Creative Curation: Part 3

junkyardarts July 31, 2011 Comments Off on Creative Curation: Part 3
Creative Curation: Part 3

Public Art was always an important issue for me, though in our economic decline I see now more than ever the potential for public art programs in our cities and how they can lift up communities emotionally, aesthetically and better yet: economically. Let’s get on with it!

Round 3 of my Thesis extravaganza!  Philly Public Art is up!

Creative Curation: Uniting Public Art and the Theory of Creative Tourism to Increase Boston Arts Exposure

Philadelphia and Public Art

According to the Smithsonian Institution, Philadelphia has the greatest number of public sculptures, over 1,400, out of any city in the country, which, in one sentence, explains their involvement in this thesis. Philadelphia has a long standing tradition of supporting the arts in America and is the first city in the country to have implemented a Percent for Arts program.

There are a number of additional programs Philadelphia implements to support public art and public spaces in the city that draw tourists from across the country and around the world, which include their variety of committees, partnerships and official programs that make public art possible. For the purposes of this thesis Philadelphia represents the consummate example of small city with a strong history creating public art-for-art’s-sake to enhance the cultural landscape and presence within the city, thus demonstrating how historic art and aesthetic art can coexist and drive a city into a more fleshed-out creative future.

Percent for Art

In March 1959, the Philadelphia municipality implemented the first ever Percent for Art program in the country. While this program is considered an ordinance rather than a law, as it is in New York City, the formula is still the same with one percent of all municipal building project?s set aside for public art purposes. As with New York, the aim of this ordinance is to mandate and encourage more inviting and aesthetically pleasing pedestrian areas in the city, including fountains, large art installations in the front of new buildings, works within the buildings and other public gathering places. In addition to the municipality?s ordinance, the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia implemented their own program mandating redevelopers allocate one percent of the construction costs for fine arts as well, ensuring that all new construction efforts guarantee the enrichment of the city?s cultural landscape.

Over 400 public art projects have been funded through the Percent for Arts program with many more currently in progress.

Philadelphia is a consummate example of how a historic city can translate the passion for historic preservation while also ushering the creative and cultural needs of the city into the future. The city understands that public art is not just a sculpture placed on the sidewalk frivolously, but it is the planning and executing of a public space as a whole to be enjoyed by citizens and augment the urban backdrop. As noted by the Redevelopment Authority, “each art project is more than a single or isolated work – the public spaces in its entirety is considered, in order to make the greatest contribution to the urban fabric, the streetscape, and the places that citizens populate. Each project is completely site-specific”.

Philadelphia Art Commission (PAC)

The Philadelphia Art Commission, or PAC, is run by the Mayor’s office and serves to assist the arts in a number of ways. Firstly, the Commission is the approval body for the design and location of public buildings, which clearly is more of a position of authority than the Boston Art Commission and holds more authority than one might expect for an art-focused Commission.

In addition to assisting in building placement, the Commission assumes a more traditional role by assisting with conservation and relocation of current public works owned by the city. Recently the Commission assisted in a major museum approval that will bring a renowned collection to the heart of the city as soon as 2012. While this project is in part of historic preservation motivation, it continues to demonstrate the Philadelphia Art Commission?s dedication to actively working with the city to preserve art culture and use it to enhance the landscape and stimulate economic growth.

Additional Public Art Programs and Committees

In 2008, Mayor Michael Nutter reopened the Arts and Culture Office (newly named the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy) establishing yet another governmental department devoted to the implementation of public access to the arts. This department has a wide reaching goal of not only encouraging art and economic growth, but also furthering educational opportunities in the arts, promoting public and private funding in the creative economy sector, serving as the liaison between the city?s many cultural organizations and institutions, and overseeing all the city?s art programs.

This type of organization is not unique to Philadelphia, but certainly their reach and their recent rededication to the arts is admirable and achievable in other cities like Boston. The OACCE is also a turning point in the way Philadelphia approaches their cultural integrity, as it is officially recognizing the financial benefits that correspond with artistic urban planning, creative public works of art, and unique public spaces with which tourist and residents can visit.

With a new focus on a creative economy, Philadelphia is further establishing itself as a city that values its residents, its history and its burgeoning creative culture and this will reflect positively on their creative tourism.


The UACCE oversees a great many programs, including the Art in City Hall program that brings fresh work from residents into City Hall, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and the Avenue of the Arts. Through each of these programs, Philadelphia weaves its artists into the cultural fabric, making their work visible to all citizens and furthering appreciation of the arts. Even a simple program such as the Art in City Hall, one that doesn?t require complete government funding and can accept donations or grants, can provide important moral support to local artists and improve the lives of those who frequent the building. The program can branch off to include public art at city hall and public art programs throughout the city.

Philadelphia has done a tremendous job in providing its residents with the cultural preservation and appreciation they deserve while benefitting financially from the continued support of tourists and other patronage. Their Percent for Art program has worked for decades because it is a solid institution that can be implemented anywhere without causing financial strain on municipal programs, instead allowing for the continued cultural growth and appreciation of the city. Despite the city’s ever changing demographics or financial standing over the course of the next decade or century, Philadelphia has strong provisions in place to continue their cultural growth and public art programs to the benefit of the city residents, the creative economy, and their creative reputation.

*citation available on request, nerds

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