Re-presenting the City: Arts, Culture, and Diversity in Philadelphia

Document Type

Working Paper




Diversity is an essential feature of urbanism, as articulated by Louis Wirth in his classic 1938 essay, “Urbanism as a Way of Life.” This paper presents 1990s findings on the connection between social diversity and cultural engagement in Philadelphia neighborhoods to question the reality of “city trenches” (Ira Katznelson 1981) and dominant views about the limits of urban revitalization. The paper examines the links between civic engagement and ethnic and economic diversity in Philadelphia by analyzing the relationship of the geography of civic and community organizations to their socio-economic context. The authors argue that arts and cultural organizations and engagement do not parallel divisions of race and social class; rather, they tend to concentrate in neighborhoods that are ethnically and economically diverse. Thus, cultural organizations provide an opportunity to support community institutions without reinforcement of social segregation.


This paper explores forms of economic diversity the authors first identified during their study of Arts Resources for Children and Youth in Philadelphia (1997). They had found that census tracts with many arts resources were more likely to have both above-average poverty rates and above-average proportions of professionals and managers in the labor force. At first counter-intuitive (given the lens of “city trenches”), the team since realized that in fact there are many such"pov-prof" neighborhoods in Philadelphia.



Date Posted: 14 February 2018