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Meanings of Cultural Participation at the Neighborhood Level: A Focus Group Analysis

This report was prepared for the Philadelphia Cultural Benchmark Project, a collaborative project between Research for Action, Audience Insight LLC, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impacts of the Arts Project (SIAP). It draws from three focus groups in low-income areas in the Philadelphia region to shed light on the meanings of cultural participation at the neighborhood level. The focus groups were designed to reveal how residents define cultural participation, the range of cultural activities in which they participate, how they express themselves creatively, and the barriers to cultural participation in these neighborhoods. Findings show that, for these respondents, culture was often closely tied to markers of identity such as racial or ethnic background and religious values or institution. Cultural participation was often linked to public space and while some of these factors facilitated cultural participation they could also serve as barriers. As cultural participation was linked to cultural identity and values, artists were perceived as those who acted upon these values and represented or evoked issues of racial and ethnic identity