Culture Builds Community

Document Type

Working Paper




This paper explores the contours of community revitalization and its relationship to arts activity. The authors found that in Philadelphia, neighborhoods in which the arts were a visible presence were more likely to have fared better—as measured by changes in poverty and population—than the rest of the city.

The paper begins with an examination of trends in revitalization in the city of Philadelphia during the 1980s. The team found little relationship between declines in poverty and changes in the racial composition of the city’s neighborhoods—a classic indicator of gentrification--during this decade. When they examined the relationship of the arts to revitalization, they found that sections of the city that consistently emerged as “high participation” neighborhoods—whether looking at presence of cultural organizations or levels of local involvement--were precisely the places likely to have higher than average growth of income and population during the 1980s.

The authors then turn to patterns of participation in community arts activities. What they found was extraordinarily high levels of participation from across the region in community cultural activities. And, consistent with previous SIAP studies, they found that the diverse neighborhoods of the city account for the lion’s share of this regional participation in community arts.


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



Date Posted: 18 May 2017