Introducing the West Philadelphia Creative Grants

Chloe Reison, associate director of The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, explains the West Philadelphia Creative Grants and how to apply.

Schuylkill River and the expressway with the West Philadelphia skyline in the distance.

In May, The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, the Paul Robeson House & Museum, and the William Penn Foundation announced the formation of the West Philadelphia Creative Grants and the West Philadelphia Arts Council, a new organization in support of creative practice in West Philadelphia and in service to being an excellent neighbor to West Philadelphia. 
Funding is organized into two categories: Project Grants, for art projects and cultural activities that benefit the West Philadelphia community; and General Operating Grants, which support ongoing operational costs. The first application period for creative grants is active and runs through June 29. Applications are being accepted through the Paul Robeson House and Museum’s website; those with questions can email
Here, Chloe Reison, associate director of The Sachs Program, discusses the grants, eligibility, and how they came to be.

What are the West Philadelphia Creative Grants? Who are they for?

The Sachs Program and the Paul Robeson House & Museum (PRHM) are thrilled to announce a new funding opportunity for the West Philadelphia creative community, the West Philadelphia Creative Grants.
Individual artists and community and civic groups can apply for grants between $2,500 and $5,000 to support creative projects and cultural activities that benefit the West Philadelphia community and provide general operating support for individual artists and organizations. The West Philadelphia Creative Grants, which are being administered by the PRHM, are intended for individual artists and organizations that either currently live in West Philadelphia or have significant ties to West Philadelphia. 
One of the key questions asked in the application is, ‘What is your relationship to West Philadelphia?’ This question is pivotal because it helps uncover the diverse and dynamic connections individuals and communities have with this vibrant part of the city. Additional eligibility requirement to apply: Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, and must identify as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color (BIPOC) or a BIPOC-led group or organization.
By prioritizing diverse identities and promoting intersectionality, PRHM and The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation hope that these grants illuminate a broader vision of a more inclusive and equitable future. These grants aim to empower artists and community groups to explore and celebrate tradition, culture, and innovation. They provide crucial financial support to BIPOC artists and organizations, encouraging them to imagine new possibilities. By fostering a vibrant and dynamic creative community in West Philadelphia, these grants contribute to the creation of inspiring works.

How did this opportunity come to be?

The Sachs Program and PRHM began talking about the potential for collaboration a few years ago. There was mutual interest in ways to support artists in West Philadelphia and enhance the House’s capacity as a hub for the creative community. Those discussions evolved into the pursuit of support from the William Penn Foundation to create an arts council for West Philadelphia, and to develop a grants program and artist residency specifically to support BIPOC West Philadelphia artists. 
The Sachs Program and PRHM were also interested in making this a community-dialogue-driven process for programming and grantmaking, aiming to bring as many voices to the table as possible at each stage of the process. The ultimate goal for this initiative is threefold: to provide much-needed support for local artists and artistic programming, as determined by community members themselves; to encourage other collaborations and investments in the creative vibrancy of West Philadelphia; and to build and repair relationships where there have historically been deep wounds.

Who are the West Philadelphia Arts Council Members?

The West Philadelphia Arts Council is composed of dedicated individuals from the West Philadelphia community and beyond. Council members bring a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to supporting and nurturing the local arts community. The inaugural WPAC members are:

  • Micah Wilson, educational leader and youth program consultant. Wilson is chair of the West Philadelphia Arts Council

  • Sumi Floyd, media manager and content creator, founder of RawCast the Mag and the PHLJuneteenth Peace Rally

  • Ernest Owens, award-winning journalist and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC

  • Jere Edmunds, artist whose media consists of film, photography, and performance

  • Karen Smith, percussionist, playwright, director, producer, and poet

  • Duane Gordon Jr., full-time artist and entrepreneur

  • Kendra James, who establishes and maintains dynamic partnerships, particularly within the music and art industries

  • Jack Drummond, educational leader, administrator, advisor, community organizer, adjunct professor, and violinist

  • Karl Morris, owner of Urban Art Gallery

  • John Graves, entrepreneur, educator, student, producer, writer, and performing artist

  • Joanna McClinton, Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives

  • Asake-Denise Jones, mixed media fiber artist, teaching artist, and transformative arts coach

What are the other goals of the West Philadelphia Arts Council?

Over the next year, the West Philadelphia Arts Council will be working with PRHM and The Sachs Program to: Promote an active dialogue about the resources needed to support arts and culture in West Philadelphia; develop programming in support of the West Philadelphia creative community based on community needs and desires; support the launch of an Artist-In-Residence program for West Philadelphia artists at PRHM (to be announced later this year); and coordinate programs with Penn Arts for Community Engagement (PACE), a collaborative group at Penn made up of professionals from various campus arts institutions, such as the Arthur Ross Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Penn Libraries, Penn Live Arts, Penn Museum, the Rotunda, and WXPN. PACE is dedicated to advancing community engagement and leveraging the arts to foster social change in West Philadelphia.
Lead support for this project is provided by the William Penn Foundation. It is intended that the West Philadelphia Arts Council, and its grantmaking programming, could extend beyond the initial two-year William Penn Foundation grant period, with additional investment from other sources.

About William Penn Foundation
William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, provide inclusive and equitable public spaces and arts and culture experiences, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region.