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Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Philadelphia’s cultural assets will be mapped for the first time.

The NEA awarded a $250,000 Our Town grant last week to a group that includes Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice to develop a Creative Assets Mapping Database for Philadelphia.

The recipients of the award include a research center at SP2 known as the Social Impact of the Arts Project, The Reinvestment Fund — an organization that finances neighborhood and economic revitalization — and two city departments — the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and the Commerce Department.

Together, they will create a database that will be “a technological, community and economic development tool that represents the range of organizations and individuals active in Philadelphia’s creative and cultural economy,” according to the SIAP website.

According to a blog post by the city’s Chief Cultural Officer Gary Steuer, the project was envisioned a few years ago after Mayor Michael Nutter asked the question, “Can we map all the cultural and creative economy activity in the City and can we then use that tool to drive our policies and decisions?”

No such tool existed, so the groups that would later receive the grant convened to begin studying it.

SIAP focuses on the impact of arts and culture within American cities and arts-based revitalization. “We’ve been developing methods for mapping and analyzing the social impact of cultural assets since 1994,” Mark Stern, co-founder of SIAP, wrote in an email. “The Our Town project will allow us to continue our work by updating our data on cultural assets and connecting it to other data sources.”

One of these data sources is TRF’s PolicyMap, which Steuer described as “the leading source of mapped social and demographic data.”

“The new parts of the project really involve TRF using PolicyMap to make our data web-based and more accessible,” Stern wrote.

Although the grant recipients were announced last week, the collaboration between SIAP and TRF is anything but recent.

“SIAP has worked with TRF for about a decade, including a project on culture and neighborhood revitalization between 2006 and 2008,” Stern wrote. “Our work with the City began last year when we received a planning grant for the Our Town project.”

The Our Town grants were given to 51 areas in 34 states as part of an initiative to help the areas grow through the arts. In total, the NEA gave $6.575 million in Our Town funding.

“Communities across our country are investing in the arts and smart design to enhance Americans’ quality of life and to promote the distinctive identities of our communities,” NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said in a statement. “Our Town creates partnerships among local governments and arts and design organizations to strengthen the creative sector and help revitalize the overall community.”

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