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Educational strength in numbers: The School Collective connects teachers with good ideas, hiring

There's a lot of talk about technology and education, but most of the time, the conversation is about individual schools implementing technology. In the case of The School Collective, a social entrepreneurship startup based in Philadelphia, technology becomes a way to link and improve all schools at once.
 
Sebastian Stoddart, one of the co-founders, says "We originally came up with the idea at Oxford University. Alyson Goodner and I were both studying for our MBA. The education problem is bigger than just one issue. We identified an element of the education world where we can actually make a difference." 
 
The School Collective joins teachers across schools through a website where educators can share best practices through lesson plans, materials, and instant communication. Currently there are over 1,700 members sharing nearly 21,000 documents and over 36 thousand lesson plans.
 
Stoddart, who remains in the UK but visits town 3 to 4 times a year, says it was Goodner's enthusiasm and energy that drew him into the project. "She's incredibly passionate. It's her one focus and one mission. From my standpoint, it's a real chance to use innovation to improve education. It's an opportunity to reshape an existing model that isn't working."
 
Coming from one of the most venerated learning institutions in the world doesn't hurt. "One thing you get from Oxford is a hands on teaching style," says Stoddard. "You work directly with a tutor, and there are 2 to 3 other people in the room. The difference of that model to Philadelphia education is huge. Oxford is an incredible education, and it gives you a massive desire to give that education as well."
 
Goodner adds, "I am not British. I was born here in Philly, and ended up at Oxford, a place where people gather to talk about global change. Here in Philadelphia we get a fairly bad rap. People say, education reform here in Philly? Good luck with that. But there has been movement. There are amazing people doing reform work in Philly."
 
The School Collective, says Goodner, gathers revenue via a freemium model. Teachers sign up for free or pay $5 per month to access the full functionality of the site. Organizations can also subscribe to the site using a tiered model.
"The School Collective is built to give benefit to every user on the site," says Stoddard, who compares traditional teaching tools that are brought in by the principal, but offer no benefit to the teacher, "From the beginning we wanted this to be something teachers would want to be on."
 
An essential key to The School Collective's success is Goodner and Stoddart's professional development package, their hands on approach to teaching teachers. During a 10-hour workshop, The School Collective shows educators take the time to visit schools in person and explain exactly how to use the tools, resulting in a 98% acceptance rate.
 
With this level of success, expansion is on the agenda, although it would be difficult to replicate an Oxford-educated team. "We are looking to bring on a person full time similar to what I am doing, and a full time developer on Sebastian's side to build a team in Philadelphia," says Goodner, who plans on tapping into former Teach For America participants to find the right fit.
 
Currently, The School Collective serves a diverse roster of Philadelphia schools, including The William Penn Charter School, Stepping Stones, and The School District of Philadelphia. The plan is to expand to include parents and students, and to extend The School Collective's reach to neighboring states. 

Source: Alyson Goodner, Sebastian Stoddart, The School Collective
Writer: Sue Spolan

Local tech VP appointed to FCC's advisory committee on diversity

Brigitte Daniel is on her way up, literally. By the time you read this, Daniel will be on a seven-week fact-finding mission through Southeast Asia funded by an Eisenhower Fellowship. But wait,  that's not all. Daniel was just appointed to the Federal Communications Commission’s Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age. We'll get back to that tour of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore in a minute.

How about that FCC appointment? Daniel, an attorney and Executive Vice President of Wilco Electronic Systems, is one of the youngest appointees to the committee and the only representative from Philadelphia. The committee will meet in Washington, DC to ensure that minorities and low income communities get broadband access. "It's being reframed as a civil rights issue of the 21st century," says Daniel, who adds that increasingly, institutional interactions require internet access. If you want to apply for a job, apply to college, and get social services, you need the web.

Wilco is a family business founded by Will Daniel, Brigitte's father. One of Wilco’s primary missions is to provide low cost, high speed advanced telecommunication services to minorities and underserved communities in the Greater Philadelphia area.  “One of the reasons I was appointed to the diversity committee for the FCC was because Wilco served as a catalyst to bring together the various partners and community groups that formed the Philadelphia Freedom Rings Partnership. Freedom Rings is a citywide consortium of educational institutions, municipalities, The City of Philadelphia, and Wilco, which had the goal of providing high speed access to underserved and economically stressed areas."

While Freedom Rings provides free access to participants, Daniel stresses that ultimately, the goal is affordable service. "When you start talking about free, it's hard to be sustainable. Someone will always have to pay for it." Daniel adds that if the service is free it will perceived to have less value. "Our whole point is to make it affordable." To prove that point, Wilco customers can get digital cable, high speed internet and a laptop for under $50 a month. "It's our version of the triple play," says Daniel.

Back to that whirlwind trip to the other side of the globe: Daniel is a 2011 Eisenhower Fellow. The India and Sri Lanka segments of her seven week trip are funded by the fellowship; she added the other destinations in order to gather even more knowledge of emerging technologies and policies for connecting impoverished populations.

Daniel returns in December and begins a two-year term at the FCC while remaining at Wilco. "Whatever we recommend, I hope it's taken to heart. At Wilco, we are on the ground, in the trenches. If the FCC takes our policy recommendations seriously, that's exciting."

Source: Brigitte Daniel, Wilco Electronic Systems
Writer: Sue Spolan

State of Young Philly has never looked better

If you want to know how young Philly's doing, let me sum it up for you: smart and good looking. From the highest reaches of government right down to our youngest up and comers, there's never been a more attractive bunch of people in charge.

The second annual State of Young Philly, convened by the all-volunteer Young Involved Philadelphia for a two-week run, was a series of six events designed to engage, connect and represent citizens. Targeting community engagement, education, sustainability and the creative economy, State of Young Philly drew close to 1,000 young professionals and representatives from over 50 organizations in the city, according to organizers. From the first packed event at World Cafe Live on Oct. 4 to the standing-room only crowd at the finale at The Gershman Y, the crowd was diverse in age and background and alike in its forward-thinking approach.

Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philadelphia Board Chair, says, "When I first moved to Philadelphia just over a decade ago, I was initially struck by the negativity of the city. But the spirit in the discussions over the course of the past few weeks has been very different than that initial perception I got when I first moved here. Rather than focusing solely on what was in need of improvement, each of the discussions was as much about how to build on already existing innovation and assets the city has to offer."

Alain Joinville, Public Affairs Coordinator for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation and a Young Involved Philly board member, adds, "It was easier to get partnering organizations involved. The State of Young Philly series is the biggest and most audacious project our organization has undertaken in its 11-year history, and we did it pretty well last year, so we are seen as a credible organization in the eyes of the City's leaders and leading organizations."

Robertson-Kraft points to several initiatives that launched in the lead-up to this year's State of Young Philly: a local version of the online web portal Change By Us,a partnership with United Way to improve Philadelphia public education, entry into the Open Data Philly challenge, and social media hashtags #WhyILovePhilly and #PhillyArts.

But ultimately, the draw of State of Young Philly is the promise of doing good combined with a commitment to fun. Reports Robertson-Kraft, "Let’s just say that the after-party went into the late hours of the night. At all of our events, we strive to achieve that perfect balance of meaningful conversation and a good time."

It's a whole new take on a thousand points of light.

Source: Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Open Data Race lets you vote for data sets that are most fit for public consumption

Data collection and dissemination: how much fun is that? If you are participating in Philadelphia's Open Data Race, you might actually squeeze a good time out of otherwise flat statistics. Voting in the Open Data Race is open to the public until Oct. 27, and currently, you can make your opinion known on which of 24 data sets you would like to see made public.

"We hope to generate excitement around open data," says Deborah Boyer, project manager at Philadelphia-based Azavea. Nominations contributed by non-profit organizations were reviewed by OpenDataPhilly partners, namely Azavea, NPower Pennsylvania, The William Penn Foundation, and Technically Philly.

It's probably too early to judge, but right now the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's request for stats on reported bike thefts is atop the rankings with 55 votes, followed by Demographic Info for Individuals Accessing Shelter Services submitted by Back on My Feet with 50 votes. Other organizations represented in the voting ranks include the Committee of 70, The Urban Tree Connection and The Sustainable Business Network.

Boyer says, "Public participation has been a key feature of OpenDataPhilly and is also crucial to the Open Data Race. We encourage people to submit data sets for inclusion in OpenDataPhilly or nominate data they would like to see made available."

Boyer points to difficulties municipalities might have in identifying which data is most needed. "Through Open Data Race, non-profit organizations have the opportunity to let the city and OpenDataPhilly partners know what information they need to fulfill their missions."

Winners, to be announced on Friday, Oct. 28, will receive cash prizes. First place gets $2,000, second place gets $1,000, and third receives $500. At that point, the fun really begins, when OpenDataPhilly works with the city to unlock the requested sets and then hosts hack-a-thons to create applications that use the data.

Source: Deborah Boyer, Azavea/OpenDataPhilly
Writer: Sue Spolan

South Philly resident grows composting collection business

Your scraps are Tim Bennett's gold mine. Bennett Compost offers urban dwellers the opportunity to recycle food waste without expensive equipment or outdoor space. Bennett began the business out of a personal need. "At the time, where I was living in South Philly, I wanted to compost, but I had no backyard." After dissatisfaction with home composting systems costing around $300, Bennett created a composting service that would benefit city homes and businesses at a fraction of the cost.

For a $15 monthly fee, residential customers receive a covered bucket, and Bennett's truck swings around once a week to empty and return the container. Commercial customers, including coffee shops, a florist and some restaurants, pay on a sliding scale depending on volume and frequency of pickup, but Bennett adds that the cost offsets commercial trash hauling fees, and in some cases commercial customers are able to save money on refuse.

Used food and some types of paper are sent to a composting facility in Delaware and then picked up for distribution to area community gardens. Customers can opt to receive up to 10 gallons of the finished product free of charge; beyond that, compost is available at a discounted price. You don't have to be a customer to buy compost. Five gallon buckets are available to the general public for $10, and will soon be sold at area retail locations including Essene Market and Green Aisle Grocery.

Current offices are based in South Philly at Bennett's home, with a North Philadelphia warehouse. Bennett was able to quit his day job at Temple University last summer to devote his career full time to compost. "We bootstrapped our way up. Now we are profitable enough that I am able to pay my own salary, and we have three part time employees." The business continues to grow, with 300 residential customers and 20 businesses distributed across the entire city.

Source: Tim Bennett, Bennett Compost
Writer: Sue Spolan

Move over ice cream man, Healthy Carts are coming to Philly neighborhoods

Some Philadelphia neighborhoods have no choice about the food residents can buy. Corner stores stocked with sugary and salty processed snacks, Chinese take-out and pizza shops are the only options in many low-income areas of the city. The city's brand new Healthy Carts Initiative offers a solution to food deserts as well as providing employment to vendors.

"The program came out of the Get Healthy Philly Initiative," says Healthy Cart Coordinator Rachel Hynes, who is now accepting applications from individuals and organizations. "We approved the first five applications last week." Ultimately, the goal is to set up 20 vendors in this first pilot year.

Healthy Cart operators receive free small business training, waived fees, a streamlined inspection process and free EBT machines, which allow processing of debit, credit and food stamps/SNAP cards. "We are covering the minimum monthly EBT fees through March," says Hynes.

Vendors will be allowed to sell cut fruit and vegetables, as long as the chopping occurs in an approved kitchen. The initiative is administered by the Office of Food Protection, a division of the Department of Public Health, and the same group that oversees the city's growing fleet of food trucks.

To figure out which areas get carts, says Hynes, the Healthy Carts program employs a GIS (Geographic Information Specialist) who has mapped out the areas which are most in need. It's a matter of finding a balance of where there's a need and where cart owners will be successful, according to Hynes, who used the Green Cart program in New York as a springboard but added more features to the Philly program.

Cart owners can make a living wage, says Hynes, if they are out seven days a week and establish a routine. Vendors need to come up with their own business models and are responsible for sourcing, purchasing, storing and displaying their goods, with training from the city. Healthy Carts plans to partner with local community organizations and recreation centers to promote the new program.

Source: Rachel Hynes, Healthy Carts
Writer: Sue Spolan


A mobile app brings the dead to life at West Laurel Hill Cemetery

Eternity just got a little longer and a lot more powerful, thanks to a new Android app. West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd has launched an interactive cemetery guide designed to run on the Samsung Galaxy tablet. It's a pilot program designed by WebCemeteries, and the first of its kind in the country. West Laurel Hill and its cross-river predecessor Laurel Hill have always been ahead of the times. Back in the 1800s, founder John Jay Smith envisioned a rural burial ground, away from the city. Before Laurel Hill, the only option for burial was in a churchyard. In 1836 and in 1869, Smith built havens for the heavenly in Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill, creating verdant spaces that attracted families out for a Sunday picnic. There was even a train that stopped directly at West Laurel Hill for just such visits.

The idea of creating a non-denominational park setting for the dead caught on like wildfire in the 19th century. And then cemeteries pretty much remained the same. The great majority of memorial parks still do business on paper. West Laurel Hill has broken new ground in other ways, creating a scattering garden for loved ones' ashes, a green burial section, and a soon to be opened Jewish section. "We're proud of the fact that West Laurel Hill embraces new trends," says Deborah Cassidy, the cemetery's Marketing Manager. Working with WebCemeteries of Virginville, Berks County, on the mobile app, visitors can access photos, video, text and other information graveside. There is a built in GPS to keep you on track. Additionally, says Cassidy, the app will increase efficiency internally, allowing the office to go paperless.

There are a lot of famous Philadelphians buried at West Laurel Hill. So far, says Cassidy, about 25 of the cemetery's permanent residents are featured on the app. Videos were produced by Gillian Hurt of GH Video Communications, a Bala Cynwyd based production company. Preview some of Hurt's West Laurel Hill videos on architect Horace Trumbauer, hat magnate John B. Stetson, and Dr. John Thompson Dorrance of Campbell's Soup.

For now, visitors to the cemetery can check out one of six tablets running the app; Cassidy says plans are underway to release the smartphone tour as a paid app to the general public in the next six months.

Source: Deborah Cassidy, West Laurel Hill Cemetery
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

NewsWorks brings an online news magazine to WHYY

Something exciting happened during WHYY's fall pledge drive. And it wasn't a riveting Terry Gross interview. For the third consecutive year, NPR stations saw growth in the 25-to-40 demographic. Welcoming this younger demographic will not be easy for WHYY, Philadelphia's NPR affiliate and home for political discourse and intellectual public programming. So the station created NewsWorks, an online news and commentary site, launching Nov. 15. Enlisting its own journalists and regional content providers, NewsWorks hopes to create a hyperlocal news focus and bring enlightened discussion from the airwaves to the internet.

"The 2008 election was a great thing for NPR stations because a lot of people considered NPR to be the most reliable place to get news on that election so we brought a lot of new people into the tent," says WHYY Director of News and Civic Dialogue Chris Satullo. "Now we are trying to keep them. We are looking for two key demographics we hope will be the early adopters of NewsWorks. One is the younger technologist professional group--the creative class in Philly. And the other is the middle-aged professional who has been an NPR fan for a long time."

One of the goals of NewsWorks is to replicate the open discussion created on air at WHYY and bring it to the internet. Website comment boards are not traditionally known for scintillating conversation so NewsWorks will employ a self-governing rewards system, allowing users to give points to other users for contributing a valuable comment. By changing commenting and by asking the right questions, Satullo believes productive dialogue can occur online.

"We are going to work very hard not to frame things as black and white, left vs. right," says Satullo. "We are trying to get the 360-degree opinions and how people's experiences shape their opinions."

Source: Chris Satullo, WHYY
Writer: John Steele

Manayunk software firm Vuzit redesigns website, rolls out new document viewer features

As document sharing has transitioned from walking a manila envelope down the hall to e-mailing a digital image, document viewing has become a complicated task. With hundreds of file types and varying security measures, it's hard to be sure your document will get where it's going and will be read when it gets there. Manayunk software firm Vuzit designed the DocuPub platform to simplify the process, allowing companies to view documents of all file types safely and securely, over a cloud-based server system that can even be read on mobile devices.

Founded by former Traffic.com employees Chris Cera and Brent Matzelle, Vuzit has drawn recent investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners and Robin Hood Ventures, allowing Vuzit to make some upgrades. This month, the company announced it will be using the investment to add advanced search capabilities over the whole cloud or within document files. The company also plans to add search engine optimization.

"Chris and Brent saw that, as people wanted to send more and more files over the internet, they were going to want to do more than just send PDF files around, without having any idea what people were doing with the files," says Board Advisor Coley Brown.

With investment in place, Vuzit hopes not only to upgrade its software but its staff as well, looking to hire three to five new engineers and development professionals over the next sixty days. With these investments, Vuzit hopes to expand DocuPub's versatility, adding more file types (it allows 40 already) and allowing an ease of use not yet available.

"Most people turn everything into PDFs but in many cases, it's a pain or there are conversion problems," says Brown. "What most people would rather do is say 'here is my Visio file and even though you never paid for Visio, don't have a license for it, you can see it as if you did."

Source:
Coley Brown, Vuzit
Writer: John Steele

Northwest Farm Fest celebrates urban farming with country flavor

Farmers across Central Pennsylvania will be celebrating another plentiful harvest season this fall, but thanks to Weavers Way and the Awbury Arboretum, there will also be plenty of celebrating to do in the city. The Weavers Way Community Farm, a Northwest Philadelphia urban farm tended by high school students and used to make local products by community members,  is honoring another successful year. The Weavers Way farm celebrates this Saturday from 11am-3pm at Awbury Arboretum with the second annual Northwest FarmFest, a country festival for Philadelphia's city farmers.

"This farm is making sustainable agriculture a part of this urban community," says farm committee member Josh Brooks. "This is a time to gain acknowledgment for the farm, spread awareness and just celebrate that it's there. And have fun."

As the Weavers Way urban farm offers students and community members all the benefits of local agriculture--fresh produce, low prices, local cultivation--the Chestnut Hill food co-op's members and community program directors bring all the country comforts of a small-town festival to the big city. The Northwest FarmFest is free and open to the public, presenting musical performances from local acts, pumpkin painting, hay rides, and farm tours. And of course, the Weavers Way Farmstand will have plenty of homegrown produce on sale, along with prepared food from the Weavers Way's Marketplace Program, a school-based cooperative food business run by students. Weavers Way hopes the event will be a venue to show off many school programs focused on the benefits and lessons of local, healthy eating. And of course, to celebrate the harvest.

"We will also be promoting the whole aspect of Weavers Way Community Programs who work with schools to create a marketplace, teaching about food and creating a market" says Brooks. "We'll have food, some barbecue, the marketplace will be selling some food and drink."

Source: Josh Brooks, Weavers Way Farm
Writer: John Steele

Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele





Neighborhood Food Week stretches taste buds beyond Center City

Restaurant Week returned to Center City this week, bringing $35 prix fixe menus to downtown's hottest restaurants. Well, at least the hottest restaurants within a 20-block radius of City Hall. But for the restaurants that don't claim a Center City zip code, there's Philly's Neighborhood Food Week, an outlier's answer to Restaurant Week, offering access to some of the best food in town, just a bit out of town.

Neighborhood Food Week is the brainchild of Charisse McGilll, veteran event planner with Philadelphia conference organizers Ardent Management. As the economy slowed last year, so did the conference game, and McGill began hearing from restaurants looking to compete with Restaurant Week.

"This event will bring exposure to neighborhoods that have been overlooked as dining destinations," says McGill. "At first, we heard from restaurants near Penn's Landing and Roxborough, and we looked into doing events in each of those neighborhoods. But we thought it might not have the impact we wanted. So we included all the neighborhoods outlying Philadelphia to see how far we could get."

The Second Annual restaurant week has added new neighborhoods, new restaurants and new tastes, all of which will be on display when Neighborhood Food Week kicks off October 10. With many prix fixe menus coming in cheaper than Restaurant Week, Neighborhood Food Week participants can sample fare from City Avenue, Ogontz Avenue or East Passyunk. They will try tapas in NoLibs or Thai food in Manayunk or Italian food in Darby. Expanding horizons never tasted so good.

"Last year, we had five neighborhoods participating and, with the success of last year, we have nine neighborhoods participating this year," says McGill. "I am excited to return to Blue Bananas on South Street for their four course menu for $30. Also Mango Moon, a Thai restaurant in Manayunk is doing three courses for $20. I shop by price so I am looking forward to the event myself."

Source: Charisse McGill, Ardent Management
Writer: John Steele



Knight Arts Challenge offers $9M over three year for next great urban artistic movement in Philly

From the LOVE statue to the Mural Arts Program to Market Street's massive Clothespin, Philadelphia has its share of big, urban art projects. But there is more to creating the next big movement in urban arts than making the largest painting or sculpture. So the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Knight Arts Challenge, a search looking for urban projects to change the artistic landscape of American cities for the better. Started in Miami, Knight Arts brings it's challenge to Philadelphia this fall.

"We are coming to Philadelphia and it would be presumptuous of us to say that we know just what you need in the arts," says Knight Arts VP Dennis Scholl. "So instead of saying that, we're saying we don't know what Philadelphia's next art idea is and we need you to tell us. It's not about large institutions only getting grants, people who have been in the arts forever only getting grants. It's open to everybody in the community."

After three successful years in Miami, the Knight Arts Challenge has spawned poetry collectives and arts education centers and jazz festivals. Philadelphia's challenge, a three-year, $9 million initiative, will provide new funding for established arts institutions, independent artists, businesses, service organizations and anyone else with a great idea and a plan to execute it. The challenge kicks off October 5 with a cocktail reception, where interested artists can find out how they can contribute to Philadelphia's artistic future.

"Philadelphia has two important things going for it: it has incredible, world-class cultural assets," says Scholl. "But in addition to that, Philadelphia has an incredibly hot, steadily rising art scene, with collectives and up-and-coming performance arts groups. And that is really why we were drawn to Philadelphia, because it's kinda happening, frankly."

Source: Dennis Scholl, Knight Arts
Writer: John Steele
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