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Catalyst Fund Grantees

Read descriptions of these timely, early-stage projects that are aiming to shift practice in the social sector.

The Franklin Institute

Arts & Culture
June 2019 $150,000 / 24 Months

Through NOW/NEXT the Institute will test four new models of flexible, time-limited exhibitions that engage visitors in current science and technology topics. They plan to upend the traditional museum model that depends on core exhibitions that last a decade. If effective, they will create a new approach for museum visitors’ experience—one where the majority of space is dedicated to relevant, hands-on learning and much less on static or long-term installations.


Orchestra 2001

Arts & Culture
March 2019 $65,000 / 18 months

As the music ensemble-in-residence at the new Cherry Street Pier, Orchestra 2001 has a unique opportunity to experiment in this new space and leverage its exposure to diverse audiences. By engaging viewers in the creation of new music, the Composer at Work window provides an opportunity to raise funds from audiences and gather the data to track future engagement. If they are successful, the model can be easily adapted by others. This project leverages technology to fill a gap between performers and audiences so that the excitement and energy generated by experiencing something new, is not lost when a viewer walks away.


Temple University, Institute on Disabilities

Arts & Culture Education
November 2018 $225,000 / 18 Months

The National Theater in London recently launched a new technology that allows hearing impaired audience members to access captioning through smart glasses that harness augmented reality to project captions within the user’s line of vision. Working with the local office of the National Theater’s technology partner, Accenture, the Temple University Institute on Disabilities will adapt the technology for use by regional theaters, who might not otherwise have the resources to develop such a tool. This approach overcomes existing cost and staffing barriers to providing closed captioning at every performance, allowing more equitable access for hearing impaired audiences. The Institute will extend the technology to include American Sign Language and Spanish language captioning.


Mural Arts Advocates

Arts & Culture Human Services
September 2018 $300,000 / 24 months

Day wage programs are being tested in cities around the country as a means to reduce street homelessness, increase connections to services and housing, and encourage re-entry into the workforce. Unlike traditional workforce development programs that seek to move participants into structured work environments, day wage programs recognize that participants first need to build a connection to basic services—in time, they will hopefully move towards readiness for employment. Together with Mental Health Partnerships (MHP), Mural Arts will introduce a day wage program in Philadelphia which will tap into Mural Arts’ experience providing training to marginalized populations. Prior to launching the program, a research and design phase will result in a white paper outlining policy, practice and evaluation recommendations. The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services, Commerce Department and Office of Workforce Development as well as representatives of civic, behavioral health, workforce development and college/university partners will be consulted throughout the project. Following the design process, there will be two pilots of the program to allow for testing and learning.


CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia

Arts & Culture
June 2018 $200,000 / 18 months

CultureWorks’ management commons approach—which is grounded in fiscal sponsorship—is a potential re-definition of capacity building: one in which they start to look at how to encourage capacity growth and scale for the field as a whole through local management commons, rather than the growth and scale of individual cultural organizations. CultureWorks will create a cohort commons model to address the needs of midsize organizations. They will serve as the partner—or “Copilot”—to organizations by providing back office services while the organizations retain all of the key elements of independence when it comes to mission, programs, constituent relationships and governance. In addition, CoPilot participants become part of a cohort with access to learning and networking opportunities with their peers and the chance to pursue solutions to common problems that they would normally struggle to tackle individually. This new model for management of midsize cultural organizations will be deployed simultaneously in two newly established CultureWorks’ programs in other cities, allowing for testing and growth across markets.


Pennsylvania Environmental Council

Arts & Culture
March 2018 $150,000 / 24 months

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, in partnership with Swim Pony, will develop ten unique sound walks to draw new and diverse audiences to locations they might not otherwise visit. Each selected path will feature writing from a local artist along with underscored music and sound design, all tailored to sync to the movement of an audience member as they travel along a trail. Opening a door to a new experience through something familiar—like a storyteller or poet they already know—could lead to increased and, perhaps, repeat engagement. By thinking creatively about how the arts and emerging technologies can draw audiences into nontraditional spaces, this unusual partnership could lay the groundwork for parks elsewhere to encourage visitation by constituencies they currently have a hard time reaching.


Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

Arts & Culture
November 2017 $125,000 / 24 months

The national trend of the decline in the traditional subscription model not only affects earned revenue from ticket sales but also customer loyalty and longevity. PCMS seeks to re-invent its business model in a way that will build and maintain the type of strong relationships with audiences that the traditional subscription model yielded. Using new software and building on recent limited experiments with flexible passes offered to students and young professionals, PCMS will create a Concert Pass. For a set fee, Concert Pass holders will be able to attend any number of PCMS’ 55+ concerts, but unlike traditional subscribers, holders can book at the last minute, providing the flexibility consumers seek. In the past, allowing such flexibility in ticketing proved difficult as available software did not easily allow for last minute ticketing across venues. New ticketing and donor software upgrades will allow PCMS to manage seating in multiple venues, manage transactions from multiple sources, and track customer data. The software required for the project is being developed using open source software, so other presenting organizations may use and adapt it.


Philadelphia Contemporary (2017)

Arts & Culture
November 2017 $210,000 / 36 months

Philadelphia Contemporary is an emerging art museum founded on the conviction that contemporary art is multidisciplinary and multicultural, and should be made widely accessible. To broaden its disciplinary range beyond the boundaries of what is typically defined as contemporary art and make the museum relevant to a wider audience, Philadelphia Contemporary will establish the position of Curator of Spoken Word. They are creating the position to celebrate poetry as a contemporary art form, create a regional focal point for the spoken word, and make contemporary art more accessible to diverse communities. Rather than presenting poetry intermittently, through exhibitions and temporary projects that briefly highlight the spoken word, this position will ensure that language itself is integrated into the conversation at Philadelphia Contemporary. Since this position is new in the museum field, Philadelphia Contemporary will hire an evaluator to work with them to help fine tune programming and to determine if the position is beginning to break down the barriers to contemporary art.


Recycled Artist In Residency

Arts & Culture
July 2017 $40,000 / 12 months

Recycled Artist in Residency (RAIR) is a unique partnership that highlights the intersection of socially engaged art and recycling. Working with Revolution Recovery—a recycling center which aims to keep as much construction job site materials out of landfills as possible, RAIR is an on-site space for artists. This allows RAIR to achieve several goals: (i) increasing artists’ access to materials; (ii) diverting more resources from the waste stream; and (iii) growing the public’s knowledge of sustainable practices. They have seen increasing demand for sourcing materials from the waste stream for use in projects in both public and private spaces such as office buildings and parks, as well as an increasing demand for planning, design and fabrication services that utilize waste materials to create design elements such as lighting and flooring. To support this emerging practice, RAIR will undergo a market analysis process to identify a sustainable path forward. Undertaking this step would be particularly timely because Revolutionary Recovery recently acquired additional land and will be expanding its operations, providing RAIR even more fodder for its work. Such an endeavor would be the next iteration of this unique early stage organization, which has the potential to serve as a model in this field of art and sustainability practices.


University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology

Arts & Culture
June 2017 $195,000 / 36 months

Like many museums, a majority of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s (Museum) staff and volunteer docents are significantly less diverse than the communities whose cultural heritage they steward. Global Guides: Immigrant Stories Tour Program (Global Guides) will pilot a new model for recruiting and training immigrants and refugees to give guided interpretation of galleries that showcase collections from their country of origin. The Global Guides program requires the Museum to let go of some authority over how its objects are interpreted to make space for the guides to share their personal experiences, a significant paradigm shift in the field. This program has the potential to catalyze change in the arts and culture field by demonstrating success in introducing new interpretations as well as the roles immigrants and refugees can fill at museums. The Museum hopes that in addition to informing the national and international conversation about how to interpret holdings, that they are able to impact the lack of staff diversity at museums, especially in roles that interact with the public.

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