Culture Builds Community

Document Type

Working Paper




One of SIAP's goals has been to explore the dimensions of cultural participation and, in particular, the social context of participation. In a 1994 working paper, Stern used the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) specially commissioned in 1992 for the Philadelphia metropolitan area to which he added information on the number of cultural organizations located in the zip code of each respondent. The results were startling. This rough measure of community cultural resources was significantly correlated with levels of regional participation--that is, the more cultural programs located in their neighborhood, the more likely respondents were to take part in cultural activities citywide. Moreover, the relationship was stronger than that for income, education, or race/ethnicity. Thus, there appeared to be a strong “neighborhood effect” on cultural participation, something that previous research had been unable to measure.

Although these findings were instructive, the limits of the Philadelphia SPPA--lack of more precise geographical identification and relatively small sample size--made it difficult to use for more detailed analysis. During 1996 and 1997, SIAP undertook a two-pronged strategy to examine more fully the interaction between community and regional participation. First, the team collected and analyzed participant data from a cross-section of Philadelphia’s regional cultural institutions. Second, they conducted a a "community participation survey" in five Philadelphia neighborhoods. This paper reports the results of the analysis of regional cultural participation. A companion paper, Cultural Participation and Civic Engagement in Five Philadelphia Neighborhoods (January 1998), examines local participation patterns.


See Individual Participation and Community Arts Groups: A Quantitative Analysis of Philadelphia (SIAP Working Paper #1, Stern and Seifert, Oct 1994).

In Social Citizenship and Urban Poverty (SIAP Working Paper #4, Stern and Seifert, Feb 1997), the authors found that poor neighborhoods have rates of community participation comparable to those in more affluent neighborhoods. However, the high level of local participation did not predict regional cultural participation. One implication was the need to focus on the barriers that prevent community participation from translating into regional participation

SIAP's Culture Builds Community research was undertaken from 1996 to 2001 with support by the William Penn Foundation.



Date Posted: 18 May 2017