Philadelphia, April 30, 2013 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter launched a new website, www.cultureblocks.com, during a press conference in City Hall. CultureBlocks is a free mapping tool that supports people and organizations making decisions about place-making, the arts, and creativity in Philadelphia.
“CultureBlocks symbolizes the extraordinary role the creative community has played in our City’s economic recovery and neighborhood development,” said Mayor Nutter. “This web-based tool is the first of its kind in the Nation, and it is a testament to the creative sector in our city that Philadelphia is the first to undertake a project like this. Not only is this a tool that is free to the public, but various city agencies and non-profit organizations will use CultureBlocks in planning, business attraction efforts, investment decision-making, and in providing technical assistance to the arts community – all to improve the livability and creativity of our city.”
CultureBlocks is a public-private partnership between the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; the City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce; The Reinvestment Fund’s (TRF) Policy Map; and the Social Impact of the Arts Project (SAIP) at the University of Pennsylvania. It is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace.
“Over the years, TRF has financed arts organizations, small cultural businesses as well as arts-related charter schools and real estate projects. The arts are critical to the health of a community, and our experience has shown that the creative class has the potential to catalyze neighborhood revitalization,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, TRF’s Chief Executive Officer. “Culture Blocks, which is built on TRF’s PolicyMap platform, will spatially present arts-related data throughout Philadelphia that can be viewed against economic and demographic data. This is an invaluable resource for City officials, private investors and community members alike.”
The CultureBlocks web-tool will be managed by the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy, which will coordinate the use of CultureBlocks among city agencies and provide technical assistance to public users. Moira Baylson, Deputy Cultural Officer of the OACCE has been named the Director of the City’s effort.
“The vision of CultureBlocks is to use data to foster economic and social vitality in Philadelphia neighborhoods,” said Baylson. “CultureBlocks.com is a central place for information and discovery that the City and other civic partners will use to help advance initiatives that support creative activity and revitalize neighborhoods.”
The CultureBlocks web-tool is a part of a larger research initiative to understand the impact of the arts on neighborhoods and drive future investment in the arts. As part of the project, TRF will prepare a white paper of findings from CultureBlocks data that will inform an arts and culture investment strategy for the City. Additionally, SIAP and TRF will construct a Philadelphia livability index that will link information on neighborhood cultural assets with other relevant indices related to social well-being.
CultureBlocks team members Susan Seifert and Mark Stern of SIAP have been studying the links between cultural engagement, community well-being, and neighborhood revitalization for more than 15 years. Their continued efforts will look at trend data over time and will be incorporated into the web-tool. “CultureBlocks marks a new era for urban and social policy research,” said Stern.