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Weeks 8- Last week with PFSP!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 3:25 pm

Like many of us have already mentioned, it is hard to believe that our internships have come to an end! I am very pleased with how the database I worked on this summer progressed and I foresee the project becoming a valuable resource not only in Philadelphia and Chicago, but as a nationwide tool. From preparing for the Arts in Sacred Places training session, to over 25 visits to congregations in the greater Philadelphia area, I was quite busy this summer and learned a lot about what PFSP does, the city of Philadelphia, and religious organizations. With the help of PFSP, I can also adequately navigate public transportation (definitely a valuable skill!).

This past week we visited two more congregations, one in Fishtown and the other in South Philadelphia. The congregation in Fishtown was undergoing lots of renovation and was optimistic about the future and the growth of their church. Oppositely the other church, which was already a combination of an Episcopal and Lutheran church, was recently put up for sale and in the process of figuring out how and where to move. They had massive amounts of underused space and could have been a good spot for the design center if it was not being sold. I am curious to see what the diocese decides to do with the property.

At the end of the week I presented the progress I made with the database to the President, Vice President, my boss, and another AiSP contributor. It went very well and sparked lots of conversation which I think was essential for the project to move forward. I also had the opportunity to give feedback on what I felt could be improved or clarified so the next intern could easily start where I left off. The next steps in the project will include using PFSP’s other resources to find more information and to talk to other employees before contacting more congregations. This will create clarity for the next intern and determine with which congregations PFSP already has an active relationship. The database is still in its beginning stages so I am excited to see how it develops and ultimately becomes a one-of-a-kind resource.

Of the many things I learned through my time with PFSP, I think one of the most important things was how valuable places of worship are within a community. In addition to providing a spiritual experience, congregations provide services that impact every part of the community. When dollar values are assigned to all of the services they provide (youth programs, soup kitchens, sports, suicide preventions, etc.), some congregations are contributing millions of dollars (learned from PFSP’s HALO study). This is one of the reasons why PFSP is such an important organization. PFSP helps congregations so that they can be financially able to provide these services to their community. PFSP’s AiSP program is brilliant because it also provides opportunities to artists. The economy has made it even harder for non-profit religious and artistic organizations to thrive. The marriage of the two has proven to be successful and a unique way to create income for congregations and a venue for artists.

My time with PFSP has been valuable and something I will be able to apply in life and my future careers. It has definitely opened my eyes to the importance of historical preservation and educated me about artistic organizations. I look forward to reading about PFSP’s future accomplishments and the progress of the AiSP program. What a great opportunity!

Week 7- Tuning up the database

Monday, August 6, 2012 3:18 am

The past two weeks were spent adding to the database and attending more site visits for the African drum ensemble and art center search. Since next week is my last, my goal is to finish adding all of the art organizations to the database and to update the congregations that we visited into the preexisting database. I am also going to try and restructure the format of the congregation section of the database so it is clearer to the next intern where I was on contacting the congregations and scheduling site visits.

Our visit this past Friday was to a church in the suburbs east of the city. The church was bought by someone with the hopes of turning it into apartments. However due to zoning rules, the owner was not permitted to do so. Partners was called in to help find a use for the space given the restrictions. I think that the space has a lot of potential and could be used for anything. It had a large open basement and sanctuary, and a large hall with wood floors and various stained glass windows. It really depends on how much the owner wants to profit from the space. If artists were willing to work in the suburbs, it would be a great space for the art center. The wood flooring in multiple rooms also makes it a plausible space for the performing arts. I am curious to see what it becomes in the future. A highlight of this visit was the church’s organ. Since the church is no longer used, we had the rare opportunity of jamming out on the organ. Our attempt to perform “Heart and Soul” may not have been successful, but the intricacy of the organ was enough to fascinate us and to negate the sounds coming out of it.

After visiting many congregations in the last couple of weeks, I have learned how difficult it is to find even a potential match between an arts group and congregation. After the first task of finding a congregation in an area of the city that is suitable for the arts group, the flooring, size of the room, missions of both groups and accessibility to public transportation have to be considered. Many congregations use their spaces on a daily basis, which also has to be taken into account. Even contacting many of the congregations is not an easy task. I am unsure if in my last week I will get to see where the two projects I investigated find spaces that match. It has been surprising though to see just how many congregations there are in a city and the willingness of congregations to be flexible. I think these two factors make matches possible and I foresee the two projects well on their way by the fall.

I am excited for my last week and summarizing my work this summer for the directors and staff of Partners.


Week 6- Site Visits!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 2:24 am

Last week was full of site visits and meetings between art organizations and congregations. We visited five churches that I had never been to before. The first church we visited also attended the AiSP training session, so we were familiar with the congregation. The church had been experimenting with the rental process by allowing a folk artist to use their sanctuary for concerts. The secretary we talked to expressed her frustration with the lack of structure the artist had. Although she was open to his artwork and the new faces he was bringing into the church, they were in need of a more formal agreement that could be referred to. We also learned how they were interested in leasing to a more established artist in order to generate revenue for the congregation. It was interesting to hear the church’s perspective of itself as a business and how it needed to not only attract money but also congregants. Many of their existing congregants are older and travel in to the city from the suburbs. The secretary said that it has been a real struggle for them to find a way to appeal to the people who live in the surrounding area and the younger population.

Another interesting visit was to a Methodist church in the Kensington area of the city. Currently, the congregation consists of only about 20 members. From looking at the outside, you would find this hard to believe. The church spans more than half a block in length and width, and has a relatively large lawn around its perimeter. The pastor explained to us how when she joined the congregation many years ago, she was not only the first female pastor but also the first African-American pastor at the church. This took time for many of the congregants to adjust to and understand (although some did not and left). The pastor expressed her hopes and positive outlook on the future of the congregation in attracting more members and teaching the congregation how to be welcoming to all. She was interested in providing space for an artist so that they could educate the community and connect with the children of the congregation. Because of the vast amount of unused space in the church, I am sure that it will find an artist soon.

Of all the congregations I visited, I found the Broad Street Ministry Church to have the most beautiful sanctuary. Its stained glass is very unique and the congregants made paper cranes that are hung throughout the top of the sanctuary. Below is a picture.

I enjoyed listening to many of the pastors tell their stories and how they want to see their congregations move forward. I am excited to visit more this week and next. Currently we are looking for spaces for an African drum ensemble for rehearsal space and a large community-like space for artists to work. Both of these need to happen by the end of August so I know I will be searching for more congregations to visit.



Week 5- AiSP Module I

Monday, July 16, 2012 12:42 am

The highly anticipated first session of the two part training took place this week. The beginning of the week was spent preparing the manuals and worksheets, confirming attendance, and transporting the materials to Trinity Presbyterian Church where it took place. The room where we hosted the event was beautiful. Two walls were lined with tall stained glass windows and medieval-like light fixtures hung from the ceiling. Something about the lighting in the room was very calming and highlighted the beauty of the church (very appropriate for the meeting’s purpose). It was rewarding and a bit of a relief to see the presentation I made last week with a few minor edits used during the training. Even though fewer groups attended due to the date changes, everything went as planned and I learned a lot more about compatibility and the importance of creating a lasting relationship rather than just a partnership. It was really interesting to learn about the visions and missions of the congregations/art organizations because I could already see how some of them were similar and would work well together. As a result of the training session, I predict at least another match or two will be made within the next year. Next week I will post a few photos from the session.

Since the training session first occurred on Tuesday in Chicago, I had time to work on a few other projects while everyone was out of the office. I made a mock webpage layout that showed the basic structure we are interested in using for our congregation database webpage. This webpage will integrate all of the data previous interns and I have collected as well as the space photos I have been taking. I am hoping we get to further develop this into a real website before I leave.

My own experience with the match making process so far has been focused more on facilitating existing matches rather than making them myself. Two matches were already in the beginning stages (I attended the first meeting between the art organization and congregation) when I started, so my role has been more of assisting during the meetings rather than helping to make matches. Making a match requires extensive knowledge of the physical structure of congregation buildings, Philadelphia neighborhoods, and the art organization being considered. Although I have visited quite a few churches now and could see how a particular organization could be fitting for a space, the knowledge of other Partner’s employees has been instrumental in making matches. We have taken a bit of a break from this to prepare for the training session, but hopefully next week I will get to see more. The puppet non-profit is looking for a large space, so personally I do not know of any spaces that would work based on what I have seen. However, I am sure Partners has something in mind and hopefully I will get to see another match happen. I think this is one of the reasons why creating a database is such a great idea because it will allow organizations to look at spaces themselves rather than relying on the few Partners employees to give insight on the spaces available.

Another highlight of the week was that my boss, Karen, was interviewed by Stage magazine about the AiSP program.

This was one of the most exciting weeks at Partners! I was able to talk to all of the congregations that attended the session to schedule more site visits so I look forward to visiting three more this upcoming week. I found this week to be valuable because I got to know more of the other employees better both at the office preparing for the session and on the actual day of the event. I have recently been struggling with the database project because many of the congregations are hard to contact or I am unsure of the existing relationship Partners has with them. Some of the other people I talked to at Partners gave me good advice and other sources of information to help me better contact the congregations. I look forward to putting this to use next week!


Week 4- Preparing for AiSP Module I

Sunday, July 1, 2012 11:34 pm

I helped make the finishing details this week for the AiSP Module I training session. In previous weeks, I contacted all of the organizations attending the Philadelphia session (there will also be one in Chicago the same week) and figured out some more of the logistics for the event. The session had to be rescheduled a few times and was finally decided to occur next week. This was convenient for me because I originally could not attend the June scheduled date. I am excited to be able to attend and learn more about the program and more specifically about the smaller details of matching a sacred place and an arts organization. I had a chance this week to read through the quite hefty training manual that everyone will receive and read case studies of matches already made. Just from this reading, I learned that there is a lot more to making a match than the size and location of a space. For an effective and lasting relationship to occur between a congregation and an arts organization, there has to be alignment in their visions and missions, the artist’s content and finances. I look forward to hearing the executive director and the director of AiSP talk more about what these mean and look like.

I also made a powerpoint presentation that will be used during both the Chicago and Philadelphia sessions. I found this task to be more arduous than expected because I didn’t really know how the sessions were envisioned to occur. I also had difficulty finding images to use for the presentation besides the few signature pictures that they normally default to. This is something that I will work to make better in the future by going back to the few churches and photographing the completed spaces and the leaders of the congregation and arts organization together so there are more pictures to pull from.

In the beginning of the week I attended a meeting with another non-profit organization that supports communities by making puppets. The puppets are used for anything from kid’s activities to public demonstrations. The organization’s main focus is to offer community support through the arts and social justice. The building they currently rent from is closing so they need a new place to reside. This meeting was interesting because finding a new space was more to them than a change in location. The puppets are very large so finding a space big enough to house them in a city at a reasonable cost is probably not likely. Depending on the location, a move to them could mean a change in the structure of their organization and how they operate. In their current location, they can host tours, large gatherings and store all of the puppets. I am curious to see if during the time of my internship Partners finds a new home for them and if it impacts the services they provide to the community.


Week 3- Research, and more research

Friday, June 15, 2012 3:53 am

This abbreviated week consisted of researching congregations and arts organizations in the Philadelphia area. I don’t think I realized just how many there are! The task has proven to be quite difficult. Many of the webpages do not provide all of the information that I need so I will continue by contacting each individually. I am trying to find information about the spaces (size, legal occupancy, accessibility, iconography, etc.) these congregations have and whether or not they would be interested in leasing their spaces. Once I finish this I can then form the online component of the database.

Also this week I helped finalizing the details for the training program that will take place next week. This training session will educate both congregations and arts organizations about the process of leasing and how to get started. I contacted all of the participants and gave them the final details.

Finally, I had the opportunity to witness some of the demolition of a church, which, has been a heavily debated topic. The church stood for over a century before it was bought out by developers. Many people in the community are infuriated with its replacement for 5 new condominiums and see the future designs as unfitting, an eyesore, and a destruction of some of Philadelphia’s history and beauty. It was intriguing to hear the contrasting perspectives of the developers who I briefly talked to at the site and historical preservationists. Below is a picture I took at the site.


Week 2- Exploring some of the magnificent congregations in Philly

Monday, June 11, 2012 1:51 pm

Today concludes my first full week interning in the Arts in Sacred Places program. I had the opportunity this week to visit and photograph six different congregations in Philadelphia. It was a wonderful way to explore Philadelphia and learn more about the history of the sacred places in the area. I realized however that I need to invest in some better walking shoes! Through my visits, I learned about the needs of the congregations and how their numbers in membership have changed over the years. It seems that for many congregations, membership numbers are less than they were when these grand churches were first built. Many have numerous rooms that were once used for Boy Scouts, recreational sports, and other club activities that now run as separate entities from the congregations. As a result of this and the smaller total size of the congregations, many are interested in leasing the extra space to other organizations.

Here is one of the churches I visited this week, Arch Street United Methodist Church. Although I didn’t take a picture, the exterior is quite beautiful as well. The first picture is of the chapel and the second of a room below the chapel that they are interested in renting out to other organizations. I will try to get some photos of an arts/congregation match once some more of them get moved in to their locations.

I also went back to Shiloh Baptist Church after the final lease agreement between them and a dance/physical theater company (JUNK) last Friday to take more photos. It was exciting to see the progress JUNK had already made with moving in. I look forward to seeing the completed space. Here is the link to JUNK’s Facebook where you can see what it looks like and learn more about the company.

Besides taking photos, I spent the rest of the week starting to dig in on the database research and entry project that I will be doing for most of the summer. I am starting from where another intern left off in gathering information on all the congregations/arts organizations in the Philadelphia region. This will eventually be used for the website that the Arts in Sacred Places program will use to make matches between groups.

I have not yet seen any of the performances of any of the arts organizations who are renting the spaces. Many of the arts/congregation relationships and lease agreements are still developing. Although other arts/congregations partnerships do already exist, Partner’s has only one partnership completed through their program. This is right next to the office, between First Baptist Church of Philadelphia and two smaller theatre companies. After last Friday, the addition of Shiloh/JUNK will make two!

What a great week!


1st week at Partners for Sacred Places

Friday, June 1, 2012 7:28 pm

Today finishes my first few days with the non-profit organization, Partners for Sacred Places in Center City, Philadelphia.

What is Partners for Sacred Places, and what do they do?

“Partners for Sacred Places brings together a national network of expert professionals who understand the value of a congregation’s architectural assets, its worth as a faith community, and the significance of its service to the community at large.

Through our training programs, information clearinghouse, and professional network, we have helped congregations in all 50 states. Stories of success unfolding in cities, towns, and rural areas inform Partners’ knowledge bank. Each story fuels our capacity to help congregations, and we are expanding our national reach by strategically growing our training projects and regional offices.

Partners is the only national advocate for the sound stewardship and active community use of America’s older religious properties. Informed by its research, Partners is building a shared sense of responsibility for the future of sacred places.”

More specifically, I will be a part of one of their newest programs, Making Homes for the Arts in Sacred Places, which started about a year ago. This project matches arts organizations such as dance and theater companies with spaces available in older houses of worship, particularly unused rooms such as auditoriums, classrooms, or gyms. It has already been a success! (Read this article in the Inquirer, it is very interesting.

The program however is still in its beginning stages. Initially they joined with CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia to implement a study to determine the needs in the community. They found that arts groups have an urgent need for space that sacred places have to offer. They also frequently acquire interns from the University of Pennsylvania who have helped them to gather research and conduct interviews with arts organizations and congregations. (I’ll take pride in being the first non-Penn intern… Go Deacs!) The research helps to determine the price ranges, lease writing process, and needs of both organizations.

One of my main jobs this summer will be to fine tune this data and help with their next goal: to create a website that both congregations and arts groups can use to offer a space or find one. Partners is using as a template. They have already created a database of churches interested in sharing space which will be the basis of the website. I look forward to traveling around Philadelphia to take pictures of the spaces. My second job will be to assist in the process of forming a match between an arts group and a congregation. I will attend lease negotiation meetings and see the process of how a match is made.

This week I wrote lots of emails and made many excel spreadsheets. I emailed all of the congregations that have already said they are willing to share a space asking and scheduling to take photos. I also emailed all of the participants in the Arts in Sacred Places training program with details of the event. (This program helps teach both arts groups and congregations about the process of leasing a space.) The most exciting part of the week was the two lease agreement meetings I tagged along to. I got to see the 1st meeting between a non-profit childcare organization and a church as well as the final meeting and lease signing of a dance company and another church. It was interesting to see the differences between the two meetings because they were at opposite stages in the process. I enjoyed touring the churches as well. Many are historic buildings with beautiful architecture and windows. It is a shame that lots of churches in the area do not use theses spaces with such beauty, which is why the Arts in Sacred Places program is such a great idea.

I look forward to next week! Commuting in the city is so much fun, and not to mention that I am in one of the best locations right next to City Hall and all of the shops. I am excited to visit more churches and photograph their spaces!


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