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Arts & Culture is transforming neighborhoods and serving communities

Cultural vibrancy is an incredible asset for Philadelphia. Take a stroll through Doylestown, where institutions such the County Theater, the James A. Michener Art Museum and the Mercer and Fonthill Museums have helped transform the downtown into a regional cultural destination. Or, check out Philadelphia’s Passyunk and Frankford Avenues, where art galleries, cultural organizations and community partners are helping to create unique and eclectic retail and food corridors.

Philadelphia’s culinary renaissance has come hand-in-hand with our cultural renaissance. “Philadelphia’s vibrant arts culture and thriving restaurant scene are no accident,” explains Jose Garces, executive chef and owner of Garces Group. “It’s a tremendous place to be if you’re involved in a creative field, and one with a great deal of interaction between dining and the arts.” The crowds that pours out of our theaters, galleries and museums are the patrons that have made Philadelphia one of the best fed places in America.

But its not just about shopping and dining out. It’s also about how we serve our communities.

Cultural groups are busy transforming our visual landscape, incorporating public art into the streetscape, turning abandoned lots into colorful gardens, and providing resources and valuable programming to our communities.

Consider Fleisher Art Memorial, located in Southeast Philadelphia a vibrant area of the city which has traditionally welcomed newly arrived people from around the world, and is home to both longstanding African American and Italian American communities. Only blocks away from the eastern border of Center City, Fleisher has taken an active roll in bridging the gap between these diverse communities.

In 2011, Fleisher completed a study of the composition, motivations and needs of their Southeast Philadelphia community through surveys, focus groups and in-field interviews. From this research, Fleisher identified a series of critical steps necessary to creating new pathways for participation and access, including raising community awareness and developing trust between Fleisher and newly arrived community members.

With these themes top-of-mind, Fleisher implemented staff trainings on community-building, introduced non-English translation classes, and created new, innovative community-building programs such as ColorWheels Presented by PNC ArtsAlive (a mobile art studio that brings culturally-relevant art experiences to Fleisher's surrounding neighborhoods) and FAMbassadors (an initiative to place Fleisher staff and volunteer representatives within the Southeast Philadelphia community).

This is just one example of how Philadelphia’s cultural organizations are combining public service and public artwork to empower communities and instill a new and stronger pride of place.