Fairmount Park Conservancy

The ACED Initiative of PolicyLink engaged in research, documentation, and partnerships in support of arts, culture, and equitable development efforts in Philadelphia.

Organization and Community

Philadelphia’s economy is rebounding after decades of disinvestment, but revitalization has been uneven. Philadelphia remains one of the most economically segregated cities in the country, and historically underserved communities have not benefited equitably from this recent growth.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy believes that parks can be the city’s great connector and equalizer. As a champion for the city’s public parks and recreation system, the organization’s mission and work has evolved beyond fundraising to focusing more strategically on planning, project management, program development, and community engagement. Fairmount Park Conservancy works with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to develop and implement projects and programs that support, improve, and enhance the 10,200 acres that include Fairmount Park and 115 neighborhood parks citywide.

The organization engages communities through park stewardship and civic initiatives; leads capital projects to restore natural lands and preserve historic structures; and organizes programs spanning fitness, education, and culture to connect more people to the parks. These activities share the goal of ensuring that all Philadelphians have access to the social, health, economic, and cultural benefits that are intrinsic to parks.

Arts and Culture Approach

Before the Community Development Investments program, beyond a select few partnerships and program offerings, arts and culture did not have a significant place in the organization, nor was there a deep connection to how they worked in parks. Through the program, staff recognized that artists bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to community development and they are adept at giving voice to community narratives and proposing strategies that fall outside traditional park planning, development, stewardship, and programming. Fairmount Park Conservancy is now utilizing the arts to strengthen the organization’s mission and values, make the city’s parks relevant for a more diverse population of Philadelphians, and celebrate history, culture, and identity in reclaimed public spaces.

Their initial efforts in adapting arts and cultural strategies focused on strengthening and expanding their work in the neighborhoods adjacent to Fairmount Park — the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, in particular. By forging new partnerships with artists and cultural producers, they became better equipped to tap into critical community voices to ensure that current and future planning and decision-making processes for new park investments are truly collaborative. By continuing their work with artists, they hope to reach new audiences and develop new tools to steward, interpret, and navigate the cultural landscape of Fairmount Park and the way it reflects, engages, and serves adjacent communities.