Welcome to SIAP!

What’s SIAP?
Pronounced si’-ap as in sci’-ence.

The Social Impact of the Arts Project a/k/a SIAP
is a research group started in 1994 at the
University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice,
located in Philadelphia, PA, USA.

SIAP conceptualizes the arts, culture, and humanities as integral to urban vitality and social wellbeing and develops ways to measure the impact of this sector on community life.  SIAP conducts project-based inquiry in metropolitan Philadelphia and other U.S. cities with support primarily by external private and public funders.

SIAP has long been committed to the concept of linked open data, as both a methodology (see “About SIAP”) and a dissemination strategy. Our work is available for public use with full citation requested. Reports and documents (except for copyrighted material) are downloadable in PDF format. SIAP’s modus operandi is work-in-progress.  We welcome comments, questions, and especially updates.

What’s new?

Communities, Culture, and Capabilities: Preliminary results of a four-city study, by Mark J. Stern and Susan C. Seifert, August 2014. This paper was prepared for the Human Development and Capabilities Association annual conference in Athens, Greece, September 2-5, 2014. The conference theme is Human Development in Times of Crisis: Renegotiating Social Justice.

The paper reports early findings of a two-year project, with support by the Surdna Foundation, called “Social wellbeing, neighborhood transformation, and the arts—A multi-city study.” We use new data on Philadelphia to investigate ways in which two capabilities—economic wellbeing and social connection—influence four others—social stress, personal health, school effectiveness, and security. The appendix provides preliminary comparative data on four cities under study: Philadelphia, Austin, New York City, and Seattle. To access the paper, go to: Communities, Culture, and Capabilities, (Aug 2014).

Measuring the outcomes of creative placemaking, by Mark J. Stern, May 2014. This talk was delivered at the “Transatlantic Symposium. The Role of Artists & the Arts in Urban Resilience,” held in Baltimore, MD, May 30-31, 2014, a two-day convening of artists, curators, and public administrators from the U.S. and nine European countries. The presentation addressed SIAP’s concern (with reference to blogger Ian David Moss) that “creative placemaking has (several) outcomes problems.” To access the paper, go to: Measuring the outcomes of creative placemaking (May 2014).

The symposium—part of a project called Transit: Creative Placemaking in Baltimore—was hosted by the Goethe-Institut and the European Network of Independent Cultural Institutes (EUNIC) in Washington, D.C. and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA). For more information, go to the Europe in Baltimore website.

Recent posts

Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Annual International Conference on Philanthropy, Athens, Greece, June 26-27, 2014. 

SIAP participated on two panels in SNF’s 3rd international conference on the changing role of philanthropy in the current global context with a focus on the Greek crisis, alarming unemployment among younger generations, the arts and culture in the social and economic life of local communities, and the role of a social welfare society.

Friday, June 27, Day 2, Morning Sessions:
09:25 - 10:45 Plenary Session 4: The Ethical Dimensions of Philanthropic Giving. Panel Moderator: Panos Papoulias, Operations Manager, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.

Susan Seifert (SIAP) suggested the Capabilities Approach, the human development paradigm conceived by economist Amartya Sen and philosopher Martha Nussbaum, as a way to address ethnical dimensions of giving. Its core questions—What are people actually able to do and to be? What real opportunities are available to people?—lead to a holistic framework where dignity and self-determination are basic human needs. She noted how SIAP has used a capabilities perspective to translate its social justice concerns into empirical investigation.

11:00 - 12:15 Plenary Session 5: The Conflict Between Philanthropic and Public Interests. Panel Moderator: Nikos Xydakis, Editor-in-Chief, Kathimerini.

Mark Stern (SIAP) examined the relationship of philanthropy to the public interest through the lens of U.S. social welfare history. He noted that philanthropy and the third-sector have often incubated new ideas for social improvement when established interests have blocked action by government. He then used the recent experience of the cultural sector in Philadelphia to show how “zombie” ideas about marketization have contributed to the decline of cultural assets in low-income neighborhoods in the city.

Click here to access a multimedia recording of these sessions.

UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)/US National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) research symposium on “Measuring cultural engagement amid confounding variables: A reality check,” Washington DC, June 2-3, 2014.

In this two-day research exchange on arts participation, Mark Stern (SIAP) gave a talk called “Why neighborhood effects matter.” He talked about the importance of cultural ecology and opportunity structure to cultural participation and geographic approaches to data collection. Stern was pleased to learn, during the keynote by former US Census Bureau Director Bob Groves, that SIAP has been collecting “organic data” for 20 years.

An excellent synopsis of the event can be found on AHRC’s Cultural Value Project Blog. Co-sponsor Geoffrey Crossick, Director, AHRC Cultural Value Project, discusses five take-away messages: (1) the plethora of organic data and its implications; (2) what the UK is calling “everyday participation”; (3) why the cultural sector cares about participation data; (4) the disjuncture between the imperatives of policy-making and academic research; and (5) participation data, arts practice, and the capacity to fail.

Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts—New York (NOCD-NY), “Valuing the Intersection Between Arts, Culture, and Community: An Exchange of Research and Practice,” New York City, September 12, 2013. 

Mark Stern and Susan Seifert (SIAP) participated in this exchange convened by NOCD-NY, a coalition of practitioners and activists working New York’s five boroughs.
A summary essay on the event by Lynn Stern, December 2013, is available on the NOCD-NY website. In June 2014 the report was featured in the Philanthropy News Digest .


CultureBlocks is Philadelphia’s free online mapping tool that supports people making decisions about place and creativity in neighborhoods
across the city.

Change, tradition, and culture-mixing in New Orleans
A goodbye to Treme HBO series
by Matt Zoller Seitz
New York Magazine,
December 23, 2013

Cities and Their Citizens:
Fostering Civic Engagement
through the Arts


YouTube of panel discussion at
“Future of the City:
The Arts Symposium”
held by University of Chicago and NEA, Chicago, June 7, 2011



The arts and social inclusion
Mark J. Stern, June 2011


Remarks prepared for
“Future of the City: The Arts Symposium” held by University of Chicago and NEA