Allens Lane Art Center Receives William Penn Foundation Grant for Community Arts Research Initiative

April 29, 2024


Neighbors will get in on the act through Art Forward, Engaging NW Philadelphia Neighbors, to guide the future of arts education and cultural programs at Allens Lane Art Center and surrounding neighborhoods.

Philadelphia, April 29, 2024 — Allens Lane Art Center has received a one-year grant from the William Penn Foundation centered on supporting “Art Forward”, an innovative, neighbor-led, arts and community-based engagement project in partnership with Just Act and Mt. Airy CDC.

Understanding the need for an audience-driven approach to program development, Allens Lane Art Center has invited Just Act to facilitate their model for neighbor-led, arts and community-based engagement and planning. “Art Forward” will bring NW Philadelphians together through a unique interactive group story-sharing experience, energizing participants to get in on the act of developing a collective, community-responsive vision to guide the future of arts education and cultural programs at Allens Lane Art Center and in greater Northwest Philadelphia.

Through a series of virtual and in-person community Story Circle events throughout NW Philadelphia, “Art Forward” will give voice and agency to communities in Mt. Airy and Germantown where accessible arts and culture programs have historically been lacking and neighbors have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Key to the process is learning what matters most to neighbors in NW Philly through gathering stories from and engaging as many neighbors as possible, including those who don’t typically participate in public processes.

Unlike traditional planning meetings, the Story Circle events will invite participants to share personal stories about meaningful arts and culture experiences they have had at Allens Lane Art Center as well as elsewhere in NW Philly. The stories– and theatrical improvisations of those stories– will capture the values, needs, and visions of participants for what they feel is vital for inclusive community growth, health, and well-being through programming at Allens Lane Art Center as well as elsewhere in Mt. Airy and Germantown.

“Art Forward” is a community-based engagement process created and facilitated by, for, and with NW Philadelphians. With a commitment to building, diversifying, and strengthening neighborhood engagement and collective participation in equitable planning, “Art Forward” will create space for neighbors to lead.

Along the way, “Art Forward” will cultivate and/or improve relationships and social cohesion, affirming and strengthening NW Philadelphia’s cultural identities by focusing future choices for Allens Lane Art Center’s programming on neighbors’ shared values and visions.

The Story Circle events will be facilitated by a multi-generational, multi-racial Story Engagement Team (“SET”). The SET will train meticulously in facilitation and improvisational theatre in order to facilitate the exciting Story Circle Process at various sites throughout NW Philadelphia. From the stories, the SET will affirm the wisdom received from their neighbors while fostering delight and human connection through performative “Gift-backs” using the art of movement, language, and metaphor. As an anti-oppression facilitation method, Story Circles invite participants to reimagine systems and possibilities for a more connected, supported neighborhood and aims to create a shared sense of belonging at Allens Lane Art Center.

The goal of “Art Forward” is to explore ways that changes in local arts education and cultural programs at Allens Lane Art Center can be shaped by neighbors’ own ideas, values, and visions. From the information gathered through the Story Circle events, Allens Lane Art Center will design and implement new arts education and cultural programs, as well as share the research with other community organizations interested in community-responsive arts and culture programming.

The project will culminate in an artistic exhibition designed by the project’s lead visual artist, Naomieh Jovin, in collaboration with members of the community, to publicly as well as creatively interpret and share the project’s findings.

Allens Lane Art Center is grateful to the William Penn Foundation for supporting “Art Forward” and recognizing the need in our community for accessible and reflective programming that equitably serves the whole of Northwest Philadelphia.

Look out for upcoming “Art Forward” events starting later this Fall!


.             .               



Sign Up for Our E-Newsletter

Get the latest updates about our Programming, Classes, and Events sent right to your inbox!


Mount Airy, Philadelphia

Since 1953