‘Art is Essential’, Putting Philadelphia artists in the driver’s seat for new art projects with community engagement
Art IS essential and so are Artists! Here is a welcome response to the times by institutions seeking new visions to engage communities with public art. Thinking outside the usual public art box, Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and The Knight Foundation want to let artists lead the way to “new ways to engage, connect, debate, and shape our future” with public art. Yesss. ED. NOTE: This opportunity's deadline has been extended! New deadline is OCTOBER 7.

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The Battle is Joined, a sculpture by 2019 Pew Fellow Karyn Oliver, installed in Vernon Park, Philadelphia, 2017. The work was presented as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Monument Lab. Photo by Mike Reali.
The Battle is Joined, a sculpture by 2019 Pew Fellow Karyn Oliver, installed in Vernon Park, Philadelphia, 2017. The work was presented as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Monument Lab. Photo by Mike Reali.

The initial application for Art is Essential is an easy, fill-in-the-blank form online asking for a short bio (500 words), your idea (500 words) and your materials (1 video or 1 audio or 5 still images). One hundred winning submissions will receive $1000 each and be asked to develop their projects further. Total purse available to realize projects is $300,000, and after the initial 100 semi-finalists, it doesn’t say how many projects will be funded or what the project budget will be, but this is worth applying for. Artists should lead the way into the future. We are happy to see these funders — Knight Foundation and Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC) believe so too. Information from their release is below.

ED. NOTE: The application deadline for Art is Essential has been extended to OCTOBER 7, 2020.

PHDC announced today the launch of a new initiative titled ART IS ESSENTIAL. This program, made possible with $150,000 of public funds and $150,000 from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, supports local artists who are interested in re-imagining community-based public art in Philadelphia.

ART IS ESSENTIAL is a first of its kind, multi-phased program designed to create high-quality, artist-driven and community-informed public art. Artists from across Philadelphia will reimagine how we engage with each other and our communities.

“From the pandemic to confronting the deep impact of racism and inequality, we are asking artists to help us explore and understand our present reality,” said Greg Heller, Senior Vice President of Community Investment at PHDC. “We want to lift up unheard and underrepresented voices across our communities and let artist-led ideas show us new ways to engage, connect, debate, and shape our future.”

Submissions are now being accepted during the program’s first phase for Philadelphia-based artists at any experience level, working in any medium. The requirement is that applicants address the central question of ‘What does engagement mean today?’ A review committee of diverse arts professionals will select 100 exemplary proposals to receive awards of $1,000 each. Later phases will utilize the remainder of program funding to further develop and implement community-centered concepts from the 100 selected proposals.

“Through their work, artists contribute to a community’s culture, connectedness and healing during challenging times”, said Victoria Rogers, Vice President/Arts at Knight Foundation. “By empowering local artists to create community-centered public art in Philadelphia, we are connecting them to each other and their city when it’s needed most.”

Full eligibility and proposal requirements can be found at ArtIsEssentialPHL.com. NOTE: The application deadline for Art is Essential has been extended. The new Deadline is OCTOBER 7, 2020.

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