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The arts are alive in Mantua! A newly-released Drexel study focusing on the role of arts and culture in the West Philadelphia neighborhoods of Mantua, Powelton Village and West Powelton, depicts a flourishing cultural ecosystem that faces challenges, but with the right tools, can thrive.


Three Drexel professors spent five months conducting surveys and interviewing more than 450 people, the finished product, "A Fragile Ecosystem: The Role of Arts and Culture in Philadelphia's Mantua, Powelton Village, and West Powelton Neighborhoods," was released Monday and produced some surprises.

The study suggest, Mantua can have a tremendous impact, as a bridge, combining different energies, different economies and social situations, a tremendous 'listening' to the community.  Despite the social challenges of the neighborhoods, a 51% poverty rateamong the 35,315 residents, 14% unemployment and nearly 15 percent building vacancy, the community is ready to build arts and culture programs. “Art is a relationship builder, art is a confidence builder,” asserted one resident.

The newly designed mural at the McMichael Morton School is a perfect example of how art can transform a community.. Spearheaded by the Mural Arts Program, the 12,000 –sq. ft. mural, titled “Micro to Macro,” is one of the most elaborate pieces in the city. The mural was created to show how art can cultivate vibrancy and energy in neighborhoods that have been labeled as “battered.”

"It's not art for art's sake, its art for the sake of the good of the neighborhood," asserted Andrew Zitcer, an assistant teaching professor at Drexel who studies urban policy. "There's a tremendous amount of energy on the ground.” The mural is full of bright colors, and features a globe, DNA strands, atoms and neurons overlapping. It’s more than a mural being displayed on a school building, it’s creating new vitality for Mantua residents and a number of organizations, including Mighty Writers, Lil' Filmmakers, and the Gwen Bye Dance Center.

So what are the next steps to ensure that Mantua becomes a hub for arts growth? Community members are looking to begin with education by expanding the after-school programs and working with more schools on group projects."Not every street needs to be Avenue of the Arts - you don't build it as a destination for the region. You build it for the kids, for 14,000 people. They still need arts and culture in their lives, and that's what they told us," asserted, Zitcer.

GroundSwell will be working with the cultural community in Mantua over next year to highlight all of the great cultural activities happening in Mantua, so check back on our blog and the Cultural Alliance’s Philly Fun Guide for happenings in the area.