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Listening Tour Recap

On October 28, the GroundSwell team joined members of the cultural community at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for a Listening Tour hosted by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia. We discussed the impact of arts and culture on the City of Philadelphia, and what the next Mayor and City Council need to do to ensure that our community continues to thrive.

The Listening Tour was part of the Chamber's Roadmap for Growth initiative. The intiative encourages civic and community organizations and engaged citizens to discuss the best policies for economic growth and job creation in Philadelphia over the next five years. Each Councilmember will host one Listening Tour event in different neighborhoods across the city. Given the significant economic impact the cultural sector has on Philadelphia's economy, we are glad that Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and the Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia made sure that arts and culture were part of this discussion.

Councilwoman Brown and Karin Copeland, Executive Director of the Arts + Business Council, took turns asking questions to guide the discussion. The questions included:

  1. If you could ask the mayoral candidates one thing relating to arts and culture, what would it be? 
  2. What Philadelphia neighborhood has a growing artist community and what tools and resources does this community need to succeed? 
  3. How can we make it easier to start a new nonprofit?
  4. What skills would you look for in a new hire? 


Out of this discussion it was clear that Philadelphia's cultural community is eager for a permanent department that is dedicated to arts, culture and the creative economy. There is deep concern that the future of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is uncertain, because its existence is determined by the Mayor. The attendees expressed concern that not having a permanent department dedicated to the cultural sector would send a message that the city does not adequately support the sector.  

It is also clear that funding is a significant issue and hurdle for many cultural organizations. Several attendees brought up the issue of creating a dedicated funding stream that will support our cultural organizations. If you didn't know, there is already a precedent in Pennsylvania for this. Allegheny County has a dedicated funding stream that supports the quality of life sectors.

There was also an overwhelming show of support for creating policies that allow individual artists to thrive in this city and be able to afford to practice their crafts.

Lastly, there was a strong focus on arts education, and the belief that keeping the arts in schools is not an amenity but an essential for students, not only because it helps develop necessary skills but also because for many kids the arts is the essential skill; the career path.  

Next Steps:

We want to keep this discussion going, so if you have answers to any of the questions above tweet us @GroundSwellPA, post on the GroundSwell Facebook page or email us at! We will continue to raise these questions and issues with the Mayoral candidates and City Council members and candidates.