The projects below represent my enduring interests in designing sustainable systems for nonprofit resource sharing, bringing together arts and heritage communities, and exploring how the values of commoning can lead to a more just and flourishing society.
Prior to the founding of Social Impact Commons, work had begun with a group of preservation leaders in Philadelphia to establish the Cultural Equity Realty Trust (CERT), a nonprofit, preservation-focused real estate developer and steward for the Greater Philadelphia region. CERT’s mission is to save and sustain social-benefit real estate that represents and supports diverse artistic and cultural heritages. In our vision, places and buildings of diverse artistic and historic significance find long-term sustainability through shared stewardship. CERT is developing a portfolio of arts and heritage properties under shared management. We maintain that this work will promote collective stabilization and sustainability for the real property assets of our region’s arts and heritage community. Our work ranges from acquisition, restoration, and operation of historical and cultural sites, to a diversity of approaches to partnering with nonprofits to realize their development visions.
Following the success of CultureWorks (below), and at the invitation of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, I began work on Social Impact Commons in 2018 as the country’s first incubator and shared services provider to the fiscal sponsorship community. Impact Commons is a nonprofit, Supporting Organization through which fiscal sponsors of all models can share tools, practices, technology, and direct advisory supports. We approach fiscal sponsorship through the values and lens of commoning and its practices. Following two years of research, development, and visioning, Impact Commons added Asta Petkeviciute and Josh Sattely to its team and launched formally in spring 2020 with CultureWorks as its Founding Member.
Wanting to explore shared management and resource models for arts and culture, I founded CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia in 2010. It evolved quickly to become the first “Model A” Comprehensive Fiscal Sponsor dedicated to arts and heritage in the United States, and offering other wrap-around supports including a commons workspace. CultureWorks grew to be a leader in the fiscal sponsorship community, advocating for commons-based approaches to resource sharing and eventually garnering a seat on the Steering Committee of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors. Today, CultureWorks is home to more than 250 members and 120 independent visionary programs, all operating under one “management commons”–a shared nonprofit backbone organization. Its Chief Commons Director is Gabrielle Wanamaker.
I developed Hidden City Philadelphia as a project of Peregrine Arts between 2005 and 2009 as a multidisciplinary contemporary art festival that commissioned and produced site-specific projects at under-known or publicly inaccessible heritage sites throughout Philadelphia. The 2009 festival included nine sites and drew more than 10,000 visitors over two weeks, garnering the Henry J. Magaziner Award from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. Though conceived as a one-off, Hidden City sparked the curiosity of a group of writers and journalists, led by Peter Woodall and Nathaniel Popkin, who subsequently transformed Hidden City into an urbanist journalism platform. This new vision launched in 2011 as a program of CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia. Hidden City produced a second festival in 2013, and continues to support a community of writers today, reaching about 50,000 readers every month.
I founded Peregrine Arts (2005 – 2010) with the encouragement and support of the late artist and political activist Fred Ho, with whom I worked for a number of years. Peregrine was a multidisciplinary production platform, inspired in part by Artangel (UK), joined with an arts consulting and research practice. Under Peregrine I had the privilege of working with a variety of artists, including, along with Fred Ho, visionaries such as Christian Marclay, Aleksandra Mir, Robin Rimbaud, Sanford Biggers, Theo Bleckmann, Steven Earl Weber, Phil Kline, Todd Reynolds, Gavin Bryars, Ridge Theatre (Bill Morrison, Laurie Olinder, Bob McGrath), Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Steve Roden, Toby Twining, David Lang, Carolyn Healy/John Phillips, and others.
While the above projects all have attained some manner of public light, here are some ideas that have been interesting to explore but have not garnered enough interest among others to make real.
- Philadelphia Independent Media Commons – Responding to the needs of an increasingly fragile, but vital local media and journalism ecosystem, I attempted unsuccessfully to organize a dedicated commons resource focused on both back-office functions and core revenue generating resources for the Greater Philadelphia media ecosystem.
- John Grass Wood Turning Collective – This project focused on creating a maker collective and space out of the historic John Grass Wood Turning Co. building in Old City, Philadelphia. As of 2016, the shop spaces of the building were notably preserved to their 19th-century state. Unfortunately, efforts to purchase the building failed, its contents were liquidated, and the building turned into condos.
- Atwater Kent Center for Cultural Innovation – Finally, in the wake of the closing of the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent in 2018, I advocated to turn the historic John Haviland building (the site of the original Franklin Institute) into a shared space for the city’s arts and heritage service organizations, a public museum, and civic space. This proposal failed to garner necessary support from the Atwater Kent family and the City of Philadelphia.