participation in North Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. The initiative had two phases. From September 2003 to December 2004, Knight invited 35 cultural organizations to participate in a planning process with a focus on organizational capacity building, audience development training, and developing an action plan to expand cultural participation. In December 2004, Knight awarded 19 of those organizations a total of $4.8 million to carry out their plans between 2005 and 2008.

The Benchmark Project documented 2004 baseline cultural participation—including estimates of regional participation and of “benchmark” participation in organizations serving North Philadelphia and/or Camden—that provided the basis for the CPAA evaluation. This report concluded that CPAA met its goals. SIAP's analysis found that both regional and benchmark participation rates increased from the beginning to the end of the initiative. By 2008 the gap between the levels of cultural participation in North Philadelphia and Camden and the rest of the metropolitan area had been reduced significantly.

However, this simple conclusion belies the complexity that attended CPAA as it unfolded. CPAA began in 2003 with an orthodox theory of organizational capacity building, but by 2006 Knight had shifted its focus to community transformation and grantees had to rethink their projects. SIAP maintained its evaluation design: waves of grantee and regional participant data-gathering; survey of artists living or working in North Philadelphia and Camden; and extensive qualitative research including interviews and participant-observation with CPAA grantees over the course of the initiative. The qualitative record allowed SIAP not only to document what actually happened but also to make sense of changing theories of action during the course of the initiative.


SIAP's evaluation of the Community Partners in Arts Access (CPAA) initiative in North Philadelphia and Camden, NJ was undertaken with support by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Philadelphia and Camden Cultural Participation Benchmark Project (see SIAP Collection), in collaboration with Alan S. Brown & Associates and Research for Action, provided baseline data and concepts. Regional cultural participation estimates were made possible by access to the Philadelphia Cultural List Cooperative database provided by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.



Date Posted: 09 May 2017