Arts-Based Social Inclusion and Immigrant Communities—2010-2011

Document Type

Research Report




This document reports on a study of the role that arts and culture play in Philadelphia’s migrant communities—that is, Puerto Rican and foreign-born residents and their families, including children born in the U.S. The project explored the concept of “arts-based social inclusion”—the idea that organizations and artists use culture and the arts as a means to improve the life circumstances of new Philadelphians and integrate them more fully into community life. The study confirmed that arts-based social inclusion is a productive perspective with which to make sense of this work.

The report first examines the changing presence of the foreign-born in Philadelphia from 2000 to 2007 as a context for the study. The authors then discuss findings based on fieldwork conducted during the spring and summer of 2010. Two cross-cutting themes emerged from interviews with practitioners. One is that a cultural perspective provides a broader, multi-dimensional way—beyond economic need—of thinking about the process of social inclusion. At the same time, cultural practitioners working with migrant communities repeatedly run up against conventional notions about nonprofit organizational structure and capacity. The report describes a five-part typology of existing models pursued by cultural practitioners: cultural space development, community organizing, institutional networks, school-based programming, and culturally-sensitive social service. The conclusion offers guidelines for philanthropy interested in a holistic, bottom-up approach to building the arts' capacity to engage immigrant communities.


The research is based on a 2010 pilot study conducted by SIAP in collaboration with the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation with support by the William Penn Foundation.

In their conclusion, Stern and Seifert propose an evaluation framework for philanthropy based on the “capabilities approach” to welfare and wellbeing that is closely identified with the European discussion of social inclusion. This anticipates SIAP's later work, which uses the capabilities approach as the foundation for development of a multi-dimensional index of social wellbeing.



Date Posted: 04 May 2017