Building the Creative Economy
The arts and creative economy can be drivers of community revitalization. Reinvestment Fund has invested $95 million in arts-related projects, from the Crane Arts building in Philadelphia, which includes studios and makerspace, to the Queen Theater in Wilmington, DE, and the City Arts apartments and townhomes for artists in Baltimore, MD.
Our research and accumulated expertise have shown that artists are early market entrants who help stabilize distressed neighborhoods. With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, Reinvestment Fund collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) to explore the synergies between the community development and art worlds. In Philadelphia, we found that when a peak concentration is achieved—forming what we call a “natural” cultural district—artists’ networks generate social and economic spillover effects. We found positive relationships with poverty reduction (without social displacement), improved child welfare, fewer cases of ethnic and racial harassment, and lower rates of chronic illness.
Artists value the process of remaking space and help reveal the potential for recovery inherent in many urban neighborhoods. In both the redevelopment of discrete buildings and incremental renewal of large districts, they provide entrepreneurial energy to the task of preserving something old through the development of something new.
In Baltimore, Reinvestment Fund is developing a strategy to target investment in the arts to low-income communities in Central Baltimore, where it can catalyze and build on other complementary efforts. Supported by the Kresge and Surdna Foundations, Reinvestment Fund’s Creative Placemaking Fellow focused on developing best practices for financing the arts in distressed neighborhoods in ways that build community among both new and existing residents. The work is captured in a series of blogs on targeting investment in the arts.
In Central Baltimore, which includes the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and the Homewood Community Partners Initiative (HCPI) footprint, Reinvestment Fund is also administering the Central Baltimore Future Fund, a $10 million loan initiative to help finance neighborhood revitalization projects.
In Philadelphia, Reinvestment Fund collaborated with an array of partners, including SIAP, to create CultureBlocks, a free, publicly accessible mapping tool of Philadelphia’s creative and cultural resources on the neighborhood level. CultureBlocks can be used for decision making, policy development, research, planning, marketing and investment by helping conceptualize and measure culture as a dimension of social well-being and a contributor to community equity. Cultureblocks offers information from point-level data on cultural assets to cultural participation rates. CultureBlocks is made possible through the generous support from the National Endowment of the Arts, Our Town Program and ArtPlace America.