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The Philadelphia Artists Summit: A Grassroots Brainstorm

Program Coordinator Britney Hines reports back from the event.

If you are an artist and/or arts administrator in Philadelphia there is a high chance you have been talking about the Charlotte Ford interview in the FringeArts blog. This interview gave an insider look into the life of a “successful Philadelphia performing artists and actor.” I invite you to read the interview because it is a really eye-opening look at the life of many artists working in Philadelphia, and it has sparked the beginnings of a grassroots movement of Philadelphia artists and administrators.

 On Monday, June 23, 100+ artists convened at the URBN Center Annex at Drexel University to discuss the state of the life of the artist in Philadelphia. The Philly Artists Summit was organized and hosted by four working artist volunteers (Amy Smith, Debbie Shapiro, Jenny Laden and John Frisbee) and was moderated by Debbie Shapiro and Julie Hawkins.

Now, a conversation about the sustainability of artist communities is not a new phenomenon, and this meeting was very aware that these questions about artists’ sustainability are already being asked across the nation and the globe. Julie Hawkins guided the audience through some of the available research and explained some of the major gaps in the research before the open conversation began. The audience was invited to respond to two questions that helped frame most of the conversation:

  1. What would help you support your artistic life more sustainably?
  2. Can you think of a grassroots way for our community to help make that happen?

To be expected, the answer to the first question was centered on the need for money, including more money from funders for individual artists, more part-time work with benefits, and the need for better paying teaching opportunities. Additionally, there was great concern about how the administrative work of being an artist can compete with the actual art making.

Many great grassroots ideas were presented that hopefully will be explored in more depth in future meetings. Some highlights were the idea of creating a development and marketing work co-op where artists with superior grant or press release writing skills could share them with the rest of the community.

The two-hour meeting was dense with many great queries and ideas, and luckily if you missed the meeting you can watch a video of the conversation here. Additionally there is a website, phillyartistssummit.org, to connect, volunteer and learn about upcoming events. Stay tuned as more events and chances to get involved come up.