Allens Lane Art Center was founded in 1953 by a group of Mt. Airy residents who were working to build an integrated neighborhood
Founded in 1953
Now celebrating our 70th Anniversary, Allens Lane Art Center was founded on June 23rd, 1953, by a group of Mt. Airy residents who united around a community-wide mission toward intentional integration. Our founding was part of a larger grassroots movement in the 1950s, which sought to encourage African American home buying in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia and to build a safe and welcoming neighborhood for a racially diverse community. Proponents of the social justice movement worked to create new community spaces for all residents to gather and to remove the economic exclusivity of the area through community organizing, including through the formation of civic organizations such as West Mount Airy Neighbors (WMAN). As one of the new community spaces established, the Center’s founders’ vision was for all Northwest Philadelphia residents to experience equitable opportunities in arts and culture, unite over their shared experiences, and extend this unity outside of Allens Lane Art Center’s campus.
Our founders, many of them parents of children attending local schools, recognized the role of artistic experience and expression in enhancing an individual’s quality of life. By offering opportunities for all to explore their creative potential in a safe and welcoming environment, they hoped to improve the community’s well-being. Allens Lane Art Center was first funded by the Ford Foundation for its “Living Together in the Community Through the Arts” program to offer classes in acting, visual arts, and dance, gallery exhibitions, a full season of theater performances, and a summer art camp for youth.