Residency Spotlight: The Village of Arts and Humanities

Residency Spotlight: The Village of Arts and Humanities

NYFA interviewed Aviva Kapus, the Executive Director of The Village of Arts and Humanities in Philadelphia, about their residency program, which offers a $10,000 stipend, free housing, and partnerships with Philadelphia-based arts venues, among other benefits. The application deadline is Friday, February 28.

NYFA: Tell us about The Village and the place it occupies within the community.

AK: The mission of The Village of Arts and Humanities is to support the voices and aspirations of the community through providing opportunities for self-expression rooted in art and culture. The Village inspires people to be agents of positive change through programs that encompass arts and culture, engage youth, revitalize community, preserve heritage and respect the environment. Our legacy is anchored in artist-facilitated community building. More than 40 years ago, Arthur Hall erected the Black Humanitarian Center near the corner of 10th and Lehigh in North Central Philadelphia (now The Village’s main programming building). For Arthur Hall, creating space for people in the neighborhood to read, dance, sing and make music, was a crucial part of each resident learning and celebrating the community’s culture and heritage. Twenty years later, artist Lily Yeh continued growing spaces in the neighborhood, in the same spirit of communal care and compassion. For Lily, the beautification of physical space catalyzed positive mental and emotional shifts in the way that residents viewed their own lives and the health of their neighborhood. Using social art practice, both Arthur and Lily—the Village’s first artists in residence—encouraged peo­ple to believe in, and help build, a more beautiful and just future for themselves and their families.


NYFA: You’ve launched a new artist-in-residence program called SPACES. What does this program offer to artists?

AK: This year we put out requests for proposals from individuals and collectives for two four-month artist residencies in cycle one of SPACES: Artist Residency at The Village. Through SPACES, youth and families in North Central Philadelphia collaborate with resident artists to explore how the process of sharing artistic practice, and engaging in meaningful exchanges of information within a community, can nurture the creation of SPACE—space to create, to dream, to build, and to transform physical landscapes.  SPACES artists will live in creatively renovated row homes in The Village Heart, a four-square-block area consisting of 14 art parks and nine program buildings—all woven into the existing residential and commercial fabric of the neighborhood. During each residency, artists will engage with community members through informal and Village facilitated dialogue, programs, apprenticeships, or workshops, to design and execute an original, transformative project rooted in art, born from the artists’ relationships with the community, and realized in partnership with community members We invite a new generation of artists to continue the Village’s legacy; one that supports and encourages students and community members to utilize artistic skill and creative problem solving in activating spaces in our neighborhood—both physical and imagined.

>>For grant details, visit the Village’s listing on NYFA Classifieds.

NYFA: What criteria would you like to remind applicants of before they apply?

AK: SPACES residencies are open to artists or artist collectives that are at least 21 years of age, are NOT enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs or are NOT employed in a full-time job at the start of the residency, can provide examples of past work, have worked on collaborative, community-based projects within the last five years, and are residents of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. 

NYFA: What are the key characteristics that a successful project proposal should include?

AK: A successful proposal should demonstrate an understanding of the program goals, which are: to activate spaces through art, to facilitate and nurture the relationships that inspire deeper levels of engagement and connection, and to introduce a new methodology for disseminating information-discoveries-idea and expertise. 


NYFA: As this project should focus on the community, what do you recommend applicants do to better understand the community and develop the project? 

AK: Our community needs space. The neighborhood is ripe for change. After decades of depopulation and disinvestment, a diverse range of stakeholders—including City agencies, elected officials, foundations, business owners and residents—are now investing substantial financial and human capital into the neighborhood. SPACES will weave together the efforts of various development initiatives, using arts and culture as its most powerful and constructive tool for community engagement and transformation. SPACES will expand on the momentum created by the Philly Painting project, during which The Village housed and served as community liaison to artists Haas and Haan for 12 months in partnership with Mural Arts. Spacemaking is a process in which everyone in a community can engage. It is a comprehensive, tangible, and constantly evolving way to positively transform public places and community ethos. Our conceptualization of “spacemaking” purposefully emphasizes the sustainable, egalitarian, and pragmatic aspects of art-based community development traditional—making this practice a viable alternative to “placemaking,” which can embrace more solitary and aesthetically-oriented experiences. By exploring the limitless potential of artmaking and art practice, artists, architects, designers—creative thinkers— make the most impact in addressing societal challenges. Artists create; artists share; artists help people access information and make space for solutions.

NYFA: What kind of interaction and integration with the community is expected?

AK: In developing your proposal, you should begin with asking a question: What problem, specific to this community, needs exploration and would benefit from an arts-based, creative solution. You should not be able to answer your proposed question without communicating, interacting, and engaging with the community itself—people and places. Discoveries made by engaging with the community will build the foundation upon which you will ultimately design and execute your project. We recognize that the RFP asks artists to submit an idea for a project, not simply an area of research. Your proposed project will serve as the framework within which you will execute your research with the recognition that the project may change during the course of your engagement with the community. Once again, we stress that the process is equally if not more important than the eventual execution.

NYFA: Who will be included in the selection panel?

AK: The application review panel will consist of: leaders from Philadelphia-based and national foundations, The Village’s Executive Leadership, staff and Board, reps from Local Initiative Support Corporation and Philadelphia Commerce Department, adult community members, and youth community members

NYFA: How can artists contact The Village if they have any further questions about SPACES?

AK: Please submit questions via email to [email protected], and no phone inquires, please.

For more information including commonly asked questions, visit:

To find more upcoming residency deadlines and ongoing artist opportunities, visit NYFA Classifieds & NYFA Source

— Interview conducted by Sisi Liu. 

Photos: Courtesy of The Village of Arts and Humanities
Amy Aronoff
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