The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
By Gary Steur, Chief Cultural Officer for the City of Philadelphia
As some may have already heard, I have been appointed the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation in Denver, Colorado. I am so excited about taking on this new challenge but, of course, sorry to be leaving my friends and colleagues here in Philadelphia. Here is the link to the City of Philadelphia press release, and to the Foundation release. Someone congratulated me with the quote "Go West Young Man", which I took as a reference to Horace Greeley who coined the term. He meant it as a reference to the Pet Shop Boys Song, which somehow passed me by completely. (Well, I know how it passed me by - I have a 90's popular culture black hole from the era when I was parenting two young children!)
I feel proud of my accomplishments in Philadelphia as Chief Cultural Officer and director of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and feel that I am leaving a strong legacy, and a great team in place. I will also be staying in my position through October 1 so I will able to work with the Mayor, Chief of Staff, and Joe Kluger, Chairman of the Mayor's Cultural Advisory Council, on what I am confident will be a smooth and successful transition process.
One of the highlights of my work here in Philadelphia has been helping to bring to the City the Knight Arts Challenge and working closely with both national Knight Arts staff and the local program staff on the successful implementation of this three-year $9 million commitment to the city's arts community. Its impact has been extraordinary, helping to support some really inspiring work.
A few other things I am most proud of are the establishing of a City Hall Art Gallery; the creation of City Hall Presents - a performing arts series in the City Hall Courtyard, funded by the Knight Arts Challenge; the launch of CultureBlocks, an innovative creative asset data mapping tool; distribution of $500,000 in CDBG-R funds to help in the construction of creative workspace facilities; creating a City celebration of Jazz Month and International Jazz Day; establishing a City Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate program; and helping to craft an execute with many partners the "With Art" tourism promotion campaign.
And, of course, there are the countless hard to quantify accomplishments - guiding/advising/assisting arts organizations and creative enterprises in their efforts to both work with City government and stretch their capacities and innovate; also making matches and connections. Some of these are small things, and sometimes small things can lead to truly important accomplishments. Such as suggesting to Jane Golden and Mural Arts that they explore working with Haas and Hahn, the Dutch artists previously best known for their work in the Favelas of Brazil. Mural Arts was able to get them to Philadelphia for an amazing project on Germantown Avenue, Philly Painting, that has garnered international acclaim and was recently selected as one of the top public art projects in the US for 2012 by the Americans for the Arts "Public Art Year in Review." (Thanks, AGAIN, to a grant from the Knight Arts Challenge...). Great video about the project here, and a GREAT case study just published, available here. It was also a highlight when Philadelphia was chosen the #1 city for Culture in America by Travel + Leisure's annual poll in 2011.
The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation has been a significant supporter of the arts in Denver, and I am looking forward to working with the Board to build on this strong foundation and develop strategies for how the Foundation can help the Denver arts community grow and innovate. I am also excited that the Foundation is deeply involved in efforts to develop and nurture leadership within Denver's nonprofit sector, an area of great interest to me.
Even though I began this blog at the beginning of my tenure in Philadelphia, I hope to continue to contribute to it in my new role. (Perhaps I will modify the name to avoid confusion with the Office in Philly). Stay tuned!